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Are first-born children more intelligent? Behind the viral headlines

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Parenting multiple children of different ages isn't easy. Your firstborn is going to have different strengths and challenges than your youngest or your middle child—and not just because they are older, but because they are the oldest.

Recently, a 2016 study resurfaced online and went viral. It suggests that first-borns are more intelligent than their younger siblings—but despite the snappy headlines, it's not so simple.

That study, published in The Journal of Human Resources, suggests there is a cognitive gap related to birth order, as younger kids score lower on assessments than their older siblings as early as 12 months old.

The researchers believe that "broad shifts in parental behavior from first to later-born children is a plausible explanation for the observed birth order differences in education and labor market outcomes."

In layman's terms: Parents are often more mindful about pursuing enriching activities the first time around, and we tend to relax as parents (and get busier) by the time our second child is in the picture.

Our younger children will have different early experiences than a first-born but don't feel guilty, mama. There are so many things you can do to boost their brainpower.

Here are a few things to try:

1. Foster a secure attachment

According to the study published in Psychological Science, children who have solid attachments to their primary caregiver at a young age develop better self-control, which leads to better performance in school a decade later.

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This doesn't mean you have to wear your baby or co-sleep (unless you want to) it just means you have to try to respond to a distressed child in sensitive, loving and reassuring ways, instead of ignoring or minimizing their problem (which is easy to default to when we're busy).

If we're mindful about responding to our younger kids problems by being present and supportive instead of dismissive, they're more likely to do better academically.

2. Read, read and read some more

There is an overwhelming body of research suggesting that kids who are read to regularly are set up for success. And if you've already got one older kiddo, you're probably already reading a lot. A recent study found kids who are read to five times a day hear more than 1.4 million more words before kindergarten than those who aren't read to, so bring the baby along the next time you're taking the toddler to the library. And if your oldest is old enough, enlist them in reading some stories to the younger ones.

3. Sing to your little ones

This is another one your older child can totally help with. Studies show that singing to infants is comforting (to both the baby and us) and benefit an infant's cognitive development. Plus, when we're singing to our babies we're not only stimulating their brains with sound waves, we're directing attention at them, which builds a solid attachment and counts as a one-to-one interaction (even if an older sibling is helping us with the song).

4. Sign them up for music lessons

By the time you're a mama of two or three or four, your time is stretched a lot further than it was when you only had one child. So enrolling a younger child in music lessons gives mama a bit of a break and gives them a "thing" of their own.

Plus, research suggests as little as two years of music lessons can boost a child's brain power in areas responsible for decision-making. It gives them more focus and some extra impulse control, which gives them a boost academically.

There are so many things that we as parents can do to close the birth order cognitive gap, but we also have to understand that it's really not holding younger kids back.

While middle children may score as well on a cognitive assessment as a first-born at a year old, studies of middle children have shown that they are actually more likely than their siblings to be successful as adults, and youngest kids are more likely to take risks in their careers and become millionaires.

Bottom line: Despite the alarming viral headlines, your younger kids are capable of being every bit as smart and successful as your first-born, their intelligence might just manifest itself a little differently and a little later in life.

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Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Beyoncé's new Netflix documentary Homecoming hit the streaming service today and gives us an honest look at how difficult her twin pregnancy was.

"My body went through more than I knew it could," she says in the film, revealing that her pregnancy with Sir and Rumi was a shock right from the beginning, and the surprises kept coming.

In the film she reveals that her second pregnancy was unexpected, "And it ended up being twins which was even more of a surprise," she explains.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé | Official Trailer | Netflix

The pregnancy was rough. Beyoncé developed preeclampsia, a condition that impacts about 5 to 8% of pregnancies and results in high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the mother's urine. Preeclampsia poses risks to both the mother and the baby. People who are pregnant with multiples, like Beyoncé was, are more at risk to develop preeclampsia, and the only real cure for the condition is to give birth, which proved to be another medical challenge for Beyoncé.

"In the womb, one of my babies' hearts paused a few times so I had to get an emergency C-section," she shares in the film.

Thankfully, Beyoncé made it through her extremely difficult pregnancy, but the physical challenges didn't end there. The road to rehabilitation for the performer was difficult because, as she explains, she was trying to learn new choreography while her body was repairing cut muscles and her mind just wanted to be home with her children.

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"There were days that I thought I'd never be the same. I'd never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same," Beyoncé recalls.

We know that becoming a mother changes us in so many ways, and in Homecoming, Beyoncé shows the world the strength that mothers possess, and rejects any ideas about "bouncing back."

Becoming a mother is hard, but it is so worth it, and Beyoncé isn't looking backward—she's looking at a mother in the mirror and loving who and what she sees. "I just feel like I'm just a new woman in a new chapter of my life and I'm not even trying to be who I was," Beyoncé said in the documentary. "It's so beautiful that children do that to you."

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A new study has some people thinking twice about kissing their bearded partners, or maybe even letting those with beards kiss the baby—but there's a lot to unpack here.

According to Swiss researchers, bearded men are carrying around more bacteria than dogs do. A lot more. But read on before you send dad off to the bathroom with a razor and ask him to pull a Jason Momoa (yes, he's recently clean-shaven. RIP Aquaman's beard).

As the BBC reports, scientists swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs. When they compared the samples, they learned beards have a higher bacterial load than dog fur.

Dudes who love their beards are already clapping back against the way the science was reported in the media though, noting that the sample size in this study was super small and, importantly, that the scientists didn't swab any beardless men.

The study wasn't even about beards, really. The point of the study, which was published in July 2018 in the journal European Radiology, was to determine if veterinarians could borrow human MRI machines to scan dogs without posing a risk to human patients.

"Our study shows that bearded men harbour significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs," the authors wrote, noting that when MRI scanners are used for both dogs and humans, they're cleaned very well after veterinary use, and actually have a "lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans."

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Another important point to note is that most bacteria aren't actually dangerous to humans, and some can be really good for us (that's why some scientists want us to let our kids get dirty).

This little study wasn't supposed to set off a beard panic, it was just supposed to prove that dogs and people can safely share an MRI machine. There is previous research on beards and bacteria though, that suggests they're not all bad.

Another study done in 2014 and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at a much larger sample of human faces (men who work in healthcare), both bearded and clean shaven, and actually found that people who shaved their faces were carrying around more Staph bacteria than those with facial hair.

"Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair," the researchers wrote.

A year after that, a local news station in New Mexico did its own "study" on beards, one that wasn't super scientific but did go viral and prompted a flurry of headlines insisting beards are as dirty as toilets. That claim has been debunked.

So, before you ban bearded people from kissing the baby (or yourself) consider that we all have some bacteria on our faces. Dads should certainly wash their beards well, but they're not as dirty as a toilet.

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From toddlers to teens, most kids love Easter Egg hunts. But the traditional Easter game can be a bit challenging for small ones and those with disabilities—especially kids with mobility disabilities or children who struggle with social interactions. Sadly, as much as you try to nudge them in the right direction, your efforts are often in vain.

Thankfully, there's a brilliant hack that helps kids of all ages find the colorful eggs without the stress. The best part? It's also great for parents and hosts that can't remember where they hid the eggs (yup, been there, done that!)

We're thankful Facebook page Noah's Miracle had moms in mind when he shared an image of helium-filled, colored balloons adhered to plastic eggs to give attention to the location of each egg.

"Great idea for children with mobility challenges so that they can participate in Easter egg hunts easier and remain in wheelchairs & gait trainers & walkers," says the caption in the post that's garnered thousands of Facebook comments and shares since its posting two years ago.

Now we can't control if April showers will put a damper on your hunt, but this hack is a surefire way to get the whole crowd involved.

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If you've had a baby in a hospital you know that those first few nights can be really hard. There are so many benefits for babies sharing rooms with their mamas (as opposed to being shipped off to those old-school, glassed-in nurseries) but tired mamas have a lot of conflicting messages coming at them.

You're told to bond with your baby, but not to fall asleep with them in the bed, and to let them rest in their bassinet. But when you're recovering from something that is (at best) the most physically demanding thing a person can do or (at worst) major surgery, moving your baby back and forth from bed to bassinette all night long sure doesn't sound like fun.

That's why this photo of a co-sleeping hospital bed is going viral again, four years after it was first posted by Australian parenting site Belly Belly. The photo continues to attract attention because the bed design is enviable, but is it real? And if so, why aren't more hospitals using it?

The bed is real, and it's Dutch. The photo originated from Gelderse Vallei hospital. As GoodHouskeeping reported back in 2015, the clip-on co-sleepers were introduced as a way to help mom and baby pairs who needed extended hospital stays—anything beyond one night in the maternity ward.

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Plenty of moms stateside wish we had such beds in our maternity wards, but as but Dr. Iffath Hoskins, an OB-GYN, told Yahoo Parenting in 2015, the concept wouldn't be in line with American hospitals' safe sleeping policies.

"If the mother rolls over from exhaustion, there would be the risk of smothering the baby," she told Yahoo. "The mother's arm could go into that space in her sleep and cover the baby, or she could knock a pillow to the side and it's on the baby."

Hoskins also believes that having to get in and out of bed to get to your baby in the night is good for moms who might be otherwise reluctant to move while recovering from C-sections. If you don't move, the risk of blood clots in the legs increases. "An advantage of being forced to get up for the baby is that it forces the mother to move her legs — it's a big plus. However painful it can be, it's important for new moms to move rather than remaining in their hospital beds."

So there you have it. The viral photo is real, but don't expect those beds to show up in American maternity wards any time soon.

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