When your baby arrives could have fundamental consequences for her future. Who knew?
Even when you’re actively trying for a baby, it’s not easy to make sure you have that chilled-out Pisces child or aren’t heavily pregnant during
the hottest part of the year. But that doesn’t stop many of us considering when the best time to give birth might be. A summer baby? Perfect, that means lots of mat leave walks in the park and naps in the sun (for you). But it would also mean a child who starts school younger than her peers.
And, while being a summer baby certainly hasn’t done Barack Obama or Jennifer Lopez any harm, a new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests children born in August should have their exam marks boosted because they’re nearly a year younger than some of their classmates when they sit tests. So, don’t head to the bedroom until you’ve thought about the pros and cons of every season…
Although there are fringe benefits to having a newborn in the early part of the year – imagine pushing your baby around the park on a fresh March morning, sipping a latte while the sun warms your face – there are also some potentially serious drawbacks.
According to a worldwide study into the effects of seasons on health, spring babies are at greater risk of various illnesses, including asthma. The reason is two-fold: coughs and colds are still prevalent in early spring, and women who are pregnant during winter tend to eat a diet lower in vitamins than those who are expecting in salad-filled summer.
On the plus side, the fact that your newborn soaks up lots of sun means she’s more likely to be content. Research shows that light is a mood elevator and babies exposed to more of it literally have a sunnier disposition. Plus, your maternity leave spans the nicest months of the year – bonus!
Researchers believe summer-born children are sometimes so academically behind their older counterparts, they’re wrongly labelled as having special educational needs. More worrying, children born in August are nearly three times more likely to report being unhappy at school.
Even when you’re actively trying for a baby, it’s not easy to make sure you have that chilled-out Pisces child
But parents-to-be of mid-year babies shouldn’t panic. ‘Children’s abilities vary vastly – one might walk at 10 months, another not until they’re around 16 months,’ says health and developmental psychologist Dr Cynthia McVey. ‘Similarly, one child might be great at adding up by the time they’re five, while another who’s a year older is just getting to grips with numbers. The framework within which children meet each developmental milestone is huge – as long as they operate inside that, they’re fine.’
And there’s more good news – statistically, summer babies are less likely to indulge in risky behaviour, such as drinking and smoking, during their teenage years. What’s more, high pollen counts in early summer are thought to be the reason people born then are less affected by allergies – the antibodies that protect them form while they’re still in the womb.
Not only are autumn babies the highest achievers but, according to German research, those who arrive now live on average 215 days longer than spring newborns. They’re also less likely to become ill in old age. And, if you have a girl, she could go through menopause later, too, giving added protection against breast and cervical cancer. That’s because reproductive hormones are higher in women who are pregnant in the summer, possibly leading to autumn babies being born with more eggs.
BORN IN WINTER
Harvard scientists suggest babies born in winter are not only taller, but are brighter, too. This seems to be because their mothers are exposed to longer daylight hours while pregnant, benefiting from more brain-boosting vitamin D as a result. Want a medic in the family? Data from the Office for National Statistics shows babies delivered in December are most likely to work as dentists, while January tots are more likely to become GPs.
There is, of course, a downside. Because of the lack of sunshine at the end of the year, winter babes make grumpier newborns. But scientists have also discovered they love comfort and familiarity more than those born at other times, so you’ll be treated to a lot more cuddles. To boost her mood and make sure she’s getting enough fresh air, Cynthia suggests taking a tip from the Swedish: ‘Wrap your baby up well and put her down to nap in her pram in the garden. The light and change of environment is so beneficial.’
You’ll need to look after yourself, too – according to the American Journal Of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, women who give birth during winter are twice as likely to suffer postnatal depression, because they are less likely to go out and socialise. ‘It’s important that women who become new mums at this time of year make sure they get out and about,’ says Cynthia. ‘It’s tempting to hibernate inside when it’s cold, but you will benefit. Meeting other new mums and sharing experiences is crucial for your parenting confidence.’