Q: We just had our first child, and we're getting more advice from people than sleep. Some say you need to breast-feed, and others say it's fine not to. Some say pick the child up when he cries; others say let him cry himself to sleep. My wife wants to breast-feed for a year or so, and my instinct is to pick my son up when he cries. Are we missing something here? -- Dave H., Vancouver
A: No, Dave, you and your wife are right on the money. There are many health benefits from breast-feeding -- and if it lasts a year, they are particularly strong. For the child, mom's milk is the first super-step to a strong immune system. Plus, breast milk is the perfect nutrition for baby's physical growth and brain development. And there are benefits for Mom: She bonds with her baby, and lowers her own risk of cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. Breast-feeding moms also return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than moms who don't.
As for comforting a crying child, we're all for it. You can learn the meanings of the different sounding cries, and it turns out infants and kids who are soothed when upset are more secure. That contributes to the development of all-important personality traits such as empathy and generosity. There's a lot of research that supports this concept and some says there's an epidemic of anxiety and depression in kids in the U.S. that can be attributed to the lack of comforting and touching -- kids sleep in isolation from their parents, spend too much time in car seats and strollers, and there are few extended families to offer additional support and care. The bottom line: Children who don't get sufficient emotional nurturing early on may end up being more self-centered.
So, if you and your wife can raise your child -- or children -- in a warm, nurturing home, you have nothing to worry about. Nothing except diapers, schools, the right clothes, driver licenses, college tuition ... but first things first! Hug your child often, and try to get some sleep!
Q: It seems like everyone is talking about how dangerous concussions are for football players. I don't actually see that many guys getting knocked out, so what's really going on? -- Todd D., Springfield, Mass.
A: Concussions happen frequently in the NFL, even if you don't see 'em all on TV. And we're just beginning to understand how serious they are long-term. It turns out that brain damage following repeat concussions -- particularly if a person isn't given enough time to heal before going back into the game -- can lead to personality changes, depression, loss of cognitive ability, balance and coordination problems and even an early death.
When Patriot running back Stevan Ridley ran headfirst into the Ravens' strong safety Bernard Pollard in the 2012 AFC title game, he suffered the 171st known concussion of the NFL season. The anatomy of that hit? As Ridley and Pollard connected, Ridley's head stopped moving forward, but his brain did not; it slammed into the left inside of his skull. Then he spun around, so his brain rotated to the left. These two forces disrupt the neuron-to-neuron signaling in the brain and reduce blood flow, and that causes a shutdown. Ridley lost consciousness. He then reflexively went into what's called the fencing pose: He extended his arm straight in front of him -- on the side on which he was hit -- and he brought his other arm up to his side. That's a primitive reflex that kicks in during a concussion as your brain's areas of higher functioning and of primitive responses become (temporarily, we hope) disconnected.
But your brain doesn't have to slam against the inside of your skull to suffer a concussion or brain damage. All it takes is a movement of 7 millimeters! And you don't have to lose consciousness. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu estimates he's had 50 to 100 concussions, but rarely got medical attention for "the buzz."
The lesson for you? Always wear a helmet when you step into a batter's box, bike (cycle or motor), rollerblade or play any contact sport. And if you ever get a concussion, give yourself time to recover and try taking an extra 900 mg a day of DHA omega-3 from salmon, trout or supplements to speed healing.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.