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Experts Say Infants Should Sleep in Their Parents’ Rooms for at Least Six Months

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The latest infant sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage skin-to-skin contact and sharing rooms—but not beds—with infants.

The term “SIDS” is currently used to describe any infant death without an identifiable cause. As such, SIDS prevention tactics mostly consist of avoiding known risk factors, a list that’s constantly growing. The biggest shift in SIDS prevention came in 1994 when a coalition of researchers recommended that babies be placed on their backs, not their stomachs, to sleep. Public health organizations around the world instituted awareness campaigns, and the number of SIDS deaths associated with stomach sleeping declined dramatically. But as those rates declined, other risk factors grew in prominence.

The updated recommendations address these risks as well as proactive steps parents can take to boost their infants’ resilience.

The safest sleep environment, say AAP experts, is a completely bare crib or bassinet with no soft bedding, crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, or soft toys. Any fitted sheets should be tight and secure on the mattress. The room, the baby, and his or her parents will be free of smoke, drugs, and alcohol.

One of the more contentious issues in the infant sleep discussion is whether or not parents should share a bed with their babies or put them to sleep in another room. The new guidelines recommend a halfway point: putting babies down in their own cribs in their parents’ bedrooms for at least the first six months of their lives, and ideally their first year. Studies have shown that while bed-sharing can increase SIDS risk, room-sharing alone can decrease it by as much as 50 percent.

The report notes the protective power of breastfeeding and of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, and recommends that a mother hold her newborn for at least an hour as soon as she is able.

Lead author Rachel Moon says she recognizes that talking about SIDS is scary, but that doing so can save lives. "We want to share this information in a way that doesn't scare parents but helps to explain the real risks posed by an unsafe sleep environment," she said in a statement. "We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures."

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Live Smarter
Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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