Monthly newsletter helps new parents

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Monthly newsletters with parenting tips may offer a simple, low-cost way to help new parents through their baby’s first year, a new study suggests.

The study followed 185 UK mothers who were randomly assigned to either receive the monthly “Baby Express” newsletter or stick with routine child healthcare alone. A total of 152 mothers completed the year-long trial.

Researchers found that by the time their babies were 1 year old, mothers in the newsletter group appeared less stressed by the job of raising an infant.

In general, the mothers reported fewer “hassles,” and were less likely to say, for example, that the baby cried “all the time” or that they were “continually cleaning messes of food.” They were also less likely than mothers in the comparison group to have unrealistic expectations about their babies’ behavior.

All in all, the newsletter appeared to help parents “understand their infant better,” Dr. Tony Waterston, of Newcastle University in the UK, and his colleagues report in the journal Pediatrics.

This, the researchers say, suggests that similar monthly newsletters could offer an inexpensive way to reach a large number of parents in need of help.

The study included low-income, first-time mothers, roughly half of whom received the “Baby Express” newsletter once a month in the mail during their babies’ first year of life. Each issue provided information on normal infant development at a specific age, parenting tips and a guide to local services parents could go to for help.

When the mothers were interviewed after 1 year, those in the newsletter group tended to be less stressed and more realistic in their expectations of their babies.

The lower stress levels, Waterston and his colleagues say, may stem from the fact that the newsletter moms had a greater “understanding of the meanings of infant behavior.”

Such understanding might translate into better parent-child relationships down the road, the researchers note.

“Baby Express,” they conclude, “holds considerable potential as a means of improving parent-child interaction and thereby relationships in later childhood.”

SOURCE: Pediatrics, January 2009.

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