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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

Back to Sleep Ads

1:30 to read

I am concerned that I have been seeing on line ads promoting “new” baby products for 2017, 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

What New Babies Need

1:30 to read

I have many friends whose own children are now having babies and they always ask, “what all do we need to have/buy for a new baby these days?”  While many things have changed since I had my own children, many have not,  and I still think “less is more” is a good adage to follow, especially for a newborn.  We all have a tendency to buy too much, or the “latest and greatest” only to find out that it is not necessary.

Carseat - a rear facing car seat is a must for your newborn!!!  Look at all of the reviews on line and pick which seat works best for you.  Do you want one with a base that you can also clip on to a stroller?  Remember your baby will sit in a rear facing car seat until 2 years. This is one item I would spend my money on!!

The baby needs a place to sleep so buy a crib and a good mattress.  If you are going to have more than one baby I would buy something that will last through several children. I like having a crib (rather than a toddler bed), as your baby will be in the crib for several years and then can move to a regular bed…no need for an “in between”.  Do not use an “old” crib that has drop sides, due to safety concerns. So that means the one that I had kept in the garage (from my kids) was a throw away! I usually move the first child to a bed when I need the crib for the next baby…no specific age. Bumpers are no longer recommended, so that saves money too!

Changing table or dresser for the millions of diaper changes.  It is so helpful to not have to bend over each time. I would also buy a diaper cream (Dr. Smiths, Destin or Butt paste) to have on hand….your baby will probably get a diaper rash at some time during their time in a diaper.

Baby bath tub: while you can bathe your baby in the sink, the newer bathtubs do make it easier for a newborn and you can use it in the tub as well until your baby can sit up alone. Remember, you will NEVER leave your child in the tub alone…even with all of the seats, rings and things  that they sell to support your baby!!  For bathing I like gentle bath wash like Cetaphil, Cerave, and Eucerin products….good for all skin types.  Pick one!

Swaddle blankets: WOW there are a million on the market and they all “claim” to help your baby to sleep better. I don’t think any of the products say “it will also takes weeks to months for your baby to sleep through the night” , no matter what you use.  I do like the thin swaddle blankets as they are useful for a number of things besides swaddling. Once you have your baby have the nurses show you how to swaddle (quick and easy).  The Miracle Blanket, Woombie and Halo also make it easy to swaddle as well. Pick one (or two) and stick with that.  Remember, your baby is going to be put in their crib on their back whether swaddled or not!! NO TUMMY SLEEPING.  

Diaper Bag: again their are a million out there in all shapes, sizes and price points. In the beginning you need to have a pad for changing (you will end up changing that baby all sorts of weird places), diapers, burp clothes, wipes…as your baby gets bigger you will have bottles, cups, toys all shoved in there too. All of my patients seem to have a travel size Purell strapped to the side of the bag as well. I would get a bag that you can wipe out as there will be spills of all sorts of stuff in that bag I assure you!  Somehow, over time you go back to “less is more” and the diapers end up in your purse!!  

So…that is a start. Will do another post on some other products in the future. 

 

 

Daily Dose

New Sleep Guidelines for Your Baby

1:30 to read

I am sure that many of you heard about the latest recommendations on infant sleep that the American Academy of Pediatrics has released. The latest policy statement from the AAP recommends that all infants sleep in their parents room, but not in the parents bed,  for at least the first 6 months of life and preferably for the first year!!  This is big news and quite a change from the previous sleep recommendations which were published in 2011.

 

All of the latest recommendations regarding sleep are intended to help to reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), which is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 1 year. SIDS in one of the greatest fears of all parents. While “the back to sleep” campaign has reduced the incidence of SIDS, there are still over 3,500 babies in the U.S. who die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping. (this includes some from suffocation and strangulation and not SIDS).

 

In addition, the recommendations re-iterate that the baby should not co-sleep with their parents, but should be in a crib or bassinet with a firm sleep surface, in the parents’ room. These new recommendations, may be driven by the reality that breast feeding mothers are exhausted and often fall asleep while nursing their baby. If the mother is sitting in a chair or on the couch and falls asleep the baby may be at risk of suffocation if they roll into a cushion or fall down between pillows. If the mother is in bed breast feeding and accidentally falls asleep at least the baby is on a firm surface - make sure when you do breast feed your baby in bed to remove all loose blankets and pillows in the area around your baby prior to feeding - just in case.

 

Although it has been a long ago, I always put our infants in their own cribs to sleep -  you might say I was obsessed. One night, shortly after the birth of our 3rd child I found myself on my hands and knees looking under the bed. When my husband was awakened and asked me “what are you doing?” I replied…”looking for the baby!” He then reminded me that I had put the baby in his crib in the nursery right after I had finished breastfeeding him.  I truly had no memory and thought he had fallen under our bed!! This, from someone who had previously stayed up for 36 hours during residency working in the hospital and thought I could handle sleep deprivation- clearly not true!! I just remember the feeling of being frantic! 

 

The AAP continues to recommend that the crib be essentially bare - in other words, no bumpers, no blankets, no stuffed toys, just the fitted crib sheet. The baby should always be placed on their back to sleep…once your baby learns to roll from back to front ( which typically happens after they have learned to roll tummy to back), they may be left to sleep on their tummy. Even with a baby in your room you cannot get up all night to keep trying to keep them from rolling over!  

 

The AAP does recommend using a pacifier for sleep times ( I am a huge pacifier fan as you know). The only problem with a pacifier is convincing The Parents that it is time to “get rid of the paci” once their baby is over a year old….. sometimes hard to sell that concept.

 

Lastly, the APP reiterated that they do not support the use of any of the devices sold to new parents to help “prevent”  SIDS. In other words, all of the technology being marketed including  “anti-SIDS mattresses, home cardiorespiratory monitors, and even fancy video monitors.  While many a well intentioned parent will invest a lot of unnecessary money and time trying to make the baby safe during sleep, the mantra “less is more” is now the best way to ensure safe sleep for your baby. I remind parents that there will be plenty of ways to spend that money  - start the college savings!

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Babies & Bow-Legs

1.15 to read

Fact or fiction: if a young baby puts any weight on their legs they'll become bow legged? Dr. Sue weighs in.I’m sure you have noticed, babies like to stand up! With that being said, I still hear parents coming into my office who say, “I am scared to let my baby stand up as my mother (grandmother, father, uncle) tells me that letting a baby put weight on their legs will cause bow-legs!  How is it possible that this myth is still being passed on to the next generation?

If you look at a baby’s legs it is easy to see how they were “folded” so that they fit inside the uterus. Those little legs don’t get “unfolded” until after delivery. A newborn baby’s legs continue to stay bent for awhile and you can easily “re-fold” those legs to see how your baby was positioned in utero. Almost like doing origami. So, how do those little bent legs get straight?  From bearing weight. If you hold a 3-5 month old baby upright they will instinctively put their feet down and bear weight.  A 4 month old likes nothing more than to jump up and down while being held. They will play the “jumping game” until you become exhausted. That little exercise is the beginning of remolding the bones of the leg, while straightening the bones. If you look at most toddlers many do appear bow-legged as the bones have not had long enough to straighten. Over the next several years you will notice that most children no longer appear bow legged. For most children the bow legs have resolved by the age of 5 years. I child’s final gait and shape of their legs is really determined by about the age of 7 years. Next time you hear the adage about bow legs, you can politely correct the myth. Standing up is going to make that baby have straight legs! That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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

Do You Have a Happy Spitter?

1.15 to read

New parents often come in concerned about their baby spitting up.  They typically  ask, “does my baby have gastroesophageal reflux (GER)?”.  I reassure them that “spit happens” and it occurs in more than 2/3 of perfectly healthy infants.  Whether you want to call it GER or spit up, it is regurgitation and in most cases it goes away with time. 

GER is defined as “the physiologic passage of gastric contents into the esophagus”, while GERD is “reflux associated with troublesome symptoms or complications”.  GER in infants is typically painless and does not affect growth. We call these babies “happy spitters”.  

For a “happy spitter” parents need to know that spitting gets worse before it gets better and typically lasts for 5-6 months, with the worst spitting occurring around 3-4 months of age.  

The best treatment for benign GER is lifestyle management.  Small things like thickening feedings with either rice or oatmeal cereal will often decrease the volume of spit up ( parents get sick of wearing towels over their shoulders). Thickening feedings does increase the calories a baby receives. There are also formulas available that contain thickening agents if parents prefer trying them that have the same amount of calories as other formulas.  Thickening feeds has been shown to decrease crying time in some irritable infants with GER and also increases sleep time for fussy babies.  It is always worth trying.

While many parents try putting their baby in a car seat to help with reflux and spitting, car seats may actually make the problem worse. Infants have less reflux when in the prone (tummy) position, but remember your baby must NEVER sleep on their TUMMY!

Babies who are spitters may also benefit from smaller more frequent feedings. When a baby is fussy, parents may try to keep feeding their baby and overfeeding may actually make the spitting worse. Just because a baby is crying, does not always mean they are hungry, especially if they have just been fed.  Sucking in and of itself may help reflux, so a pacifier may be the trick and provide non nutritive sucking.

For babies with GERD who are extremely irritable, may refuse feedings and even lose weight further work up and management with pharmacotherapy may be necessary.  Talk to your doctor about options if lifestyle management does not seem to help. 

Daily Dose

Ear Tugging & Your Child

1.15 to read

I see a lot of parents who bring their baby/toddler/child in to the pediatrician with concerns that their child might have an ear infection. One of the reasons for their concern is often that their baby is tugging on their ears.  

Babies find their ears, just like their hands and feet, around 4 -6 months of age.  I guess a baby must think “this ear tugging is fun and feels good” as maybe babies have “itchy” ears just like adults. It also seems to be a self soothing habit for other children who seem to pull on their ears when they get tired and cranky.  Maybe it is related to new molars coming in at the back of the jaw line?   

Whatever the cause, it often concerns parents who are told by their friends or relatives, “I am worried, this ear pulling probably means the child has an ear infection”.  So, being a good parent off you go to your pediatrician only to find out that the ears a beautiful and clear! 

Most babies and children do not get an ear infection without ANY other symptoms besides ear pulling.  In most cases infants and toddlers will get a secondary ear infection during cold and flu season. The multitudes of viral respiratory infections that children get in the first 3 years of life, often cause continuous runny noses and congestion. This congestion causes fluid to build up in the middle ear space which connects to the nasal passages via a small canal called the eustachian tube.   

Infants and children have so called “immature” eustachian tubes that are soft, and don’t drain well and the tube gets inflamed and swollen from the viral infection as well.  At times this fluid gets secondarily infected from bacteria that find their way to the middle ear.  Voila....an ear infection ensues. 

So, if a parent brings their child in for “pulling on their ears” and they are otherwise well (no cough, congestion, runny nose and sleeping well) I usually ask if they want to “wager” if their child has an ear infection.  That is really not fair, as this sweet parent is only concerned because typically someone else told them they should be.  But, in this case a quarter bet is usually made and I end up with a lot of quarters.  (they are good for all of the other bets I do lose with parents and kids about all sorts of things). Friendly betting at the pediatrician’s office, wonder if I am going to be investigated! 

Don’t worry about simple ear pulling especially when you see it happening all of the time.   

Lastly, with the new guidelines for prescribing antibiotics for an ear infection parent’s don’t need to worry as much about a prescription for antibiotics and a few days of waiting will not hurt.  

Daily Dose

The Difference Between Cradle Cap And Dandruff

1.15 to read

I recently received a question from a Twitter follower related to cradle cap and dandruff. She wanted to know if there was a difference in the two.

You know there really isn’t as they are both due to seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin in which the skin overproduces skin cells and sebum (the skins natural oil). Cradle cap is the term used for the scaly dermatitis seen on the scalp in infants. It is also seen on the eyelids, eyebrows, and behind the ears. It is typically seen after about three months of age and will often resolve on its own by the time a baby is eight to 12 months old. It is usually simply a “cosmetic” problem for a baby as it looks like a yellowish plaque on a baby’s scalp and is often not even noticed by anyone other than the parents. Unlike seborrheic dermatitis in adults, cradle cap typically doesn’t itch. It is thought that cradle cap may occur in infancy due to hormonal influences from the mother that were passed across the placenta to the baby. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to become over active. In some severe cases an infant’s scalp becomes really scaly and inflamed and causes even more parental concern, as it appears that the infant is uncomfortable and may be trying to scratch their head by rubbing it on surfaces. The treatment for cradle cap is to wash the baby’s scalp daily with a mild shampoo and then to use a soft comb or brush to help remove the scales once they have been loosened with washing. When washing the head make sure to get the shampoo behind the ears and in the brows (keeping the soap out of baby’s eyes). This is usually sufficient treatment for most cradle cap. In situations where the greasy scales seem to be worsening it may help to put a small amount of mineral oil or olive oil on the baby’s head and let it sit (I left a small amount on my children’s heads overnight) and then to shampoo the following day. The oil will help the scales to loosen up and come off more easily. For babies that have very inflamed irritated cradle cap a visit to your pediatrician may be warranted to confirm the diagnosis. In persistent cases I often recommend shampooing several times a week with a dandruff shampoo that has either selenium (Selsun) or zinc pyrithione (Head and Shoulders) making sure not to get any in the infant’s eyes. I may then also use a hydrocortisone cream or foam on the scalp that will lessen the inflammation and itching. In these cases it may take several weeks to totally clear up the problem. As children get older, especially during puberty, you may see a return of seborrhea as dandruff. Again you can use dandruff shampoos. It also seems that with the overproduction of sebum there is an overgrowth of a fungus called “malessizia” so using a shampoo for dandruff as well as a antifungal shampoo (Nizoral) often works. I have teens alternate different shampoos, as sometimes it seems to work better than always using the same shampoo for months on end. Teens don’t like white flakes falling from their scalp and unlike a baby, a teen is worried about the cosmetic issues of seborrhea! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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