Parenting

What Do Kids Need to Succeed in School?

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Does poverty impact a child’s ability to do well in school? Possibly says a new study, but parenting skills play a more important role.

Child development experts say that there are lots of things parents can do to help their young child grow into a successful adult. This study examines the importance of parents, especially those in the low-income bracket, having high educational expectations for their child as well as reading to them and providing computer access and training.

The path to success begins before your child heads off to kindergarten. These findings point to the importance of doing more to prepare children for kindergarten, said study co-author Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The good news is that there are some kids doing really well," he said. "And there are a lot of seemingly disadvantaged kids who achieve much beyond what might be predicted for them because they have parents who are managing to provide them what they need."

The researchers wanted to examine what it takes to help a child succeed in school. The team began by examining statistics to better understand the role of factors like poverty. "We didn't want to just look at poor kids versus rich kids, or poor versus all others," Halfon said.

Conventional thought is that "you'll do better if you get read to more, you go to preschool more, you have more regular routines and you have more-educated parents," Halfon added.

Researchers examined results of a study of 6,000 U.S. English and Spanish- speaking children who were born in 2001. The kids took math and reading tests when they entered kindergarten, and their parents answered survey questions. The investigators then adjusted the results so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of certain types of kids.

Parental expectations played a role in how the children’s future scholastic goals were perceived. For example, only 57 percent of parents of kids who scored the worst expected their child to attend college, compared to 96 percent of parents of children who scored the highest.

The results showed that children who attended preschool scored higher on the tests than children who didn’t. Computer use at home was also more common for the higher scorers -- 84 percent compared to 27 percent. Parents also read more to the kids who scored the best, the findings showed.

Halfon noted that the parent’s own attitude about preschool had a big impact on whether their child attended or not.

Karen Smith, a pediatric psychologist with the University of Texas Medical Branch, praised the study and said it points to the importance of helping poorer parents develop parenting skills and start believing they can really support their children.

"Parents from more affluent families know what to do when it comes to reading to their kids, probably because they've been read to," Smith said. Poorer parents "may not even have the money for books, and maybe they weren't read to themselves."

The study points out that preschool attendance is crucial for helping children develop better learning skills, however, it’s not the only factor that plays an important role.

Smith and Halfon agreed that it's crucial to teach poorer parents how to be better at parenting. Still, Halfon said, "there's no single one magic bullet that's going to solve the problem," not even widening access to preschool. "That's necessary," he said, "but it's probably not sufficient."

Parents that make their child’s education an important part of their childrearing help their children succeed most. Reading to children is a key part of developing a child’s attitude towards studying and expression.  A child that is excited to learn new words and is able to understand the flow of a story learns how to express their own ideas better with less frustration. New challenges aren’t as daunting.

Computer use is essential in this day and age. Libraries can provide access to computers for families that cannot afford to buy one. It takes time and commitment and when money is scarce it’s often twice as difficult, but it can make an enormous difference in a child’s ability to keep up with changing technology as well opening up a new world of opportunities.

Children rely solely on their parent’s guidance and this study points out how much that guidance can change the course of their little one’s lives.

The study is online and comes out in print in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/family-income-expectations-key-to-kindergarten-performance-695515.html

 

Parenting

Prepackaged Caramel Apples Linked to Listeria Outbreak

2:00

This is the time of year when people eat food combos that they might not typically eat. One holiday treat is caramel coated apples, however, this year there is a warning to avoid pre-packaged caramel coated apples due to the possibility of contamination with Listeria.

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.

Investigators are working quickly to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

As of December 22, 2014, a total of 29 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states:

·      Arizona (4)

·      California (1)

·      Minnesota (4)

·      Missouri (5)

·      New Mexico (5)

·      North Carolina (1)

·      Texas (4)

·      Utah (1)

·      Washington (1)

·      Wisconsin (3).

Illness onset dates range from October 17, 2014, to November 27, 2014. Nine illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant).

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 41% were female.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.

All 29 ill people have been hospitalized and, five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths and it is unclear whether it contributed to a fourth.

The fifth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/caramel-apples-12-14/index.html

Parenting

New Year’s Resolutions for the Whole Family

2:00

For many people, the new year is symbolic for fresh beginnings or a clean slate. Resolutions are abundant as we reflect on where we are now and where we want to be. A new year can bring individual changes and family changes as well.

We not only benefit from New Year’s resolutions; our children can also learn a lot about self-discipline and the value of making goals.

Start by making New Year’s resolutions a family tradition. Sit down each December and reflect on the past year, discussing your accomplishments and goals, as individuals and as a family. In your resolution conversation you can each talk about what worked this year and what didn’t.

Dr. Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, suggests saying, “Each one of us is going to state a few things that we want to continue to do and things we’d like to change that would make us feel better about ourselves and how our family works.”

Everybody gets a chance to weigh in. Everyone gets a turn at sharing something they are proud of and something they want to improve about themselves. Parents can go first- setting the tone for the rest of the family. One way to express feelings is to write down your thoughts. If your children are old enough to write, have them write about their accomplishments and goals. If your child is too young to write or just beginning, you can help them out by writing what they want to say.

One option is to save the writings and next year you can pull them out and talk about them before making new resolutions. Your family can also use them as a guide throughout the year. 

Try to limit the resolutions to those that are do-able. It’s easy to get swept up in the possibilities of out lives- make sure that for the next year, you keep it simple- one step at a time. One hundred resolutions are way too many for anyone to tackle!

You can make a master list to hang in a public spot, like a bulletin board in the kitchen. Dr. Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, suggests making a resolution box, in which each family member can drop in his or her resolutions, then pull them out at a later date to review them.

Each family member is a different personality and age. For younger children, something as simple as spending 15 minutes cleaning their room is an achievement. As younger children age, they can be more active in coming up with goals, which will mean more to them as they are achieved.

For preschool-aged children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends resolutions that focus on cleaning up toys, brushing teeth and washing hands and being kind to pets. However, parents who consider these behaviors part of their regular expectations may want to provide resolutions that focus on higher goals.

Clarke-Pearson suggests preschoolers be encouraged to work on listening and helping skills. A resolution could be “I will be a better listener when Mommy or Daddy asks me to do something” or “I will help out more when Mommy or Daddy asks me.” If you keep it simple, your child is more likely to understand the concept as well as succeed.

Of course, the best way to help your children learn the value of achieving goals is to be a good example. Just as with everything else you do, your child is watching. “Parents should be reflective about how they wish to be in the coming year,” Siegel says. “It’s a good opportunity to promote good mental and physical health.”

When the time comes to review resolutions, make sure it’s a positive experience. This is not the time for punishment. It’s important to be flexible and understanding, especially if the child is making the effort. “You don’t penalize if you don’t fulfill a resolution,” Clarke-Pearson says. “The resolution is not written in stone. It’s a guide.”

However your family arrives at resolutions, the best part is that you’re doing it together and learning how to manage your role not only in the family but also in the larger world.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown, http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/making-new-years-resolutions-child/

Parenting

Be Kind, Give Thanks

2:00

In the spirit of this holiday season and throughout the year, I shall try and follow the example of Perri Brackett. Who is Perri Brackett? She’s a Dallas Morning News Community Voices volunteer columnist that wrote a wonderfully thought-provoking column the other day on losing patience and finding kindness.

The act that changed her perspective happened last December. She was shopping at Sprouts and had two coupons for free products. I’ll let her tell you what happened next.

“ I got to the checkout, and I pulled out my coupons. The checker was first confused with the “free product” on the coupon. She did her job and read the fine print. At this point, I started getting frustrated. Why couldn’t she just take the coupons that I knew were good?

She then decided to scan the coupons, and they didn’t work. My impatience was rearing its ugly head as she called over a manager to help. And what did I do? I grabbed the coupons, paid my bill and stormed out. Nothing free that day.”

I can’t even begin to count the times that I’ve let myself get frustrated in a line or with the person checking me out, so I understand how quickly it can happen.

However, I don’t usually take the follow-up action Ms. Brackett took.

She went home, sat down and wrote a letter of apology to the checker.  She returned to the store the next day, but the checker was off. She gave the letter to the manager and apologized for her behavior. He remembered her from the day before. After hearing her out, he hugged her and said in all his years of managing, this was the first time a customer had apologized for being rude.

I’ll let her pick it up from here: “I decided right then and there, I was going to be nicer to people I didn’t know who were trying to help me. Have you noticed yourself being just flat-out nasty to people who are trying to help you? Losing patience? If so, try being nice to people; you’ll be happier.

I now thank the checkers for their help each and every time I check out from a store. I’ve even started thanking the janitor in the women’s bathroom, if I see one. That’s an interesting one — do that and watch their face light up. Talk about a thankless job that isn’t easy that people do with pride.” Brackett wrote.

I’ve found that being patient with people feels much better than feeling frustrated or angry with them. Having said that, I admit that there have been too many times when I’ve lost my patience with someone.  Granted, not every sales person or checker is helpful or nice to me. Sometimes, my anger may even be considered justified.

But you know what? Kicking a hornet’s nest doesn’t help any situation. There’s enough anger and ugly actions taking place these days without my contribution.

Which brings me to setting an example for our kids. Children seldom pay as much attention to what we say as we think they should, but they watch what we do. They learn how to respond to situations by watching how we respond.

As the classic Crosby, Stills and Nash song says, “Teach your children well”, by showing them that love, kindness and patience are the most positive ways to respond when life’s irritations creep up and get under our skin.

Particularly during this time of year, there are lots of opportunities to be a good example. As Bracket so eloquently writes at the end of her article; “As the year winds down and shopping season speeds up, it might be a nice time to remember to take a deep breath and thank someone for their help. It might become a habit.”

While Thanksgiving is a special day that rolls around once a year, giving thanks and being kind are actions we can take every singe day.  

Source: Perri Brackett, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20141121-perri-brackett-its-not-easy-being-nice-but-try-it.ece

Parenting

The Magic of Music

2:00

“Where words fail, music speaks,” wrote Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson and he was so right. Music is the universe’s official language where old and young share its beauty and complexity.

Alzheimer’s patients have been known to respond with joy and excitement when played their favorite music after being non-responsive to other stimulus.

Children jump in rhythm and clap their hands when they hear the sounds of instruments playing. Hundreds of YouTube videos show how quickly tears can turn to smiles and giggles as the first notes of Disney’s  “Let It Go” spring forth. 

Is there really anyone who isn’t deeply affected by music?

Research has shown that particpating in music benefits children when learning other subjects and offers kids a variety of skills they can use throughout their life. 

“A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Can particpation in music make a child smarter? There’s a difference of opinion about that. However, it’s safe to say that it takes an assortment of specific skills to sing or play an instrument or do both simultaneously.

For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Children have learned how to sing and speak in other languages by listening to cross-culture songs. I even picked up a little French from the Beatles’ “Michelle” when I was a child. “Michelle, ma belle, Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,Tres bien ensemble.”(These are words which go together well, together well.)

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a non-musician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.

Playing music makes your brain work harder, but what about just listening to music? While some studies have noted that learning to play music can enhance your brain, listening to music just makes you feel good. But really, isn’t that wonderful too?

Music enriches your life. It’s captivating and has the power to make you smile or cry. Most of all, it’s universal.

Introducing children to music at a young age opens the door to new adventures. Whether it’s classical or hip-hop, country or rock, bluegrass or blues, jazz or Dixieland, African rhythms or Mongolian throat-singing; borders and politics may separate people, but nations and communities will share their music.

“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”

Yes, music is the official language of the universe and a beautiful gift to share with our children.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown, http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education

Parenting

Recall: Cracker Barrel’s Animated Toy Monkey Due to Burns

1:45

Giggles International is recalling about 13,000 of their Animated Sing Along Monkey toy due to the possibility that the battery compartment can reach temperatures up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, posing a burn hazard for children.

This recall involves Giggles International Animated Sing-Along Monkey toys. The monkey is made of brown and beige plush material and is about 9 inches tall. The toy is designed to hold a songbook titled "5 Little Monkeys" and to sing the song when activated. A red music note is on the bottom of the monkey's right foot and the face of a child with its hands covering its eyes are on the bottom of the money's left foot. Recalled sing-along monkeys were manufactured between 6/7/2014 and 7/5/2014 and have batch code GP1410028.  

The manufacture date in the M/D/YYYY format and batch code are printed on the bottom of a white fabric label attached near the base of the monkey's tail. The monkey toys came in a tan colored box with words "Animated Sing-Along Monkey," "Sing along with me!" and "I play peek-a-boo with you!" on the front. The age advisory "For ages 3+" and the warning that batteries are included are also on the front of the box.

Giggles International has received two reports of toys overheating and melting their battery compartments.

The toy is sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores nationwide from September 2014 to October 2014 for about $25.

Consumers should immediately take the animated monkey away from children, remove the batteries and return the toy to any Cracker Barrel Old Country Store or contact Giggles International for a full refund.

You can contact Giggles International at (800) 738-6018 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.LoveMyGiggles.com and click on Recall at the top of the page for more information.

Toy monkey recall

Parenting

Parental Suicide Attempts Linked to Increase Risks in Kids

2:00

Currently, there’s a recharged debate on whether suicide should ever be considered an acceptable option for someone. Some people say that it is never acceptable. Others believe that there are times when suicide is a valid option depending on the circumstances of the person’s life.

Whatever your personal belief, suicide happens; and when it does it often leaves a messy trail of depression and heartbroken sadness with those left behind.

Studies have shown that suicide can run in families, but few studies have looked at the pathways by which suicidal behavior is transmitted in families.  Those studies suggest that families, who have a history of mood disorders such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder, have an increase in suicide attempts and suicide.

A new study looked at what other factors could also be instrumental in family-related suicide attempts. It found that a suicide attempt by a parent increases the odds nearly 5-fold that a child of that parent will also attempt to take their own life.

But exactly why that happens still needs more exploration say researchers involved in the latest study.

"What that really means is that there is still part of this (family) transmission that we haven't figured out," said Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Brent and a team of coauthors followed the children of parents with mood disorders for nearly six years.  The study included 701 offspring  (ages 10 to 50) of 334 people with mood disorders, 191 of whom had also made a suicide attempt.

Researchers found that of the 701 children, 44 (6.3 percent) had attempted suicide before the study and 29 (4.1 percent) attempted suicide during the study follow-up.

Brent and his colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that parental history of a suicide attempt conveys a nearly five-fold increased odd of suicide attempt in children at risk for mood disorder, even after adjusting for the familial transmission of mood disorder.

The good news, according to Brent, is that there are treatments for mood disorders and impulsive aggression that may help some people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 million American adults report having made a suicide attempt within the last year.

The CDC also says that among young people ages 15 to 24, there are 100 to 200 suicide attempts for every one completed suicide.

Brent said that the children of people with a history of suicide attempts should not be excessively concerned about the study's finding of increased risk to them. "It's still extremely rare," he said.

"I think it's just a wakeup call," Brent said. "Just like if you have a family history of breast cancer or colon cancer. You'd be vigilant of that."

Children’s suicide attempts and suicide are always a serious matter. These days there are a variety of reasons why adolescents and young adults consider suicide; everything from being bullied to losing a first love. This research specifically looks at children that have mood disorders and suicide attempts within the core family.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), more than 90% of people who take their own lives have an underlying mental disorder at the time of their death. Many times, that disorder was never identified.

The disorders most often associated with suicide are depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Substance abuse, either on its own or in combination with another mental disorder, can also be a factor when someone takes their own life.

Their website, https://www.afsp.org, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, both offer excellent background articles and resources for families who are experiencing this situation.

Sources: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/31/us-suicide-parent-children-risk-idUSKBN0K917E20141231

http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2048844

Parenting

An Apple A Day Could Make You Sick

2:00

While having an apple a day is normally considered a healthy food choice, federal investigators have confirmed that there is a correlation between a California apple processing plant and a strain of listeria bacteria responsible for killing seven people and making more than 30 others very sick.

An earlier warning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked consumers not to eat any pre-packaged, commercially produced caramel apples, including those with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate or sprinkles, until the source of the outbreak was pinpointed. Most of the people infected by listeria fell ill after eating pre-packaged apples.

Reuters reports that tests performed by Food and Drug Administration investigators on samples from the Bidart Bros. processing plant and apples the company supplied to retailers found a connection between the produce and two strains of Listeria monocytogenes responsible for the deadly listeria outbreak.

Bidart Bros., the company supplying the Granny Smith and Gala apples, has issued a voluntary recall of all shipments of the apples – caramel coated or not- still available in the marketplace. The last shipment was made on December 2.

The company advises that consumers should not eat the Granny Smith and Gala apples.  Affected apples can be sold under the brand names “Big B” and “Granny’s Best,” but could also be sold under other brand names or with no brand at all.

Consumers who are buying or have recently purchased Granny Smith or Gala apples should ask their retailers if Bidart Bros. supplied the apples, the company says.

Three other companies – Happy Apples, California Snack Foods and Merb’s Candies – have each announced recalls of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples since news of the contamination began in late December.

Listeria is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.

According to the Mayo clinic website, symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.  If listeria spreads into the nervous system, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion or change on alertness, loss of balance and convulsions.

During pregnancy, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother. The consequences for the baby, however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.

If you have consumed any food that has been recalled or connected with listeria, pay close attention to any possible signs or symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above – contact your doctor.

Sources: Victoria Cavaliere, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/12/usa-california-listeria-idUSL1N0UR0P120150112

Ashlee Kieler, http://consumerist.com/2015/01/12/california-apple-plant-issues-recall-after-tests-find-link-to-deadly-listeria-contamination/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/symptoms/con-20031039

Parenting

Why Do U.S. Birth Rates Continue to Drop?

2:00

An interesting look at the U.S. birth rate was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. In a nut shell, the U.S. birth rate remains at an all-time low, women are waiting longer to have children, teenagers having kids is at a historic low, C-sections are on the decline as well as preterm births, fewer unmarried women are having babies but the birth rate for twins is up by 2 percent.

Let’s look at the breakdown on these noteworthy findings.

While the U.S. birth rate remained at an all-time low in 2013, some experts expect that trend to change as the economy improves.

"By 2016 and 2017, I think we'll start seeing a real comeback," said Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of obstetrics and gynecology for Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "While the economy is doing better, you're still going to see a lag effect of about a year, and 2014 is the first year our economy really started to feel like it's getting back to normal."

More than 3.9 millions babies were born in 2013 and while that sounds like a lot, it’s down a little less than 1 percent from the year before.

Along with fewer births, there’s also been a decline in the general fertility rate - by about 1 percent- for women ages 15 to 44, reaching another record all-time low.

Women are waiting longer to start a family. Some experts believe that the economy may be having an impact on that statistic as well. The average age of first motherhood rose to 26 from 25.8 in 2013. Not a huge increase, but an indicator that younger women have a lot going on in their lives and want to wait a little longer before having their first child.

"You had people right out of college having a much harder time getting a first job, and so you're going to see a lot more delay among those people with their first child," Caughey said.

Birth rates for women in their 20s declined to record lows in 2013, but rose for women in their 30s and late 40s. The rate for women in their early 40s was unchanged.

"If you look at the birth rates across age, for women in their 20s, the decline over these births may not be births forgone so much as births delayed," said report co-author Brady Hamilton, a statistician/demographer with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Teens seem to be getting the message that having a child is something they need to think long and hard about. The good news is that the teenage birth rate is at an all-time low. Rates fell for teens in nearly all-ethnic groups by about 10 percent from 2012.

"It is just an absolutely remarkable trend," Hamilton said. "We are reaching record lows, and it's really quite amazing."

What is causing the sharp decline is still up for debate, but Hamilton believes that newer policies and programs may be educating teens better about the dangers to their health and life goals if they become pregnant at too young an age. More access to birth control may also be having an impact.

The jump in twin birth rates by 2 percent is an area for concern for many experts in the health field. 

"Twins have worse outcomes, and we really hope over the next few years we'll be able to see a reduction in that rate," Caughey said. "We really want to encourage people to be more engaged when they are considering fertility treatments, to reduce the risk of any multiple births,"

Twins births may be on the way up, but the triplet and multiple birth rate dropped another 4 percent in 2013.

The CDC’s report also noted these other changes:

•       Preterm birth rate (before 37 weeks) declined in 2013 to 11.39 percent, continuing a steady decrease since 2006. Caughey chalked this up to a drop in late-preterm deliveries.

•       Cesarean delivery rate, which had been stable at 32.8 percent for 2010 through 2012, declined to 32.7 percent of all U.S. births in 2013. "The C-section rate has leveled off at a rate that's too high," Caughey said. "We feel there's a real need for the C-section rate to decline even more."

•       Birth rate for unmarried women fell for the fifth consecutive year, to 44.3 per 1,000 unmarried women ages 15 to 44 in 2013. The rate was 1 percent lower in 2013 than the year before.

Whether it’s the economy, college debt, better education for teens or lower fertility rates, the U.S. birth rate is going down.  If the economy continues to improve over the next couple of years, it’ll be interesting to see if this baby decline changes to a baby boom.

Source: Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20150115/us-birth-rate-continues-decline-cdc-reports

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Measles outbreak in Disneyland spreads to four states and Mexico.