Q: We just had our first child, and we're getting more advice from people than sleep. Some say you need to breastfeed, and others say it's fine not to. Some say pick the child up when he cries; others say let him cry himself to sleep. My wife wants to breastfeed for a year or so, and my instinct is to pick my son up when he cries. Are we missing something here?
DAVE H., VANCOUVER
A: No, Dave, you and your wife are right on the money. There are many health benefits from breastfeeding - and if it lasts a year, they are particularly strong. For the child, mom's milk is the first super-step to a strong immune system. Plus, breast milk is the perfect nutrition for baby's physical growth and brain development. And there are benefits for mom: She bonds with her baby, and lowers her own risk of cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. Breastfeeding moms also return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than moms who don't.
As for comforting a crying child, we're all for it. You can learn the meanings of the different sounding cries, and it turns out infants and kids who are soothed when upset are more secure. That contributes to the development of all-important personality traits such as empathy and generosity. There's a lot of research that supports this concept and some says there's an epidemic of anxiety and depression in kids in the U.S. that can be attributed to the lack of comforting and touching - kids sleep in isolation from their parents, spend too much time in car seats and strollers, and there are few extended families to offer additional support and care. The bottom line: Children who don't get sufficient emotional nurturing early on may end up being more self-centered.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.