A new study about screen time has parents worrying about brain development—but here's why you shouldn't panic

With new headlines on the topic nearly every week it can seem like the science on screen time is constantly changing—and that's because, just like our children's brains, the science is developing all the time. The newest study seeks to answer the question all parents wonder about: Are the brains of children exposed to screen time different from the brains of those who aren't?

A new study out of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center published this latest study JAMA Pediatrics suggests that they can be, but that doesn't mean all screen time is detrimental or that parents should feel guilty if they need to put on a cartoon for a few minutes.


Researchers asked 47 parents to fill out a detailed questionnaire about how much their 3-to-5-year-olds watched screens, whether the kids had a TV in their bedrooms, whether they watch violent content, how much supervision they have while viewing, etc. Then they had the 47 children complete some cognitive tests (vocabulary, early pre-literacy skills and the like). Finally, they let the kids watch a video while they underwent an MRI (which sounds super hard for wiggly little ones). Through the scans, they examined the children's white matter, the fibers that connect nerve cells and get thicker and more efficient with use.

The result, as the scientists expected, was that kids who had more screen time had less overall white matter (when the statistical analysis controlled for age and income level). They were particularly underdeveloped in the areas associated with executive function, which also support language and literacy. That underdevelopment also showed up in the cognitive testing.

Please, don't go tossing the kid's iPad in a river (we mean, the electronics recycling center!) or loading up on guilt because that ship has sailed and it's permanently fused to their hands. Consider the fact that last month, the very same journal published a study saying active screen time may even benefit children. Plus, this current study only shows correlation, not causation. What may be causing these results is that children who get more screen time are probably also getting less of their caregiver's time talking and interacting, because there are only so many hours in the day.

"It's all about experience," lead author John S. Hutton, MS, MD, told the New York Times. "Did screen time interfere with something that would have been constructive—reading, playing, talking?" Those kinds of activities are what reinforce the connections in young brains and help them develop the white matter they need.

The study is also just a snapshot of young brains before they are even in kindergarten. The studies' authors acknowledge that without looking at the children over time, we can't know if this one moment of relative underdevelopment continues or if children's brains eventually catch up when they enter school.

Hutton and his coauthors hope that this is just the first of other studies that can help form a complete picture of the impact of digital devices on our children. In the meantime, you can follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time. You can also make sure to play and talk to your children when you can.

Just don't beat yourself up if the only way you can take more than a 30-second shower is to turn on Daniel Tiger. Seriously, where do we sign up for a study on the benefits of having a mom who gets to wash her hair?

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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