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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 1, Lesson 3

Effect of Birth Complications/Trauma

Numerous things can go wrong during the labor and delivery. Trauma can be due to oxygen deprivation, preterm birth (prematurity), low-birth weight, and post-term birth.

Oxygen Deprivation

Oxygen deprivation, or anoxia, prior to or during the birth process can be a result of premature separation of the placenta or the cord being wrapped around the babies' neck causing inadequate oxygen supply. Deprivation of oxygen can result in a child having cerebral palsy - a term used for a variety of problems resulting from brain damage before, during, or just after birth. Newborns sometimes fail to start breathing immediately after being born. Risk of brain damage can result from delayed breathing of more than 3 minutes at birth. The effect of oxygen deprivation generally causes physical disabilities that tend to be permanent, as well as blindness, hearing impairments, intellectual and motor delays throughout early life. If oxygen deprivation were severe, problems will persist beyond early childhood.

Low Birth Weight

Birth weight is a good predictor of infant survival and healthy development. For a full term pregnancy (40 weeks), a healthy average weight is considered to be between 5 pounds 11 ½ ounces and 8 pounds 5 ¾ ounces. Infants may have low birth weight because of prematurity and/or intrauterine growth retardation due to genetic makeup or an unfavorable uterine environment. Low birth weight infants face health complications: immature lungs and breathing, mild/severe cognition problems, cerebral palsy, delayed speech, and sensory impairments (visual and auditory). Infants weighing less than 2 ½ pounds at birth experience more extreme long-term difficulties that are sometimes not overcome. Infants weighing less than 2 ½ pounds need intensive neonatal care for survival and typically require lengthy stays in the hospital.

Preterm Birth (Prematurity)

Premature newborn

Preterm infants are born several weeks before completing 37 weeks of gestation, regardless of birth weight. Approximately 10% of women deliver prior to 38 weeks' gestation with 2% delivering prior to 32 weeks. Various factors are associated with premature birth: teen pregnancies, poor prenatal care, drug abuse, and maternal trauma. Preterm infants commonly have respiratory problems due to underdeveloped lungs. Brain hemorrhaging is also a complication of preterm birth along with immature immune systems. Deficits in motor coordination, inattentiveness, overactiveness, and frequent illnesses are some of the difficulties that continue on into the primary years (McCormick, Gortmaker, & Sobol, 1990). Preterm babies are sometimes irritable, unresponsive, and suck poorly. Because of these problems, some parents become less sensitive and responsive in caring for them. Preterm babies are less often cuddled, touched, and talked to, especially those who are very ill at birth. According to Patteson and Barnard (1990), in an effort to receive a response from a baby who is passive, mothers will be overly intrusive via interfering pokes and verbal commands.

Post-Term Birth

Post-term babies are infants that are born after 42 weeks. Approximately 5% of women deliver after 42 weeks. One concern of post-term babies is due to the placenta no longer functioning properly or the sharp drop in the amount of amniotic fluid. With the decrease of amniotic fluid, the infant's movements in the uterus will squeeze the umbilical cord. In addition, the fetus has grown larger during the extra weeks in the uterus which may cause the baby to experience difficulty moving through the birth canal. Increased risk for oxygen deprivation and head injuries occur in post-term births.

Parental/Caregiver Influence and Interaction

According to Trawick-Smith (2003), "families of different cultures adopt unique methods for playing with, carrying, feeding, comforting, educating, and socializing their children" (p. 449). Interactions between children and their parents and/or caregivers differ across cultures. Some cultures respond to consoling infants by feeding them or quickly attending to their needs whereas other cultures believe in not responding so quickly, socializing them to become more independent at an early age. Interactions between parent and child are largely influenced by cultural beliefs, values and personal experiences of one's own family and family beliefs. According to Sanchez (1997), low-income Mexican American parents favor dependence and attachment in their child rearing stressing reliance on family and friends. Levine (1996) concludes that parents in poor communities generally emphasize self-sufficiency helping their children become independent at an early age as evidence in early weaning, walking, and toilet training.

Additionally, Trawick-Smith (2003), states that "due to difference in child-rearing beliefs, parents adopt different ways of interacting with their children. Interactions vary across cultural groups in four major ways: communication, responses to crying, teaching, and carrying and holding" (p. 455). See table below for summary.

Parental Interactions Universals Variations
Communicating All parents communicate in some way with their children. Parents of some cultures use much verbal communication with their children. Others more often communicate through gestures, facial expressions, and physical touch.
Responses to crying All parents respond in some way to children's crying. Parents of some cultural groups show distress when their children cry and respond quickly. Others are less concerned by cries and take longer to react. Some use cuddling and feeding as a response; others use a pacifier or physical stimulation.
Teaching All parents are concerned about the education of their children. Parents of some cultures believe that teaching is an important part of the parental role. In other cultures, parents believe teachers in school should assume this responsibility.
Carrying and holding All parents hold and carry their young children. Some children are bound in slings or cradleboards for much of the day. Others are held in a parent's or grandparent's arms. Some children are held infrequently and move about freely in the home or neighborhood.

Trawick-Smith, J. (2003). Early childhood development: A multicultural perspective. Columbus, OH: Prentice Hall. Table 18 -1 "Cultural universals and variations in parent-child interactions" p. 455.


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