Twitter Facebook RSS Feed Print
Daily Dose

Brown Spots on Your Baby?

1:30 to read

I was examining a 4 month old baby the other day when I noticed that she had several light brown spots on her skin. When I asked the mother how long they had been there, she noted that she had started seeing them in the last month or so, or maybe a couple even before that.  She then started to point a few out to me on both her infant’s arm, leg and on her back.

These “caramel colored” flat spots are called cafe au lait macules, (CALMs) and are relatively common. They occur in up to 3% of infants and about 25% of children.  They occur in both males and females and are more common in children of color.  While children may have a few CALMs, more than 3 CALMS are found in only 0.2 to 0.3% of children who otherwise do not have any evidence of an underlying disorder.  

Of course this mother had googled brown spots in a baby and was worried that her baby had neurofibromatosis (NF).  She started pointing out every little speckle or spot on her precious blue eyed daughter’s skin, some of which I couldn’t even see with my glasses on. I knew she was concerned and I had to quickly remember some of the findings of NF type 1.

Cafe au lait spots in NF-1 occur randomly on the body and are anywhere from 5mm to 30 mm in diameter. They are brown in color and have a smooth border, referred to as “the coast of California”. In order to make the suspected diagnosis of NF-1 a child needs to have 6 or more cafe au lait spots before puberty, and most will present by 6 -8 years of age.

For children who present for a routine exam with several CALMs ( like this infant), the recommendation is simply to follow and look for the development of more cafe au lait macules. That is a hard prescription for a parents…watch and wait, but unfortunately that is often what parenting is about.

Neurofibromatosis - 1 is an autosomal disorder which involves a mutation on chromosome 17 and may affect numerous organ systems including not only skin, but eyes, bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. Half of patients inherit the mutation while another half have no known family history.  NF-1 may also be associated with neurocognitive deficits and of course this causes a great deal of parental concern. About 40% of children with NF-1 will have a learning disability ( some minor, others more severe).

For a child who has multiple CALMs it is recommended that they be seen by an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist yearly,  as well as being followed by their pediatrician.  If criteria for NF-1 is not met by the time a child is 10 years of age,  it is less likely that they will be affected, despite having more than 6 CALMs.

The biggest issue is truly the parental anxiety of watching for more cafe au lait spots and trying to remain CALM…easier said than done for anyone who is a parent. 

Daily Dose

Head Flattening on the Rise!

1:30 to read

A recent study published in the online edition of Pediatrics confirms what I see in my practice. According to this study the  incidence of positional plagiocephaly (head flattening) has increased and is now estimated to occur in about 47% of babies between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks.  

The recommendation to have babies change from the tummy sleeping position to back sleeping was made in 1992. Since that time there has been a greater than a 50% decline in the incidence of SIDS. (see old posts).  But both doctors and parents have noticed that infants have sometimes developed flattened or misshapen heads from spending so much time being on their backs during those first few months of life.

This study was conducted in Canada among 440 healthy infants.  In 1999, Canada, like the U.S., began recommending  back sleeping for babies. Canadian doctors had also reported that they were seeing more plagiocephaly among infants.  

The authors found that 205 infants in the study had some form of plagiocephaly, with 78% being classsified as mild, 19% moderate and 3% severe.  Interestingly, there was a greater incidence (63%) of a baby having flattening on the right side of their heads.  

Flattening of the head, either on the back or sides is most often due to the fact that a baby is not getting enough “tummy time”.  Although ALL babies should sleep on their back, there are many opportunities throughout a day for a baby to be prone on a blanket while awake, or to spend time being snuggled upright over a parent’s shoulder or in their arms.  Limiting time spent in a car seat or a bouncy chair will also help prevent flattening.

Most importantly, I tell parents before discharging their baby from the hospital that tummy time needs to begin right away. It does seem that some babies have “in utero” positional preference for head turning and this needs to be addressed early on. Think of a baby being just like us, don’t you like to sleep on one side or another?  By rotating the direction the baby lies in the crib you can help promote head turning and prevent flattening.  

Lastly, most cases of plagiocephaly are reversible. Just put tummy time on your daily new parent  “to do list”.   

Daily Dose

Fussy Babies

1:30 to read

I have written a lot about fussy infants, spitting up and gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD). The diagnosis of GERD in infants in the past 10 - 15 years has soared….especially in irritable infants some of whom arch their backs and act as if they are uncomfortable while feeding (both breast and bottle fed babies) and spit up frequently,  to those who are diagnosed with “silent reflux”. 

 

When new drugs came to the market for adults with GERD, initially H-2 blockers like Zantac (ranitidine), Pepcid (famotidine) and Axid (nizatidine) they were soon prescribed for children as well. These drugs were followed by the introduction of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) which also inhibit gastric acid production, and include Prevacid (lasoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), and Prilosec (omeprazole).  Suddenly, younger and younger children were being placed on either H-2 blockers or PPI’s and many of these prescriptions were being written for infants under 6 months of age.

 

Being a pediatrician who had practiced for a long time and also had a incredibly fussy, irritable and colicky baby myself….I could never really decide if these drugs worked well or if “we” wanted them to work. There were some cases where it was quickly evident that the baby’s symptoms improved, while in many others the parents “were not sure”.  But, the use of these drugs has soared.

 

I have more and more young parents who want to start medication within their baby’s first month of life…”just because they are fussy”.  But there are new studies showing that the use of these medications in young children, especially those under one year, may have lasting side effects including an increased risk of fractures. In a retrospective study looking at over 850,000 children born between 2001-2013, those prescribed PPI’s had a 23% increased risk of fractures and those prescribed H2 blockers had a 13% increased risk while those prescribed combination therapy had a 32% increased risk of fractures. The risk also increased if children took these medications before 6 months of age, and there was also increased risk for those who used medications for longer periods of time.

 

Take home message for both doctors and parents….if these drugs need to be used it is preferable to limit it to one type, preferably H2 blockers and for the shortest amount of time possible. The use of other remedies including herbal remedies, thickening of feeds and probiotics should be first line treatment. When symptoms persist or are worsening and GERD is suspected, a 2 week trial of medication may be considered with ongoing discussion as to improvement in symptoms. Use the lowest dose for the shortest period of time as well.

Tags: 
Daily Dose

Breastfeeding

1:30 to read

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month as well as World Breastfeeding week. The theme this year is “Sustaining Together”  which means getting a mother’s “community” around her to help her with her breast feeding.  In my mind this means getting the father involved in being there for his wife, followed by the hospital nurses in the nursery, the lactation nurse if your hospital has one, your pediatrician and then any close family members who may be involved in helping a new mother.  

 

Although breast feeding is “a natural process” it sometimes takes one baby or mother or both a bit longer to “figure out” the latch, how to hold the baby comfortably for a feeding and how to be successful with breastfeeding. One of the first hurdles is assuring a new mother that she is “not doing it wrong”. While there may be some tips…there is not ONE WAY to breastfeed.  At times too much pressure from outside influences may actually cause more anxiety and I often find myself telling a new mommy that it just takes “practice, practice, practice…you cannot mess this up on day #1!!”. 

 

But, for some new mothers, breast feeding causes a great deal of  anxiety and they may need a bit more reassurance and support to hang in there and see how it goes… reminding them that a baby does not always nurse for the same amount of time, that they may eat in 2 hours one time and not want to eat for 3 hours the next. They are newborns and not robots…and  we all eat a bit more or less at different times of the day. It is hard to “schedule” a new baby’s feedings and the best advice is to try and watch your baby’s cues and cries.  While one baby may be a bit sleepier in the first few weeks,  another may wake on its own..but either way it is important to try and feed the baby every 2 -3 hours to get breast milk and breast feeding established. Lots of poops and wet diapers is also very reassuring that something is working!

 

This is where the baby’s father may be extremely helpful. He can make sure that the mother is getting “fed” as well.  She needs plenty of healthy meals and lots of fluids to ensure breast milk production.  He may also get up with the baby and change the baby before the feeding and then bring the baby to the mother to nurse.  Encouraging his wife is equally important. There are times when some of those hormonal changes in the new mother makes her feel weepy, sad or inadequate as a new parent….and he can reassure her as well. (even if he is unsure of himself - fake it a bit).  Partnering from the beginning of parenthood is important for both a father and a mother.

 

In some cases if a baby is not feeding well or the baby is premature a mother will need to pump breastmilk and offer the baby a bottle. This is tiring for a new mother and so the grandparents may also help both new mother and father and offer to help feed the baby so the parents may get some rest (which is also important for milk production) or even wash the bottle and breast pump. Every little bit will help.

 

In my experience a new mother who has a lot of support and encouragement is more successful with breastfeeding.  After the first few weeks of breast feeding the “newness” wears off and breast feeding usually seems to get easier and easier. Once parents see that the baby is gaining weight and the mother’s milk supply is equilibrating to her baby’s needs and breast and nipple tenderness is going away, many a new mother tells me how happy she is that she continued to “work on breast feeding her baby”. 

 

Lastly, there are some situations where a mother may not be able to breast feed her baby and she should not be “mommy judged” or shamed for this.  Not everyone knows a new mother’s medical history, or the reason she chose not to breast feed.  

 

 

Daily Dose

Food Myths & Your Baby

1.15 to read

I really enjoy talking to my young parents about feeding their baby and toddler new foods. But what about food allergies they say?   I believe that healthy nutrition and good eating habits begin early on, actually just as a child starts to eat solid foods. The more foods a child is exposed to initially, the better chance a parent has of having a child who eats a variety of foods when they are older.  This means no making yucky faces if you (parent) don’t like spinach - fake it! 

But, with that being said, so many new parents are still under the impression that there is a “list” of forbidden foods. As I talk to them about finger foods and letting their baby explore new foods and textures they are amazed when I say things like, “let them try scrambled eggs” or “what about trying almond butter or peanut butter?”, “try ripping up pancake pieces”. 

I also like to let a 9-15 month old try all sorts of different fruit, veggies and proteins. In fact, “there are really no forbidden fruits” as long as the food you offer is mushy (we adults might say a bit over cooked at times) and broken/or cut into very small pieces. I am most concerned about the size and texture of the piece and protecting the airway than I am about the food itself.  

Over the last 5-10 years studies have shown that restricting foods and delaying introduction of certain food groups did not prevent the development of food allergies.  So, the idea that delaying the introduction of peanut butter until after a child is 2 yrs old, or waiting to give a child fish until they are older, or not letting your 9 month old child taste scrambled eggs, did not prevent food allergies. Some researchers would say it may actually be the converse, earlier introduction may be preventative.  

But the funniest thing to me, it is like old wives’ tales....these ideas have somehow been perpetuated.  The new group of parents that I am now seeing were often still in college and dancing at parties when it was the recommendation to wait to introduce some foods (egg, peanut , fish etc).  How do they hear these old ideas?  Maybe grandparents or friends with older children. Who knows? 

So, for the record, the rates for most common food allergies are still low at 2.5% for milk, 1.3% for eggs and 1% for peanut and less than that for tree nuts.  Don’t limit what you give your child unless you have seen them have a reaction when a food is initially introduced, and if you are concerned, talk to your doctor.  Most people who report having food allergy actually turn out not to have true food allergies after a good history and further testing. 

More about true food allergies to come.  Stay tuned! 

Tags: 
Daily Dose

Breastfed Babies & Diaper Rash

1:30 to read

I was shopping at Target just the other day and happened to be in the “baby aisle” looking for one of those snack cups with the lids to let little fingers get in and not let the puffs fall out.  I needed it as part of a baby gift basket.  Useful for sure!!

So…while I am browsing, I see a young mother and her mother looking at diaper creams and obviously trying to decide which one to buy. I could’t resist offering help (always worry about being intrusive). When I asked what they were trying to treat the mother said, “ my new baby has this raw and red diaper rash right around his bottom”.  “He is just 12 days old and I change his diaper all of the time….how could he possibly get a diaper rash? What am I doing wrong?”

As we say in Texas, “bless her heart”!!! I asked if she was breast feeding,  and she was,  then I immediately knew what she meant. A breast fed infant will poop ALL OF THE TIME.  Many times you change a new diaper and as soon as the next diaper is put on the baby stools again. There are many times when your infant may poop a bit of stool during sleep and when you get them up they have a dirty diaper…all normal. No new mother guilt!!

The good news is that a newborn who is stooling a lot is probably getting plenty of breast milk as well…and that means they are gaining weight too!  The flip side is that it is not uncommon for a newborn to get that raw red bottom during the first month or so of breast feeding.  After that time, the stools do slow down a bit and diaper rash is less common.

The best remedy I have found for treating that tender new bottom is a combination of a diaper cream that contains zinc (Destin, Dr. Smith’s, or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste) and a bit of a liquid antacid (Mylanta, Maalox, Gaviscon). I put  a blob of diaper cream in my palm and then pour a bit of the antacid into it and mix….you can’t use too much of the liquid or it will run off.  Then I take that combo and coat the baby’s bottom. You can’t over do it. Use it with each diaper change.   It seems to do the trick and is easy. Several years ago I told a mother about the concoction (she had 4 children and was very sleep deprived) and I  just said use some antacid if you have some. She called later in the day and said she had tried to crush up the tablets and mix it with diaper cream and it wasn’t working.  I have since learned to be a bit more specific about a LIQUID antacid.  

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Back to Sleep Ads

1:30 to read

I am concerned that I have been seeing on line ads promoting “new” baby products in which an infant is shown sleeping on their tummy. In other words….not following AAP guidelines that all infants are placed on their back to fall asleep.  Their should be a “law” that you cannot shoot a picture for any product being advertised for an infant in which the baby is shown sleeping in the prone position. Seeing this photo may only confuse parents about correct sleep position for their baby, especially when many of the advertisements are for sleep related products. 

 

The “back to sleep” campaign which started in 1994 has served to reduce the incidence of SIDS by over 50%. I have been fortunate in that I have not had a patient of mine die from SIDS since the recommendations for sleep position were changed. Unfortunately, when looking at data, 30% of SIDS cases report that the baby was found in the prone (tummy) position.  

 

So, if a sleep deprived new parent is surfing the net for products related to infant sleep, and then sees a baby on their tummy, they may think “maybe that is the trick “ to get my baby to sleep, never realizing the huge risk they are taking. Many a parent has come in to my office and said “ I think my baby sleeps better on their tummy”, which immediately puts a look of horror on my face!! “WHAT…I thought we had discussed that your baby must sleep on their back until they are rolling over on their own.” Some of the parents do reply, “my ……told me it was okay.” In this case do not listen to anyone about tummy sleeping!!! Discuss car seats, high chairs, pacifier options or whatever else instead….and choose which works for you. Sleep position is non negotiable. 

 

With that being said, I realize that between 4 - 7 months many babies will roll over during sleep even when placed on their backs. It is a developmental milestone for babies to roll and you cannot put a brick on them. I would “guesstimate” that about 25% of the babies I see will ultimately prefer to sleep on their tummies, but they are all out of their swaddle and then roll over after being put down on their back. I also get many videos showing me a baby in their crib who is in the act of rolling over, with a nervous parent running in turning them back over, only to have the child roll right back to their tummy. You could spend the entire night “flipping the baby” over!

 

Remember, back sleeping only, in a crib with just baby and no bumpers or toys….you will have plenty of time for other stuff in the crib when they are bigger.

Daily Dose

Food Textures

1:30 to read

If you have a baby between the ages of 8-9 months and have already been offering them pureed baby foods it may be time to start some textures as well.  Many parents are a bit “wary” of offering any food that hasn’t been totally pureed, but it is important that your baby starts to experiment with foods that have different consistencies. 

Of course this does not mean you hand your baby anything that they could choke on like a grape, or piece of meat etc. But instead of totally pureeing carrots, why not cook them well, chop them up a bit and put them on the high chair tray. It is fun to watch how they touch and feel the carrots, before they “smoosh and moosh” them and get them to their mouths.   

There are so many foods that are easily offered to a baby to get them used to feeling different textures.  This is the very beginning of experimenting with finger foods, and this doesn’t just mean puffs or cheerios either. I like to encourage babies to feel cold, gooey, warm, sticky, all sorts of different textures which will ultimately help them become better and more adventuresome eaters as they get older.  

Unfortunately, I see far too many little ones (and not so little ones too) continuing to eat totally pureed foods and then becoming adverse to textures as they did not get the experience at an early enough age. 

It is also fun to watch your child as they begin to pick up foods that have been chopped and diced into small soft pieces. In the early stages they have to scoop and lick the food from their fingers and hands, but very quickly their pincer grasp takes over and suddenly they can pick up that well cooked green bean or pea!!  Such a feat and worthy of a home video to send to the grandparents for sure. 

So, put out some mushy food and let them play - I know it is messy but that is what being a kid is often about!

Daily Dose

Jaundice in Newborns

1:30 to read

It is not at all uncommon for a healthy newborn to develop jaundice in the first several days of life. Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells are broken down. It is a yellow pigment that we all metabolize in the liver and then it is excreted in urine and stools. In an newborn, the body produces almost 2-3 times the bilirubin that an adult does. Because newborns are also “immature” their liver cannot keep up with the bilirubin production and therefore bilirubin levels rise. In some cases the bilirubin is high enough to cause a yellowing of the skin (jaundice), and this is termed physiologic jaundice of the newborn. 

 

Your infant will have their bilirubin level checked while they are in the hospital and your pediatrician will follow any bilirubin levels that seem to be rising. In most hospitals the bilirubin is tested transcutaneously (through the skin), and you may never know that you baby has been tested. If bilirubin levels seem to be high, a blood test will be performed to more accurately assess the bilirubin level. If bilirubin levels continue to rise a baby may then be put under phototherapy (special blue lights that breaks down bilirubin in the skin and help it to be eliminated). Phototherapy prevents extremely high levels of bilirubin which may get into the brain and could be toxic to the baby and cause brain damage.

 

When a baby is put under phototherapy they may be in a basinette or wrapped in a “bili-blanket”  and they will wear sunglasses to prevent any damage to their eyes from light. They are usually naked or only in a diaper so that as much skin is exposed as possible. In most cases the bilirubin levels have peaked by day of life 3 or 4 and the baby will no longer need phototherapy. While the baby is under the “bili-lights” they will continue to have blood tests (from their heels) to follow the bilirubin levels.

 

As babies are now being discharged in 24-48 hours after delivery some babies will develop jaundice after they have already gone home…so you your doctor will plan on seeing you 1 to 2 days after your are discharged. But, should you notice that your baby seems to be getting more jaundiced you should call you doctor and be seen sooner.  

 

Just this week I saw a baby who continued to become more jaundiced after he went home. At times I see this when a mother is breast feeding and her milk has not yet “come in”.  If a baby is not getting a lot of milk then they cannot poop and pee out bilirubin…somethings just take time to get going with feeding, peeing, pooping and liver maturation. So…this baby boy was started o home phototherapy. Rather than re-admitting him to the hospital, a pediatric home health care company sent out a nurse with a bill blanket who instructed the parents on the use of it. The baby was then able to feed at home every 2-3 hours, and the bili-blanket was used throughout the day and night. The parents lived so close to the office that they would bring the baby in for bilirubin tests, while in other cases the nurse will go to the home to do the testing.  Home phototherapy in an otherwise healthy infant does not disrupt the new family and really helps the mother establish her breast feeding and lets “everyone” sleep in their own beds!

 

This baby only required phototherapy for 24 hours…in some babies it may be longer. Once the bilirubin was back in a “safe range” the lights were discontinued and he will continue to process the bilirubin on his own. His little yellow face and eyes will be the last evidence of his newborn jaundice and “one for the baby books” as it should never be a problem again.

 

Pages

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

New report says not enough babies are getting much needed tummy time!

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

New report says not enough babies are getting much needed tummy time!

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

 

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.