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never too earlyDid you know that there are some very simple steps you can take, even before your child is born, to help ensure their success in school and beyond? That the basics, such as taking care of yourself during pregnancy and doing your best to avoid an early birth (according to the March of Dimes website, preterm labor begins when the fetus is 37 weeks old or younger) can have a significant impact on your baby's later development? The March of Dimes website offers a list of health challenges that premature babies face, like underdeveloped immune systems and infections like pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.

Likewise, women who wait beyond their teen years to start their families statistically fare better in helping their children succeed in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , "Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90 percent of women who had not given birth during adolescence."

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, co-authors of NurtureShock, recommend adhering to a regular sleep schedule for your child to make sure they get the recommended number amount of sleep based on their age. This helps reduce their stress level while promoting healthy growth, optimal academic performance and emotional stability.

Brandie Williams, coordinator of the Parent Education-Infant Development Program at the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, confirms this latter point saying, " In the short run, the baby's behavior, self-regulation and self-soothing can suffer without a good sleep schedule; in the long run their development can actually be negatively impacted." She further stresses that sleep is a physiological need and states, "If infants do not get enough sleep, they cannot focus on the play and learning that are needed for healthy development. Just like an adult who is sleepy and unable to sustain their attention on any one topic, a tired baby is not able to interact as well with their caretakers."

In the coming months Fredericksburg Parent, in partnership with Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area, will be speaking to local experts about early childhood education, what our region is doing and how it compares with others. We will offer tips and provide resources to equip parents who want to do more to help their children be successful or who want to help family members or friends who have questions or concerns about their children's development.

Mary Becelia lives with her family in southern Stafford County.

Next month: Laying the Foundation: Striving for a Healthy Pregnancy and Full-Term Birth

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Pouches' Community Corner

This month Pouches poked her head into an exciting new program for teens interested in law enforcement.

pouches explorers

The long running Spotsylvania Sheriff’s cadet program has reorganized as a Boy Scout Explorer troop, said Sgt. Blackington, who took over the program in February 2017.

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