The biggest parenting and pregnancy stories of the year

If you've only time to read one thing, make sure it's this round-up of the most important parenting developments of 2011, from the change to baby and child painkiller doses to caesareans on demand

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Caesareans on demand and home births

Receiving big coverage was the change to caesareans guidelines in the UK in November. You’re now able to choose to give birth by c-section on the NHS.

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Home births also hit headlines in November when it was revealed that NHS cost-cutting reduced mums’ birth options, meaning only 2.5% babies are now born at home, despite 11% of mums hoping for a home birth.

In the same month, some newspapers printed headlines claiming home births were the more dangerous option for first time mums. This prompted the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) to express concerns that women having their first baby may not look into a more natural, midwife-led birth for fear of rare complications arising. The NCT called on the Government to make more amenities available to give mums-to-be greater choice when it comes to labour.

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When your baby’s 6 months old, it’s time to start weaning, although you may have already begun if you have a hungry baby!

Early weaning debate

Findings by scientists from the Department of Health stirred a debate at the start of the year. The findings suggested babies could benefit from weaning earlier than previously advised – at 4 months rather than 6 months. Not only did this contradict official weaning guidelines, it also went against the current advice that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months.

MFM went behind the headlines to find out what the researchers were saying and, more importantly, what it all means for mums.

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Parenting styles – Tiger Mom or Serenity?

2011 saw two parenting attitudes hit the headlines. The first arose in January, in a book by high flying mum-of-two Amy Chua, titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy claimed that Western attitudes towards parenting were too soft and that the strict discipline and rules often found in Chinese parenting produced more successful adults.

On the flipside, Australian Doctor Brian Caplan recommended a more relaxed approach to raising children, nicknamed Serenity parenting. Dr Bryan’s book Selfish Reasons to have More Kids suggested a more-fun-less-stress approach.

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Paracetamol can be given from 2 months, ibuprofen from 3

Painkillers for babies and children

In February, we were warned not to reach for the paracetamol or ibuprofen so quicky when our children have a fever. In a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers found that many parents were accidentally giving their children the wrong dose.

But it wasn’t until December that official guidelines for liquid paracetamol, including Calpol, were changed in the UK. With the cold and flu season well upon us, make sure you’re up-to-date on the new guidelines.

Penicillin doses could also be ready for a review, so we’ll keep you posted on any changes that 2012 brings.

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Family finances and benefits

The economy’s been the star of the show this year – or at least the baddie in the pantomime. Families have been on the frontline of many of the changes and cost-cutting measures.

To get the year off to a shaky start, we were told by the Family and Parenting Institute that families would be hardest hit by Government cuts. These included the abolition of Child Trust Funds and the Health in Pregnancy grant.

The Government has attempted to alleviate the stress on parents in some ways, including extending the availability of free childcare. It was found that many parents could not return to work because of the soaring costs of nurseries and childminders. 2011 also saw the launch of the new Junior ISAs for children’s savings.

In January we reported that 250 Surestart Centres were at risk of closure. Since the coalition was formed last year, 124 have been shut.

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