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Daily Dose

When Your Child Has RSV

Dr. Sue discusses what a parent can do if their baby has RSV, pneumonia and a double ear infection.I received a question from Brooke (via our new iPhone App). Her six month old has RSV, pneumonia and a double ear infection.

As we discussed yesterday, it is RSV season and children under one year of age seem to have the greatest problem handling the virus. It is not uncommon for a young child to develop an ear infection after developing RSV, and secondary pneumonias are also a problem . Unfortunately, there is not a vaccine to prevent RSV infection and only high risk infants are eligible to receive Synagis (a monoclonal antibody against RSV) to help prevent serious infection. The treatment for RSV is also supportive, with IV fluids and supplemental oxygen used for hospitalized infants. The use of bronchodilators and steroids has been controversial, and does not seem to be therapeutic. Antibiotics are used for secondary ear infections. Younger children have a higher incidence of secondary problems. There is not a “perfect” way to prevent RSV, but limiting your baby’s exposure to other children (daycare, public places) and to make sure that no one smokes around your child is helpful. The older your child is when they develop RSV (about 80% of children by 1 year of age) typically makes it easier for them to handle the virus.  Unfortunately, you can get  RSV more than once during RSV season. The season usually ends about April, so we are getting closer! That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow!

Daily Dose

A Baby's Neck Issue

1:30 to read

Torticollis is becoming more and more common and it may be related to several different things. Torticollis is defined as a “twisted neck”, or as my grandmother used to say, a “wry neck”.  Most of us have experienced a tight neck after a bad night’s sleep, and you can hardly turn your head to back out of the garage it is so painful, but be reassured your baby does not have any discomfort, but will just hold their head somewhat “tilted”.

A baby’s 40 weeks spent in utero may cause some positional deformities of the head and neck.  Due to the intrauterine positioning a baby may “favor” turning their head to one side rather than another. At the same time back sleeping which is recommended for all babies, may also contribute to torticollis.  

In order to help the baby resolve the tightness in the neck which is actually due to the sternocleidomastoid muscle being tight, your doctor may have you do several things early on to help stretch the neck muscle.  

If your baby prefers to look to the right they have left sided torticollis. In this case turn your baby in the crib so they have to turn to the left to look out (they don’t want to face a boring wall). When you are feeding them have the bottle on your right arm. When changing diapers, place the baby so that they have to tur left to see you.  Hold the baby on your left hip as well and burp them on your right shoulder. All of these strategies will help to stretch the muscle.  On top of this the baby needs to have tummy time, when awake, and work of having them turn to the left during this time too. Lastly, do gentle neck stretches 3-4 times a day and massage the tight muscle.  

If your baby prefers to look to the left also called right sided torticollis, reverse the above.

Your baby should continue to work on stretching so that their head will also not get flattened on one side or another, which is called plagiocephaly.  By continuing to have tummy time and neck stretches, most cases of torticollis will resolve. In severe cases or when you don’t feel that the baby is improving,  ask you doctor about the possibility of physical therapy.

Daily Dose

Monitoring Your Baby

1.30 to read

I have recently received several emails from patients which included attachments.  The attachments were videos of a baby in their crib with questions from parents about whether the baby was “breathing okay”, was “crying enough to be picked up”, or whether I thought “the baby was dreaming”. I had to laugh, as the first thing I thought of while watching all of these videos was: we are really just “too smart for our own britches”, which was a line often used by my dear deceased grandmother who died at the ripe age of 104!  In this case, she would be right as we have so much technology available to us but I’m not sure if it is really that helpful when we are talking about caring for a baby. 

Every parent wants to make sure that they are “watching” their newborn, infant or toddler as closely as possible. That is good parenting.  But, even a newborn does not need to have constant video monitoring with rewind and playback ability.  Just having your baby in the bassinet by your bed or in the nursery next door to your room is really sufficient.  

The idea is that you can hear your baby if they are crying.  You do not need to hear hiccups, and know that they latest for 18 minutes. If your baby is stretching and making normal “new baby” grunting and groaning sounds, you do not need to hear every noise. You do need to hear your baby crying because they are hungry, wet or uncomfortable.  That is when a parent is supposed to get up and go to their baby’s bed.  Watching them just making a few noises to get settled is not a call for intervention.  

I am the first doctor/mom to totally believe that a new baby needs to be held when fussy or irritable. I am not the “cry it out” doctor (let them cry for the first 5-6 months of life).  But, a baby can ooch and scooch and not need to be picked up and if you do not have a video monitor, you probably would not know they were ooching and scooching.  With video monitors on day and night a baby cannot even burp without the parent watching and wondering and “worrying” if that burp was significant.   

While we talk about our teens being “too connected”, maybe we parents need to think about that too.  Are “we” parents (and grandparents) being too connected to the baby?  Are we part of the problem of “instant” intervention, when many a baby might calm themselves if given the chance (and the parent never knew).  

Many generations of newborns and young babies were raised, successfully, without a video camera. Parents ears are a pretty good monitor too , for both babies and even teens.  Eavesdropping is still allowed! 

Daily Dose

Safe Sleep & Tummy Time

1.30 to read

I keep getting so many questions about “tummy time”   Ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all infants sleep only on their backs (to reduce the chance of SIDS), parents forget or are afraid to put their baby’s on their tummies. Tummy time is important to help reduce the incidence of head flattening as well as to give your baby time to develop different muscle groups.   

Tummy time is encouraged from the first days after a baby’s birth, but so many parents ask, “just how much time?”  Tummy time does not mean “timed” in the sense that you do it for a certain amount of time or minutes a day.  Tummy time, is not is flexible.  Off and on throughout the day when your baby is awake, you let them experience tummy time.   

Just like so many activities with a newborn, sometimes tummy time is for only a minute or two before the baby starts to fuss or cry.  Other times an infant may enjoy their tummies for 10- 20 minutes before they are ready for a change.  

At other times you put the baby on their tummy, they settle down and then decide to fall asleep.  Keep in mind, you MUST turn them over, even if you are watching them. Remember, NO TUMMY sleeping until your child rolls over on their own. 

So, many parents come in during the first days to weeks after their baby’s birth with not only feeding charts, but “pee and poop” charts and graphs of tummy time down to the minutes.  It is really not necessary to graph the amount of tummy time your baby gets, just make sure you remember to do it.  

As your baby gets older, they typically enjoy their tummies for longer periods of time and are soon lifting their heads, supporting themselves with their shoulders and around 4 months will likely begin to roll from tummy to back. After that milestone it is not long before they start sitting alone and tummy time is old hat by then.  Your baby should also have a beautiful rounded head from getting tummy time from the start. 

Daily Dose

The Dangers of Using Baby Aspirin

1.15 to read

During a recent office visit, I saw a 4 year old child who is not one of my routine patients.  He had a fever and runny nose. His mother was giving me the child’s medical history during the time I was beginning to examine the little boy.  I had my back slightly turned from her. 

The mother was explained to me that her son had had a fever the previous evening and said, “I gave him some ASPIRIN before putting him to bed.”  I immediately turned around and with a stunned voice said, “you mean you gave him Tylenol or Motrin or Advil,” right? She really looked at me like I was crazy or that I had not been listening to her and she said, “No I said baby aspirin.”  “He likes the chewable ones.”  

I was shocked, as I had not heard of anyone giving aspirin to their children for a fever in over 20 years!! This very nice, young, concerned mother could not figure out why I was so worried about the aspirin.  I then had to explain to her about the risk of Reye’s Syndrome. She had never heard of Reye’s Syndrome and said that her mother had kept baby aspirin in the house for her, so that is what she bought to use for her own child.  

I know that they sell enteric coated baby aspirin for adults to take to help prevent a stroke. I guess I didn’t even realize that regular old baby aspirin was even around. There was so much publicity in the 1980’s about the link between aspirin or any salicylate containing medication and the development of Reye’s Syndrome, as well as warning labels about not giving aspirin to children that had a fever or chicken pox that I had not heard of anyone using aspirin for years! 

I explained to her that Reye’s syndrome affects the brain and liver and is a very serious disease, which may lead to death.  It occurs in children between the ages of 4-18 and causes recurrent vomiting, lethargy and coma and was often seen after a child had the flu or chickenpox. 

I saw several patients with Reye’s during my training, but have not seen a case since that time. This mother had never even heard of it, but was quite concerned that she had already given her son the aspirin the previous evening. 

This was a great lesson in the necessity of telling every new parent about the use of appropriate medicine to treat a fever. I typically have this discussion at the time of the first vaccines as I tell parents that prior to that time I don’t even want them to have fever reducing medications available. 

Many pediatricians, including me, had been in the habit of using “Tylenol” as the name for acetaminophen, in the same way as you say Kleenex. Since Tylenol was withdrawn from the market last year, we are now correctly saying that you should treat a child’s fever, which is usually due to a viral illness, with acetaminophen, and NEVER aspirin or aspirin containing products!! 

So as you prepare for this winter and lots of viruses with fever go stock up on acetaminophen of ibuprofen and leave the BABY ASPIRIN for ADULTS ONLY! 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

The Scoop On Poop

It seems that I get a lot of questions and concerns from parents about their child’s stools (poops). Who would have thought that once we become parents we would be so interested in poop!!

But from the time a baby comes home from the hospital, so begins lengthy discussions about pooping. In the newborn period stools are actually very important. A baby begins pooping shortly after birth and will have those dark, sticky meconium stools. It is important that these stools are passed and this gives both parent and pediatrician the sense that the GI tract is working properly. Soon after a baby begins eating, either breast milk or formula, the stools will quickly “transition” from meconium to lighter more normal appearing poop. Again, the baby’s stools reassure everyone that the baby is getting enough to eat and digesting the milk. For a breast feeding mother, seeing the stools should also be a gauge of breast milk production, as a baby can’t make poop without milk. It is normal for a breast fed baby to poop with almost every feeding. But be assured poop does change as the baby gets older. Once your infant seems to be eating and stooling normally, and gaining weight, it is really not necessary to keep a chart of each wet diaper and stool, as you will soon grown tired of charting, and by then it probably really doesn’t matter. Babies, just like adults, do have different stools. Some babies go more often than others, and there is not a rule as to number of stools your baby needs to have. It is not unusual for a baby to skip a day of pooping, and make it up several times the next day. If your baby is eating well, seems comfortable etc, not to worry about a day (or even two) without poop! Once a baby is out of the newborn period stools may also change in color and consistency. We get many calls about poop color, from yellow, to green, to brown to khaki, poop does come in all colors. Just wait until your baby starts eating baby foods as once again poops will change dramatically depending on what your child is eating. They also tend to stink a lot more than when an infant is only drinking milk. No wonder we parents go from worrying about how many times a baby poops, to discussions about how to get your child potty trained. The fascination with poop seems to diminish as your baby/child gets older and I laugh when our nurses ask parents of toddlers about stool history. As a mother, I could not have told you if my toddler pooped every day or not, I was more concerned that they had a bedtime routine and ate their vegetables (we all have our issues). Rule of thumb for poop is that a stool should be any color except bloody or stark white. If your child has a bloody or chalk white stool, save the diaper to show the doctor. Most stools that a baby/child has should be somewhat mushy, and not uncomfortable to pass. Again, every one will have an occasional harder, firmer stool. But you should not have a child who is always passing hard stools with difficulty. Many times it is easy enough to manipulate stools by changing diet and giving more vegetables, prunes, etc. I guess the best advice is not to perseverate about poop, and just know that this too shall pass. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

New Baby Questions!

1:30 to read

Lots of new baby questions this week in my office, so I that I thought I would cover a few of the most frequently asked by parents within days of bringing that precious newborn home from the hospital. So, here we go:

My baby has blue hands and feet…should I go to the ER?  The medical term for this is acrocyanosis.   It is not uncommon for a baby to have a bluish/purple discoloration to their hands and feet. This often occurs if the baby gets chilled or cold, whether that is after a bath or sometimes even after they are unswaddled to wake them up a bit to get them to eat.  If your baby has pink lips and tongue and seems otherwise fine this is the normal adjustment of a baby’s circulation and may last for a few weeks to months.  When parents are concerned about this and make a trip to the ER where they are discharged with the diagnosis of “worried well”.

What temperature do I need to have my thermostat set?  This question always makes me laugh a bit because some of it is truly dependent on the climate where you live. Many parents think they need to “crank up the heat” for a newborn, but actually a cooler room temperature has been shown to correlate with a reduction in sudden infant death (SIDS).  The “ideal” temperature that has been recommended is around 68 - 70 degrees, but for those of us who live in the south during the dead of summer, it is almost impossible to keep your house this cool and very expensive. At the same time, some parents are uncomfortable during the winter with the thermostat at 68 degrees…so I would recommend keeping your house comfortable and on the cooler side rather than too warm. You also do not need to bundle your baby when it is blazing hot outside, less is more if the house is hot.

What about a pacifier?  Mother’s come in and say, “I was told that I shouldn’t use a pacifier because it will cause “nipple confusion”.  While I am a huge proponent of breast feeding I think that a pacifier is also helpful for a breast feeding mother so that she does not use her own breast as a “human pacifier”. Many new moms come in to see me at the 2 week check up crying, exhausted and with bleeding nipples. They are putting their baby on the breast for hours at a time as “it seems the only way my baby is content”.  Although they were told that they could put their finger in their baby’s mouth as a way to help console their baby, that too does not provide much of a distance from the baby…even to go to the bathroom, take a shower or eat!! A baby has the reflex to suck which is termed, “non-nutritive sucking”.  This is one way that your baby will calm themselves.  So, once your baby is getting on the breast, I would buy a pacifier and “teach” your partner how to hold your baby in the position as if they were going to be fed,  but with a pacifier to suck on rather than the breast. Once situated you can try walking around, gentle bouncing or swaying while your baby is happily sucking on their pacifier. Mother gets a bit of a rest between feedings and infant is happy with a pacifier ( rather than a finger). We will discuss taking away a pacifier at another time! 


Daily Dose

Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

1.15 to read

I get a lot of phone calls several days after parents head home with their newborn regarding their baby’s umbilical cord.  The umbilical cord really is the lifeline for the baby for 9 months, but once the baby is delivered, and the cord is clamped, it becomes a nuisance and “grosses” many parents out.  So often parents don’t even want to touch the cord and one of my patients told me....”why can’t it just dry up and fall off immediately?”. My only answer to that is, “God did not make it that way?”.

So, in a nutshell the umbilical cord is made up of 3 blood vessels, actually 2 arteries and one vein.  When the cord is cut and clamped the vessels begin to clot and eventually the cord detaches, typically in 7-14 days and then falls off.  

In the interim the cord is developing a scab so it may “ooze” a bit and there may even be dried blood on the baby’s diaper or around the edge of the cord.  A tiny bit of blood is to be expected, and parents don’t need to be worried that the baby is bleeding!!!  I like to explain that it is the first time as a parent that you might need to clean off a little blood, the same way that you will again when this sweet newborn becomes a toddler and falls down and skins their knee.

On occasion the hospital forgets to take the cord clamp off before the baby is discharged and the family comes in with the baby for their first visit with the cord clamp still on.  Poor parents have no idea that this is typically removed before discharge...somewhat like leaving the store with the magnetic tag on the outfit....just no alarm to let you know it is still there. In that case they are amazed when we pop off that yellow or blue plastic attached to their baby!

Lastly, the newborn baby can have some time on their tummy, if they are awake, even with the remnant of the cord still on. It will not hurt the baby at all and early tummy time is important...just NOT when a baby is sleeping!

I have to admit that I opened the baby book 30 years later and that dried umbilical stump was in there..Yes, I too was a first time mother.....don’t save it!

Daily Dose

New Baby Advice for the Royals!

1.30 to read

Welcome your Royal Highness Prince (name to come) and congratulations to new parents Prince William and Duchess Kate.  I imagine (like all new parents) you are over the moon in love with your new baby boy!

There really is no way to account for that instant unconditional love that a parent feels for their child.  It truly happens the minute your newborn baby takes their first breath....God opens a parent’s heart and fills it with love!

The first few days after the baby’s birth are adrenalin filled and most of the time is spent just holding and gazing in awe at your new baby.  At the same time, the reality of having a newborn has not yet really settled in.  The days spent in the hospital go by quickly and then suddenly you, (new parents), are “discharged to home” with a few instructions and “good wishes” for your new life together.

Even in a palace (and with plenty of help I assume) the reality of parenthood begins to hit with the knowledge that this baby requires attention 24/7, and many times that means sleepless nights.  For some reason a newborn does not “understand” circadian rhythm, at least for several months, and those night time feedings lead to tired parents.   Even with nurses and nannies, a mother is breast feeding mom needs to get up every 2-4 hours to feed her precious bundle.  

Remember as a new parent you need to sleep when the baby sleeps! This means you may need a nap from 2-4 in the afternoon as that darling baby may be up from 2-4 in the middle of the night, which means you are too! All new parents feel exhausted at times; it is all part of parenting.

Newborns are also quite unpredictable and even though you may have changed, fed and burped your baby, you should know that they sometimes cry and it is hard to figure out what to do next. 

I believe in picking up your newborn baby if they are crying, as sometimes they just need to be held and cuddled (even if they keep on crying).  You can’t spoil an infant. Try swaddling and swaying with the baby as you make a “shushing” sound.  

I also recommend using a pacifier (dummy in England) because a new baby may need some non-nutritive sucking which is yet another means of self calming.

Make sure your baby sleeps on their back (lowers the risk of SIDS) but tummy time is important as well so that their heads don’t get flat. 

If your baby ever falls asleep during tummy time they must be turned over to sleep on their back - even if you are standing there watching them. NO TUMMY SLEEPING!

The first 6-8 weeks are the hardest and it is really just about “survival”. Sleep when you can, make sure you are eating (especially for breast feeding moms) and know that all new parents feel overwhelmed at first.  You really don’t need to worry about “messing up” and in about 8 weeks that precious new baby will give you a beautiful smile, and that makes those memories of long sleepless nights (and some days) fade away fairly quickly.  

Congratulations and good luck!


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Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!


Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

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