Educational levels for women in America are the highest they have ever been. Women with infant children are now the most educated than any of their predecessors. In fact, the Pew Center reports that “on average, a mother with more education is more likely to deliver a baby at term and more likely to have a baby with a healthy birth weight.”
Renata Forste, professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, says that a college degree helps a woman in both her career and her parenting. Research shows that kids who have a college-educated mother do better than kids who do not. “I don’t think people think about the fact their college education is critical and will help them be a better parent, a better mother. They only think of it in terms of, well if I need it I can get a better job,” Forste says.
Maternal education matters.
Callie Smith, who graduated from a Utah university and used to play tennis for BYU, welcomed a baby girl to her family late last year. She says the education from her degree in Exercise Sport and a minor in Nutrition helps her physically, emotionally, and mentally. “It’s helped me deal with the stress and no sleep because I am used to it from studying all the time,” Smith says. She says the study skills she gained from a college education and knowing how to research makes a difference. “I solve problems all the time as a mom and I research stuff like different ways to nurse and how to help a baby relieve gas. I learned that baby acne is normal.”
Although breastfeeding practices proved difficult for Smith when her daughter was born in December, she has stuck with it and plans to for awhile.
Forste co-authored a study with fellow professor of sociology Benjamin Gibbs in the “Journal of Pediatrics” titled, “Breastfeeding, Parenting and Cognitive Development” which reports that “there is a positive relationship between breastfeeding for at least 3 months and child rearing skills, but this link is the result of cognitively supportive parenting behaviors and greater levels of education among women who predominately breastfeed.”
The researchers also said that they “found little-to-no relationship between infant feeding practices and the cognitive development of children with less-educated mothers. Instead, reading to a child every day and being sensitive to a child’s development were significant predictors of math and reading readiness outcomes.”
From her background in nutrition, Smith says she is super aware of what she eats and knows that keeping a healthy immune system is important for her baby’s own health. As a new mom, Smith says she talks to Kamber and that it feels natural for her. “I let her know that I love her. She mimics me when I talk to her and I feel that on some level she understands.”
At the end of the day, Smith agrees that one thing motherhood and college have in common is being a challenge. “I had to challenge myself as a college student and that is what I do everyday as a mom.”
Photos courtesy of Callie Smith.