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Your Pregnancy Matters

How girls’ nights benefit moms – and babies

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When moms have a healthy, enjoyable social support network, babies benefit, too.

So often, new moms feel guilty for taking time to spend with friends. But feel guilty no more! New 2019 research published in JAMA Network suggests that having an active social life might be positively associated with your baby’s brain development.

This study is a win-win case for girls’ night: Spending time with friends is important for your mental health and wellness and could be a cognitive boost for your baby during the toddler years.

What the study examined

For this study, social networks include people with whom you have healthy, fun relationships, such as friends, family you don’t live with, and work friends.

Approximately 1,500 mothers with low-risk pregnancies enrolled in the study, which was conducted across five health centers in Tennessee. More than 70 percent of the babies born to these mothers received a Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) test at age 2. The BSID measures developmental function and includes tests for cognition, language, motor, and other skills.

“So often, new moms feel guilty for taking time to spend with friends. But feel guilty no more! New 2019 research published in JAMA Network suggests that having an active social life might be positively associated with your baby’s brain development.”

Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D.

The study researchers looked at four types of social networks, all of which were self-reported by participants:

  • How big is the immediate family (large was considered six or more members)?
  • How many friends does the mother have?
  • Does the father reside in the same home as the mother and child?
  • Does the mother know her neighbors? 

The data suggest that large social support networks are positively associated with cognitive development, yet large families are negatively associated with cognitive development. However, there are benefits to large families as well, so this shouldn’t be taken as a negative. The data also suggest that knowing your neighbors and cohabitating with the child’s father are not statistically significant. 

Many factors go into a child’s cognitive development. Social factors, poor general health, and premature birth can affect brain development. The researchers in this study controlled for such elements when aggregating their data.

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Low-key ideas for moms and friends

“Girls’ night out” doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as catching up while the kids play. Here are a few ideas for fun things to do with friends when the kids are in tow:

  • Visit a park with a toddler area
  • Take a walk with strollers or a wagon
  • Plan playdates at alternating houses
  • Go to the gym and use the childcare service, if available

It is also nice to get out with just adults sometimes. Try a few of these activities when you have childcare coverage:

  • Enjoy a meal or coffee
  • Run errands together
  • See a movie
  • Take an art or fitness class

It’s important for new moms to make time for socializing. If you know a new mother, offer to watch her little one while she enjoys some much-needed time with friends – you’ll be helping her and the baby.

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