Current Studies & Findings

LEAF (Lifestyle and Early Achievement in Families)

LEAF wants to find out if different things that happen during pregnancy – like stress, smoking, weight gain, medication use, or other lifestyle factors – might affect how preschool-aged children grow and act. We’re hoping results from this study will be able to help lead to better healthcare for children in the future.

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Play & Grow

Play & Grow wants to learn how children and their parents eat and play together, and how those activities affect child health and development. Children and their families meet with our research team 4 different times over two years, starting when the child is about 18 months old. 

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Omega Heroes

Although at least 1 in 68 U.S. children has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), no approved medications exist to treat the core symptoms. The Omega Heroes team is interested in learning how adding an Omega 3-6 fatty acid nutritional supplement might help children with ASD. Reports have shown that inflammation is common in people with ASD. It is possible that this fatty acid nutrient may help reduce inflammation. The first step is to see if taking these fatty acids can improve signals of inflammation in the blood. If these fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, they may help improve ASD behaviors.

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Moms in Motion

Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus are at a much higher risk of developing type II diabetes (T2DM) later in life. The standard initial treatment to prevent T2DM after pregnancy is weight loss. The goal of Moms in Motion is to test the effects of  incorporating ankle weights into daily activities on weight loss in new moms diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus. We are hoping that women wearing ankle weights for 2 hours a day during normal, light intensity activities will result in an increased likelihood of weight loss, crucial in helping prevent later development of type II diabetes.

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Omega Tots Follow-up Study

Participants in the original Omega Tots received a nutritional supplement or placebo powder for 6 months. This study is a brief, 1-time postal survey to learn more about how these children continue to grow and learn.

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Preemie Tots

Preemie Tots is a research study that is interested in learning about the behavior and development of toddlers who were born prematurely. For this study we examined whether a fatty acid supplement benefited toddlers’ development.

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Growth in Children Born Preterm

We want to develop evidence-based strategies for guiding clinicians and families in recognizing and preventing obesity in children. Looking at 20,000 children, we will try to determine the prevalence and timing of the development of obesity in early childhood among preterm children, compared to term children, and identify the best time to prevent obesity. 

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Improving National Survey Questions / Moms2Moms Follow Up Study

Our objective is to develop and evaluate a short set of questions to capture infant feeding practices. We will follow up with previous Moms2Moms study participants to gather more information about these practices. We hope to support future, high-quality research and public health tracking of maternal and child health.

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Life After Pregnancy Study (LAPS)

Our long-term goal is to develop better guidance for first-time mothers as they prepare for the arrival of their baby, and better supportive advice in addressing the common challenges that arise after coming home from the hospital. For this study moms complete a home survey.

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What We Have Learned

From Our Breastfeeding Study

Breastfeeding for as long as you plan to can be difficult. We want to understand what factors might help moms breastfeed for more than a year. This study found that support from family and pediatric care providers was extremely important for mothers who continued to breastfeed beyond infancy.

  • Article: Tchaconas, A., Keim, S. A., Heffern, D., & Adesman, A. (2018). Pediatric Care Providers, Family, and Friends as Sources of Breastfeeding Support Beyond Infancy. Breastfeeding Medicine, 13(2), 116-122.
From Our Preemie Tots Trial

Children born very premature have an increased risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and difficulties with sensory processing. However, providing fatty acid supplements may be an effective intervention, as they are involved in brain development and reduce inflammation. Thus, we explored how providing fatty acid supplements to children born very preterm might benefit growth and development. The Preemie Tots Trial found that many of the children who took the fatty acid supplements showed small-to-medium size improvements in social interaction, and in using gestures to communicate (like pointing to show you something). Children who took a placebo oil did not have these same improvements. We hope to continue exploring how fatty acids may improve child growth and development in future studies.

  • Keim, S. A., Gracious, B., Boone, K. M., Klebanoff, M. A., Rogers, L. K., Rausch, J., ... & Rhoda, D. A. (2018). ω-3 and ω-6 Fatty Acid Supplementation May Reduce Autism Symptoms Based on Parent Report in Preterm Toddlers. The Journal of nutrition, 148(2), 227-235.
From The Omega Tots Study

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that plays important roles in early brain development.  Early evidence has suggested that DHA supplementation can improve global developmental outcomes in preterm infants when started soon after birth. We wanted to see if DHA supplementation could improve developmental outcomes among toddlers born preterm. Participants consumed a DHA (200 mg) with arachidonic acid (AA; 200 mg) supplement or a placebo preparation of corn oil (400 mg). The trial period lasted 180 days. 377 children, and their families, participated. The supplement did not improve cognitive development compared to the placebo. Based on this study, it does not seem warranted to offer DHA supplements to toddlers who were born preterm. It is possible that supplementation has other benefits that this study did not examine.

Improving National Survey Questions Study

This study hoped develop and evaluate a short set of questions to capture infant feeding practices. We followed up with previous Moms2Moms study participants to gather more information about these practices. 

  • Keim, S. A., Smioth, K., Boone, K. M. & Oza-Frank, R. (2018) . Cognitive Testing of the Brief Breastfeeding and Milk Expression Recall Survey. Breatfeed Med, 13(1), 60-66.