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Your Baby

“Furry Pets” May Help Kids Avoid Some Allergies

2:00

You might think that having pets would be a nightmare if you have small children with a family history of allergies. A new study says that furry pets may actually help protect children against some allergies.

The infants’ mothers had a history of allergy, so the babies were at increased risk too, and it was once thought that pets might be a trigger for allergies in such children, the authors point out in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“Earlier it was thought that exposure to pets early in childhood was a risk factor for developing allergic disease,” said Dr. Merja Nermes of the University of Turku in Finland, who coauthored the research letter. “Later epidemiologic studies have given contradictory results and even suggested that early exposure to pets may be protective against allergies, though the mechanisms of this protective effect have remained elusive.”

Adding pet microbes to the infant intestinal biome may strengthen the immune system, she told Reuters Health by email.

The study team collected fecal samples from diapers when the babies were one month of age and these were tested for the DNA of two types of Bifidobacteria that are found specifically in animal guts: B. thermophilum and B. pseudolongum.

One third of infants from the pet-exposed group had animal-specific bifidobacteria in their fecal samples, compared to 14 percent of the comparison group. It’s not clear where the infants without furry pets at home acquired their gut bacteria, the authors write.

When the babies were six months old they had skin prick tests to assess allergies to cow’s milk, egg white, flours, cod, soybeans, birch, grasses, cat, dog, potato, banana and other allergens.

At six months of age, 19 infants had reactions to at least one of the allergens tested. None of these infants had B. thermophilum bacteria in their fecal samples.

Other studies have pointed out the connection between kids exposed to farm animals and household pets and building a better immune system.

“When infants and furry pets live in a close contact in the same household, transfer of microbiota between pets and infants occurs,” Nermes said. “For example, when a dog licks the infant´s face or hand, the pet-derived microbiota can end up via the mouth into the infant´s intestine.”

Human-specific Bifidobacteria have beneficial health effects, and animal-specific strains may also be beneficial, she said. It is still unclear, however, if exposure to these bacteria protects against allergies later in life, she said.

“Future research is needed to assess if these infants develop less atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergic rhinitis later,” she said.

Nermes also noted that she believes pediatricians should not discourage pregnant women or parents of infants from having pets in order to prevent allergies.

“If a family with a pregnant mother or an infant wants to have a pet, the family can be encouraged to have one, because the development of allergic disease cannot be prevented by avoiding pets,” she said.

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/10/us-health-allergy-pet-microbes-idUSKCN0RA2CK20150910

 

 

Your Baby

Recall: Toys R Us Pacifier Clips Due to Choking Hazard

:45

The recall involves about 53,000 Babies ‘R’ Us pacifier clips sold in an assortment of six colors and character designs, including a red monster, blue monster, monkey, giraffe, owl with one eye closed, and an owl with both eyes open.

The pacifier clip’s spring mechanism can break and release small parts, posing a choking hazard.

The pacifier clips have a circular plastic cover affixed to a metal spring clip and a fabric strip with snaps at the other end. The recalled pacifier clip assortment has model number 5F6237F and “®2014 Geoffrey, LLC” engraved on the back to the plastic cover.

The firm has received two reports of pacifier clips breaking, however, no injuries have been reported at this time.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled pacifier clips from babies and return the product to Babies ‘R’ Us or Toys ‘R’ Us for a refund.

The clips were sold at Babies ‘R’ Us  and Toys ’R’ Us stores nationwide from February 2015 through April 2016 for about $4.

Consumers can contact Toys ‘R’ Us at 800-869-7787 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.toysrus.com and click on Product Recalls for more information.

Your Baby

Spit-Cleaning Your Infant’s Binky

1.45 to read

Have you ever sucked on your baby’s pacifier to clean it? Many parents have. Babies drop their binkies all the time and if you’re in a hurry or just figure a little spit-cleaning won’t hurt, you’re more likely to stick it in your own mouth and give it a quick once over.

A new study out of Sweden says the spit-cleaning technique may actually help your infant avoid eczema and asthma.

“It was surprising that the effect was so strong,” says pediatric allergist Dr. Bill Hesselmar of Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study involved 136 infants who used a pacifier in their first 6 months. 65 of the infants had parents that reported sucking the pacifier to clean it. In those children, both eczema and asthma were strongly reduced when they were examined at 18 months of age. At 36 months of age, the protective effect remained for eczema but not for asthma.

Scientists didn’t know why the sucking on the baby’s pacifier acted as a protector or whether it was filtering out germs. The technique didn’t have any impact on respiratory illness, meaning that the babies were not more likely to get a cold or the flu from their parents. Common sense would dictate that if you have a cold or the flu or any other contagious condition, then it’s not a good idea to suck on your baby’s binky. Otherwise, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Why is sucking on your infant’s pacifier possibly helpful in preventing asthma or eczema in your child? Scientists hypothesize that tiny organisms in the saliva of the parents may be why. Parent’s saliva introduces gut micoflora that live in the digestive tract of the baby. “We know that if infants have diverse microflora in the gut, then children will have less allergy and less eczema,” says Hesselmar. “When parents suck on the pacifier, they are transferring microflora to the child.”

Many pediatricians and family doctors are concerned that children are being “excessively cleaned” into illness. With anti-bacterial soaps and swipes being used on everything, and kids not allowed to get dirty, their immune system isn’t getting the workout it needs to help fight off common illnesses. The bacterial microorganisms provided in the parent’s saliva might help stimulate the baby’s immune system.

“The most exciting result was the eczema,” says Christine Johnson, chair of the public health department at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. “I’m a bit more skeptical about the asthma findings because asthma is hard to measure before a child is five or six years old.”

Hesselmar also urges moms to lick the baby’s pacifier if their child was delivered by C-section. Vaginal delivered babies receive quite a bit of microbes during delivery. C-section babies can be more prone to allergies. “If they are using a pacifier and those parents think it’s OK to suck on the pacifier, then yes, I would recommend it,” Hesselmar says.

Some parents may find the idea of picking up a pacifier that’s fallen on the floor and putting it in their mouth kind of disgusting. That’s fine, there’s no need to worry about it. If the idea doesn’t bother you, all the better says Hesselmar, “I haven’t heard of anyone getting ill from it,” he says. “There isn’t much bacteria on the floor.”

Source: Barbara Mantel, http://www.today.com/moms/why-it-may-be-ok-spit-clean-your-babys-binkie-6C9773378

Your Baby

Why Do Babies Eyes Change Color?

1:30

Close to the top of questions many parent’s have about their newborn is what color will my baby’s eyes be?

It’ll take a while before you actually know your baby’s true eye color. That’s because eye color is a genetic trait that depends on several factors. While your baby may have gray or blue eyes at birth, his or her eyes may eventually be brown, blue, green, hazel, gray, violet or even a combination of colors. 

Parents' genes can mix and match in many different ways. The influences from each parent aren't known until after the baby is born. Eye color traits also include grandparents. A brown-eyed mother and father can have a child with blue eyes if there are blue eyes in his or her genetic history.

The colored part of the eye is called the iris, which has pigmentation that determines our eye color.

Human eye color originates with three genes, two of which are well understood. These genes account for the most common colors — green, brown, and blue.

Most babies are born with blue or gray eyes that can darken in their first three years.

Iris color, just like hair and skin color, depends on a protein called melanin. We have specialized cells in our bodies called melanocytes whose job it is to go around secreting melanin where it’s needed, including in the iris. When your baby is born his eyes will be gray or blue since melanocytes respond to light and he has spent his whole life in the dark.

Over time, if melanocytes only secrete a little melanin, your baby will have blue eyes. If they secrete a bit more, his eyes will look green or hazel. When melanocytes get really busy, eyes look brown (the most common eye color), and in some cases they may appear very dark indeed. Because it takes about a year for melanocytes to finish their work it can be a dicey business calling eye color before the baby’s first birthday. The color change does slow down some after the first 6 months of life, but there can be plenty of change left at that point.

We used to think of brown being "dominant" and blue being "recessive." But modern science has shown that eye color is not at all that simple.

Children can have completely different eye colors than either of their parents. But if both parents have brown eyes, it's most likely that their children also will have brown eyes.

The darker colors tend to dominate, so brown typically wins out over green, and green tends to win out over blue.

Eye color is one of those interesting things that pique our curiosity, but no matter what color your baby’s eyes end up being; they’ll be beautiful because they belong to your special little one!

Story sources: David L Hill MD,FAAP,  https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Newborn-Eye-Color.aspx

Burt Dubow, OD, http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/eye-color.htm

Your Baby

Does Your Unborn Baby Hear You?

2.00 to read

More than twenty years ago I remember reading that fetuses can learn to recognize their mothers and father’s voices and then respond to those voices as newborns. I thought… well maybe… but it seemed to me that voices from outside of the womb would sound muffled from inside. Of course, I don’t remember my in utero experience so I don’t really know how words sound.

Over the years though, scientists have continued to examine how and what babies learn before they are born.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have determined that fetuses not only hear and recognize voices but they can become familiar with different words and different pitches used when saying those words.

The study involved 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with (2), four-minute sequences of the made-up words “tatata” or “tatota.” The words were said with several different pitches. The moms-to-be listened to the recordings beginning at 29 weeks of pregnancy -about 7 months along- until birth. They heard them around 50 to 71 times.

Following birth, researchers tested the babies for normal hearing and then performed an electroencephalograph (EEG) brain scan to see if the newborns would respond to the made-up words and different pitches. And sure enough, the brain scans showed increased activity from the babies who had been listening to the CD in utero when the words were played to them after birth. Not only did they respond to the words, but also seemed to recognize the different pitches used when they heard them.  

The babies born to the mothers who had not listened to the CDs while pregnant showed little reaction to the words or pitches.

 “We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.

“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”

Some experts believe the finding shows that not only can a third-trimester fetus hear and recognize voices; he or she can also detect subtle changes and process complex information.

“Interestingly, this prenatal exposure also helped the newborns to detect changes which they were not exposed to: the infants who have received additional prenatal stimulation could also detect loudness changes in pseudo words but the unexposed infants could not,” Partanen says.

“However, both groups did have responses to vowel changes (which are very common in Finnish, and which newborns have been many time previously been shown to be capable of).”

You may be wondering why is it even important that scientists know if fetuses can recognize voices or words.  Partanen says because sounds heard in utero may shape the developing human brain in ways that affect speech and language development after birth.

“The better we know how the fetus’ brain works, the more we’ll know about early development of language,” Partanen says. “If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop very early interventions [for babies with abnormal development].” 

An abstract for the Finnish study is published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website.

Does talking and singing to your baby before it’s born actually stimulate his or her brain activity and increase language learning? Some experts say definitely yes, others say it has no impact. But really, most moms and dads enjoy baby bump bonding whether it’s productive or not. And who knows, maybe your pre-born hears you loud and clear. 

Source: Meghan Holohan, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/unborn-babies-are-hearing-you-loud-clear-8C11005474

Parenting

Why Do U.S. Birth Rates Continue to Drop?

2:00

An interesting look at the U.S. birth rate was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. In a nut shell, the U.S. birth rate remains at an all-time low, women are waiting longer to have children, teenagers having kids is at a historic low, C-sections are on the decline as well as preterm births, fewer unmarried women are having babies but the birth rate for twins is up by 2 percent.

Let’s look at the breakdown on these noteworthy findings.

While the U.S. birth rate remained at an all-time low in 2013, some experts expect that trend to change as the economy improves.

"By 2016 and 2017, I think we'll start seeing a real comeback," said Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of obstetrics and gynecology for Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "While the economy is doing better, you're still going to see a lag effect of about a year, and 2014 is the first year our economy really started to feel like it's getting back to normal."

More than 3.9 millions babies were born in 2013 and while that sounds like a lot, it’s down a little less than 1 percent from the year before.

Along with fewer births, there’s also been a decline in the general fertility rate - by about 1 percent- for women ages 15 to 44, reaching another record all-time low.

Women are waiting longer to start a family. Some experts believe that the economy may be having an impact on that statistic as well. The average age of first motherhood rose to 26 from 25.8 in 2013. Not a huge increase, but an indicator that younger women have a lot going on in their lives and want to wait a little longer before having their first child.

"You had people right out of college having a much harder time getting a first job, and so you're going to see a lot more delay among those people with their first child," Caughey said.

Birth rates for women in their 20s declined to record lows in 2013, but rose for women in their 30s and late 40s. The rate for women in their early 40s was unchanged.

"If you look at the birth rates across age, for women in their 20s, the decline over these births may not be births forgone so much as births delayed," said report co-author Brady Hamilton, a statistician/demographer with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Teens seem to be getting the message that having a child is something they need to think long and hard about. The good news is that the teenage birth rate is at an all-time low. Rates fell for teens in nearly all-ethnic groups by about 10 percent from 2012.

"It is just an absolutely remarkable trend," Hamilton said. "We are reaching record lows, and it's really quite amazing."

What is causing the sharp decline is still up for debate, but Hamilton believes that newer policies and programs may be educating teens better about the dangers to their health and life goals if they become pregnant at too young an age. More access to birth control may also be having an impact.

The jump in twin birth rates by 2 percent is an area for concern for many experts in the health field. 

"Twins have worse outcomes, and we really hope over the next few years we'll be able to see a reduction in that rate," Caughey said. "We really want to encourage people to be more engaged when they are considering fertility treatments, to reduce the risk of any multiple births,"

Twins births may be on the way up, but the triplet and multiple birth rate dropped another 4 percent in 2013.

The CDC’s report also noted these other changes:

•       Preterm birth rate (before 37 weeks) declined in 2013 to 11.39 percent, continuing a steady decrease since 2006. Caughey chalked this up to a drop in late-preterm deliveries.

•       Cesarean delivery rate, which had been stable at 32.8 percent for 2010 through 2012, declined to 32.7 percent of all U.S. births in 2013. "The C-section rate has leveled off at a rate that's too high," Caughey said. "We feel there's a real need for the C-section rate to decline even more."

•       Birth rate for unmarried women fell for the fifth consecutive year, to 44.3 per 1,000 unmarried women ages 15 to 44 in 2013. The rate was 1 percent lower in 2013 than the year before.

Whether it’s the economy, college debt, better education for teens or lower fertility rates, the U.S. birth rate is going down.  If the economy continues to improve over the next couple of years, it’ll be interesting to see if this baby decline changes to a baby boom.

Source: Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20150115/us-birth-rate-continues-decline-cdc-reports

Your Baby

Should You Let Your Baby Cry Itself to Sleep?

1:30

As any parent of an infant will tell you- sleep is a precious thing. So, what’s the best way to get your baby to sleep through the night? There are many ways to help baby drop off to dreamland, but two of the most common had researchers wondering if there might be long-term harm resulting from these techniques.

Turns out, they was nothing to worry about.

The study tested two methods; graduated extinction and bedtime fading.

Graduated extinction is more commonly known as controlled-crying or letting baby cry his or herself to sleep while learning how to self-soothe without parental involvement

Bedtime fading is keeping baby awake longer to help them drop of more quickly.

Researchers discovered that both techniques work and neither had any long-term negative effects.

The graduated extinction approach also showed babies waking up fewer times during the night.

Parents worry about the controlled-crying method, in particular, according to study leader Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University, in Adelaide, Australia.

With that technique, parents resist the urge to immediately respond to their baby’s nighttime cries, so he or she can learn to self-soothe. Some parents worry that will damage their baby emotionally, and possibly cause "attachment" problems or other issues in the long run, Gradisar explained.

But, he said, his team found no evidence that was the case.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned parents of 43 babies to one of three groups: one that started practicing controlled crying; one that took up bedtime fading; and a third, "control" group that was just given information on healthy sleep.

The babies ranged in age from 6 months to 16 months. All had a "sleep problem," according to their parents.

Parents in the controlled-crying group were given a basic plan: When their baby woke up crying during the night, they had to wait a couple of minutes before responding. They could then go comfort, but not pick up, the baby.

Over time, parents gradually let their baby cry for longer periods before responding.

Bedtime fading is a "gentler" approach, according to Gradisar: The aim is to help babies fall asleep more quickly by putting them down later.

Parents in that study group were told to delay their baby's bedtime for a few nights -- to 7:15 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., for instance. If the baby was still having trouble falling asleep, bedtime could be pushed back another 15 minutes.

After three months, the researchers found, babies in both sleep-training groups were falling asleep faster when their parents put them down -- between 10 and 13 minutes faster, on average. On the other hand, there was little change in the control group.

A year after the study's start, children in the three groups had similar rates of behavioral and emotional issues. They were also similar in their "attachment" to their parents -- which was gauged during standard tests at the research center.

Experts say that infants are usually able to sleep longer through the night, as they get a little older. By the age of 6 months, 80 percent of infants sleep all night. By 9 months, about 90 percent do.

If your baby doesn’t seem to be able to sleep through the night by those ages, contact your pediatrician to see if your little one may have a problem that needs checking out.

Story source: Amy Norton, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20160524/what-really-works-to-help-baby-sleep

 

Your Baby

Does Your Baby Spit Up A Lot?

1:30

About half of infants spit up on a regular basis, and usually it’s not an indication that there’s a medical problem. More than likely, your little one has either more food in his or her tummy than it can hold or they have taken in too much air with the breast milk or formula. 

Watching their newborn spit up frequently can be kind of scary for new parents but experts agree that for the most part, there’s nothing to worry about- it’s normal.

"Seventy percent of infants under 3 months will spit up three times a day, and it's even perfectly normal for them to be spitting up as often as 10 or 12 times," says William Byrne, MD, chief of pediatric gastroenterology at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, in Portland, Oregon.

The most common reason is that the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, which opens and closes to let food into the stomach, is still very weak at this age -- so it's easy for stomach contents to escape and come back up. Your baby is most likely to spit up after a feeding, but this can also happen when she cries or coughs forcefully.

By 6 months babies have mostly outgrown spitting up especially when they start eating more solid foods and sitting up.

There are things you can do to help reduce baby’s spitting up. Start by making sure you’re not overfeeding your baby. If breastfeeding, check to see if your infant is latched on correctly so that less air goes down with the milk.

If she's formula-fed, consider using a product that reduces bottle-induced gas, such as a bottle with liners that collapse as your baby sucks. If your baby is 4 months or older and your pediatrician approves, you can try thickening the formula to help it sit better in his stomach (mix in a tablespoon of rice cereal for every 4 ounces of formula).

Keep your baby in an upright position and as still as possible for at least 30 minutes following each feeding so that the food can travel out of the stomach and into the small intestine.

You can reduce spitting up by burping your baby after every 1 to 2 ounces or 5 to 10 minutes of feeding. If you don’t get a burp within a few minutes, then baby probably just doesn’t need to burp.

There are times when spitting up can indicate that there is a medical problem. It’s normal for infants to experience gastroesophageal reflux (GER), usually referred to as reflux. However, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD is different. GERD is a more serious condition that can cause a baby a lot of pain. If your baby won't eat, isn't gaining weight, is extremely irritable, suffers from forceful projectile vomiting, or develops respiratory problems from aspirating food, he may have GERD.

If your baby is having symptoms of GERD take him or her to your pediatrician for a true diagnosis. Your doctor will be able to recommend the correct treatment.

If your newborn is spitting up frequently, don’t panic- it’s normal. Just keep those washcloths and burping pads handy to protect your clothing!

Sources: Parents Magazine, http://www.parents.com/baby/feeding/problems/spit-up-faqs/

http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/when-babies-spit-up-don-t-panic-696541.html

http://www.babycenter.com/0_why-babies-spit-up_1765.bc?page=1

Your Baby

“Hard” Tap Water and Eczema in Infants

1:30

Previous studies have noted an association between “hard” tap water and eczema in schoolchildren, but a new study out of the U.K. suggests it may be linked to eczema in babies as well.

Water described as “hard” contains a high degree of minerals - specifically calcium, magnesium and manganese. It’s not considered hazardous, but it comes with a variety of unpleasant effects such as soap scum in sinks and bathtubs, spots on dishes and shower glass, clogged pipes from buildup and clothes that are left dingy after washing.

By some accounts, 85% of U.S. households have hard water.

If your child has eczema, then you know that it is a chronic condition marked by itchiness and rashes. It typically starts at about 6 months old and can last into adulthood.

The study included 1,300 3-month old infants from across the United Kingdom. Researchers checked hardness -- the water's mineral content -- and chlorine levels in the water supply where the babies lived.

Babies who lived in areas with hard water were up to 87% more likely to have eczema, the study found.

"Our study builds on growing evidence of a link between exposure to hard water and the risk of developing eczema in childhood," said lead author Dr. Carsten Flohr, from the Institute of Dermatology at King's College London.

One way to change the composition of hard water is by adding a water softener system to your household

There are several types of systems including salt-based Ion exchange softeners, salt-free softeners, dual tank and magnetic water softeners plus others.

While the other studies focused on school aged children, this is the first to look at the connection with eczema, hard water and babies, the researchers said.

The study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, so further research is needed to learn more about this apparent link, Flohr added.

"We are about to launch a feasibility trial to assess whether installing a water softener in the homes of high-risk children around the time of birth may reduce the risk of eczema and whether reducing chlorine levels brings any additional benefits," Flohr said in a college news release.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_159150.html

http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/safedrink/hard.htm

 

 

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