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Daily Dose

Hassle-Free Formula?

1:15 to read

I am certainly a big proponent of “hassle free” options for making parenting easier. ( is there such a thing)?   For many of the families I see with new babies, the latest “favorite” gizmo is an automatic baby formula maker. Yes, it is similar to the Keurig and Nespresso coffee machines  but in this case it “mixes the formula powder and water to perfect consistency”…according to one manufacturer label.

 

When I first saw one in use I agreed that it seemed to be “easy”, but at the same time, I was not sure it was any  faster than just putting a scoop of baby formula in a bottle and shaking it up?  It certainly took up more counter space….but whatever right?  I was told…” you don’t have to mix or measure and there are no air bubbles like shaking a bottle”. Old school vs new school - the end product is the same, correct??

 

Well, as with many things, “hassle free” may not always mean better.

 

I recently saw an infant who had been doing well and gaining weight while breastfeeding. Her mother returned to work and decided to start formula feeding and purchased one of the new “instant formula preparation machines”. She was making the baby’s bottles “hassle free” every feeding.  The baby was under 4 months of age, so she was only receiving formula for feedings.

 

When the baby came in for the next check up she had not been gaining weight and had actually fallen off of her growth curve.  When the mother was asked if the baby was eating well, pooping, sleeping etc. all sounded fine. The baby’s physical exam was also normal.  So….why is this baby not gaining weight? The differential diagnosis is fairly long, but includes some serious problems. Pediatricians do not like to see a baby that is not gaining weight - the term used is “failure to thrive”.

 

So, very long story short…the good news is that the baby is fine!!! It turns out that the baby does not have any underlying problems. The problem was the automatic formula maker that the mother was using to prepare the baby’s bottles. For some unknown reason ( technology ) it was not adding the correct amount of formula to mix and make the 6 ounce bottle.  In other words…machine error!  The baby was actually getting diluted formula….and no one knew.

 

Once she started measuring and mixing her bottles the “old fashioned way” - scoop, add water and shake…the baby started to gain weight again.  Mystery solved, healthy baby and no more worried parents…but the “hassle free machine” led to a lot of anxiety. All is well, but I hope they got their money and more counter space back!

Daily Dose

Baby Bling Can Be Dangerous!

1:15 to read

I recently saw a TV segment on “blinging” your baby and toddler. It seems that the latest craze is decking out not only little girls, but also little boys. Being the mother of three sons I can understand wanting to “dress up” boys as well (little boy clothes can be a bit boring) but a few of the models on TV were wearing necklaces. 

Now, a boy wearing a necklace doesn’t bother me at all, but a baby or toddler with a necklace worries me!  This isn’t about gender, rather about safety.  

A necklace is a real choking and strangling danger for babies and young children. I know that many parents receive necklaces for their babies on the occasion of a baptism and in some cultures an infant is given a necklace made of string or beads to wear soon after birth. 

But, whenever a baby comes into my office with a necklace on I discuss the possibility, even if remote, of the child suffocating if the necklace gets caught or twisted around the child’s neck. There is no reason to even risk it! 

Baby bling is great if you want to put your child in cute shirts, hats, or even trendy jeans. Go for it!  But I would never put a necklace on a child. It is akin to the adage about peanuts...when should a child be allowed to eat peanuts?  When they can spell the word!  

We pediatricians are no longer worried about peanut allergies in the young child, it is the choking hazard that is the real concern. It’s the same for a necklace. Let your child wear it when they can spell the word, or put it on when your 3 year old plays dress up, but take it off once finished. There is no need to ever have a young child sleep in anything like a necklace, or anything that has a cord until they are much older. 

Children ages 4 and under, and especially those under the age of 1 year, are at the greatest risk for airway obstruction and suffocation.  So, put the necklace back in the jewelry box for awhile. You can re-wrap for re-gifting and re-wearing at a later date. Safety before bling! 

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Daily Dose

Foods You Can Eat When Breast Feeding

1.30

Should breast feeding moms avoid certain foods?I was making hospital rounds today and talking to all of the new moms (and dads) about their newborns.  I love talking to new parents about the importance of having healthy meals to support breast feeding! I even had a young dad asking “what foods should I avoid cooking for my wife while breast feeding?”  How cute is that! Can we clone him?!

After breast feeding my 3 children, I have decided that you can really eat whatever you want!  I know some people swear that certain foods you eat will cause a breast fed baby to have gas. But think about it, bottle fed babies and breast fed infants all have GAS!  None of the formulas contain broccoli, or cauliflower or beans or tomatoes and bottle fed babies have gas too. It is just a fact, newborn babies are gassy for the first several months as their digestive tracts mature. And yes, it is stinky too! So… I told this dad, “good for you for cooking for your wife.  Make her healthy, well balanced meals and throw in a few of her favorite foods.”  I would not change anything unless you can definitely correlate that a food ALWAYS makes your baby more uncomfortable (and that is so hard to keep track of). Eat what you want (in moderation) to be healthy and happy.  I have no data but feel certain that happier mothers must in some way have an effect on a  baby, so at least enjoy mealtime. When I had a colicky baby (previous post), I tried eating only broth and bland foods, and with me equally miserable and starving…this stressful situation only got worse. Final words, if I was going to try eliminating anything from my diet while breastfeeding to try and help “relieve “a gassy baby, it would be excessive dairy, as there has been some data on this. Remember, everything in moderation. I’m willing to bet that by the time your baby is 4 months old (the magic age) you are not even worried about what you are eating, as you are having too much fun laughing with your baby! What foods (if any) bothered your baby while breast feeding? I would love your comments.  Leave them below. That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Spoon-feeding Your Baby

1.15 to read

I continue to see a lot of new babies (so fun) and there seem to be a lot of questions and concerns around when to start feeding a baby solids and how to actually do it as well. 

The consensus about beginning solid foods has really not changed in the last 30 years. Infants do not need to begin solid foods until somewhere around 6 months of age, give or take a few weeks. 

It has also long been recommended to start feeding a baby rice cereal as their first solid food. Again, there is no real data on this and the AAP is at work on new feeding guidelines as I write this. We may be changing things around and starting protein before cereal? 

Never the less, I typically recommend starting a baby with some type of cereal as it is easy to make and easy to wipe up if your baby does not like it!!  One of the biggest things about beginning foods is it can tend to be messy, and this is an important part of a baby’s feeding experience as well. 

I start feeding a baby cereal from the spoon, typically as a breakfast meal, after the baby has had their morning breast or bottle feeding. I pick the mornings as most babies are happy in the morning, so you can pick the best time to feed your own baby. You don’t want to start a new project with a fussy baby. 

Put your baby in the Bumbo chair or high chair, so they are sitting up, and mix up the cereal (with either breast milk or formula) to the consistency that you can spoon feed it. Not so thick your child gags and not so thin it runs off the spoon.  Then you just do the airplane to the mouth game (somehow I always find myself also saying “yum, yum”) and see how your baby feels about eating cereal. Some babies love it and others will seal those lips and scream. There is no magic about beginning solid foods and don’t try to “make your baby open their mouth”, it is practice practice. 

After several days to weeks you will see that your baby is enjoying the high chair and is interested in spoon feeding and you can begin to feed other pureed foods. I also add more solid feedings to their day so that they are ultimately getting 3 solid meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as their bottle or breast feedings. Yes, that often means you are actually spending more time feeding than before. 

I usually begin veggies, then fruits then meats, but again there is no “perfect” way to add additional solid foods. Just feed your baby lots of different pureed foods with different tastes, as you will see they will eat almost anything at this age. Enjoy that as it all changes once they are a toddler! 

Spoon feeding is fun and is not the biggest source of a babies calories until they are older. It is just the beginning of getting your baby interested in the spoon and new textures in their mouths. Another new experience for both parent and baby. 

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

Daily Dose

How to Treat a Baby With Thrush

I have received some recent e-mails and now an office visit regarding the possibility of a baby having thrush. Thrush is a yeast (fungal) infection that involves the mouth, and is most typically seen in infants.I have received an email via our iPhone App and now an office visit regarding the possibility of a baby having thrush. Thrush is a yeast (fungal) infection that involves the mouth, and is most typically seen in infants.

The yeast infection usually involves the inside of a baby’s cheeks and lips and occasionally the tongue. It appears as white, almost cottage cheese like patches, and is often visible when a baby is yawning or crying. A baby who only has a white tongue typically does not have thrush, but just a milk coated tongue (see if you can wipe some of the milk off of the tongue, as yeast is usually more adherent). Thrush is fairly common as we all have yeast in our digestive tracts, and babies are often colonized with yeast as they travel through the birth canal. For unknown reasons, in some infants there is an overgrowth of yeast and thrush may develop. Many mothers feel guilty that they “gave their baby” a yeast infection. They worry that thrush has something to do with cleanliness (NOT) and somehow that maternal guiles thing is already beginning. (Dads have already cut to the chase and say, how do you treat it?!) Thrush can happen to any infant. In a breast feeding baby it may also cause a mother to have inflamed and tender nipples, and the baby and mother actually pass the yeast back and forth during feeding (no guilt, as breastfeeding is good!) In most babies thrush does not cause a lot of problems and may go away by itself. But if the infection becomes extensive it may become painful and cause an infant to be uncomfortable when nursing or taking a bottle. If you notice that your baby has white plaques in their mouth or under their lips it may be worth a phone call to your pediatrician. (This is not an emergency and can wait till office hours.) There are several prescription preparations that may be used to treat thrush. The most common being Nystatin, which is a liquid medication that is given to the baby after they have been fed, and is squirted into the mouth on the inside of the cheeks, to treat the yeast infection.  It is also beneficial to treat a nursing mother’s nipples with an anti-fungal agent. I usually tell patients to use the medications for at least seven days or until the white patches have been gone for several days before stopping treatment. It is not uncommon to get thrush again, so don’t fret if your baby develops another infection, at least you know what it is and how to treat it. A yeast infection in the mouth may often lead to a yeast infection in the diaper area (candidal diaper dermatitis), because as you know what goes in the mouth comes out in the poop. But that rash is for another day…. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Sleep & Your Baby

1:30 to read

Once a new baby joins a family one of the first questions I am often asked is, “when will my baby sleep thru the night?”.  SLEEP is one thing that all parents crave and for one reason or another many parents with infants over 6 months of age, complain that their baby is still not “sleeping through the night”. If your baby or child is not sleeping well, that typically means that parents are having disturbed sleep as well.   

By 6 months of age a baby should be able to self soothe and fall asleep on their own and the majority of babies are sleeping 10-12 hours thru the night as well.  After many years of practicing pediatrics and dealing with my own children’s sleep issues, I spend quite a bit of time with my patients discussing healthy sleep habits.  Like most things, it is easier to start off with good habits and bedtime routines.

So….when parents come in at the 6 month visit and are concerned about their baby’s sleep and awakenings I typically discuss “letting their baby cry it out”. This advice is met with varying responses.  Some parents are ready to get a good night’s sleep and will do “anything”, while others think I am “a mean doctor” and would “never let their baby cry”.  Like most things it is not always black and white and that is why we have chocolate and vanilla.  But, in my experience, the sooner you deal with sleep issues the faster they seem to resolve…

A recent article in Pediatrics should now reassure parents that they are not “harming their baby” by letting them “cry it out” which is called graduated extinction.  The study done in Australia found that infants whose parents let them “cry it out” fell asleep 13 minutes sooner than a control group and woke up less often during the night, and had no significant differences in stress levels (based upon salivary cortisol levels). The study also found no long term effects on parent-child attachment.  All good news for some sleepless parents who are considering this method to get their baby to sleep through the night. 

The researchers also looked at another behavioral sleep training intervention called “bedtime fading” which some feel is a “gentler” method of sleep training. In this case a baby’s bedtime is delayed with the thought that a sleepier child will fall asleep faster and may not cry as long.  This may be an easier method for some parents who continue to be anxious about “graduated extinction”.  This too showed that infants fell asleep sooner than controls but they showed no change in the number of nighttime awakenings.

Bottom line, sleep is important for the entire family ….all ages.  This article should hopefully go a long way in reassuring sleep deprived parents that a baby’s cries are not harmful and may actually get everyone to sleep faster, longer and more peacefully….you just have to believe the research and hang in there. 

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

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”.   

Your Baby

Mom and Baby Benefit by Skin-to-Skin Contact Right After Birth

1:30

Over the years, modern birth methods have changed how newborns and mothers interact with each other. Typically, the baby is cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket then given to the mother to hold. A new scientific review suggests that skin-to-skin contact is better for the mother and gives her infant a better start in life.

The review noted that women who had skin-to-skin contact with their naked babies soon after delivery were more likely to breastfeed longer and be breastfeeding months later than women who didn't have their babies placed on their skin right away.

"The more you can do to place the mother and baby together and disturb them as little possible during that first hour, the better off they’ll be," said lead author Elizabeth Moore, of the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Researchers looked through medical literature and found 46 randomized controlled trials to include in their review. The trials included 3,850 women and their newborns from 21 countries. All babies were healthy and most were born at term.

"We compared those trials to usual care, and usual care was very different depending on the trial," said Moore. Trials from the 1970s may have separated mothers from their babies for hours. In more modern trials, babies might be swaddled in a blanket before being handed to the mother.

Moore and her team found evidence that babies who had received skin-to-skin contact were more likely to breastfeed successfully during their very first breastfeeding session, and they also tended to have higher blood glucose levels and stronger heart and lung function.

 “It’s just something that if at all possible should happen," Moore told Reuters Health.

Skin-to-skin contact should begin as soon as possible and last for at least 60 minutes, she said. The hour will give babies time to recover from the birthing experience, find the mother's nipple and latch on.

"It’s not something you can do in just 15 minutes," Moore said.

Not all physicians and hospitals are on board when it comes to immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth.

“I would recommend that a woman make sure she adds skin-to-skin to her birth plan," Moore said. "I think it’s a really good thing for a woman to put together a birth plan before she heads to the hospital and show it to her physicians or midwife."

What if your baby is premature or is delivered by cesarean? The researchers didn't find any benefits to initiating skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth versus after the baby had been examined and washed. They also failed to find any clear benefits to skin-to-skin contact that lasted longer than an hour.

"The evidence supports that early [skin-to-skin contact] should be normal practice for healthy newborns," the researchers wrote, "including those born by cesarean and babies born early at 35 weeks or more."

The review was published in the Cochrane Library in November. 

Story sources: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-birth-skin-idUSKBN13V2UZ

Kenza Moller, https://www.romper.com/p/why-skin-to-skin-contact-after-birth-could-be-beneficial-for-mothers-babies-alike-24423

 

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