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Daily Dose

Preschool Nutrition Can Be Challenging

1.30 to read

Does your child eat three meals a day with healthy snacks along the way? I often find myself talking to parents about establishing healthy eating habits especially when you have a preschooler. Preschool children, specifically the two to five-year-old set are notoriously picky eaters, and parents need to recognize that this is developmentally appropriate, although frustrating for parents.

This is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity. A good place to start to get information is “MyPyramid for Preschoolers”, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This website not only covers what your children should be eating, but also is full of good advice on handling picky eaters, how to monitor your child’s growth and ideas to encourage physical activity.

The website encourages parents to lead by example and let your children see you eating a wide array of foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day. There are ideas for healthy snacks that can be eaten on the run, as you get back into carpools and after school activities. Even the toddler set is busy after school!

Remember: do not let food choices become a battle or an issue. Do not make negative food comments around your children, and keep trying new things. It may take up to 20 attempts or more before your child will try something new, but if you don’t keep trying you will never know if they might really like broccoli.

Also, no “yucky faces” for the adults and older children while at the table and eating their meal. That will only discourage your toddler from trying unfamiliar foods. Put on that happy face, even if it is not your favorite food, it might be your child’s.

The most important message is to make mealtime and snack time pleasant and healthy. Even a toddler can help with planning and preparing a meal. This website is really quite good and interactive as you can enter your child’s first name, age, gender and typical amount of activity and the site will generate a plan just for your child! Can’t be easier than that.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Baby

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

1.30 to read

A new study slated to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, says that there is no association between the amount of vaccines a young child receives and autism. Some parents have worried that there may be a link and have opted out of having their child vaccinated or reduced the number of vaccines recommended.

The percentage of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased by 72% since 2007. Some experts believe that changes in the diagnostic criteria may account for some of the increase as well as better screening tools and rating scales.

According to a statement released from the journal, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Abt Associates analyzed data from children with and without ASD.

Researchers examined each child's cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, the journal's statement said.

The antigen totals were the same for children with and without ASD, researchers found.

Scientists believe genetics play a fundamental role in the risk for a child developing autism (80-90%), but recent studies also suggests that the father’s age at the time of conception may also be a contributor by increasing risks for genetic mistakes in the sperm that could be passed along to offspring.

Parents have worried about a link between vaccines and autism for decades despite the growing body of scientific evidence disproving such an association.

Source: Luciana Lopez,

Daily Dose

Separation Anxiety

1.45 to read

I received an email from a mother who was concerned because her toddler son was crying when they left him at day care.  They were “alarmed” as he had not previously cried when they dropped him off and wondered if this was “normal” or a sign of a problem. Actually, this phenomenon should be quite reassuring to a parent as this is a sign that your child is developmentally on track, and has developed a healthy attachment to his parents. 

All children go through periods developmentally when they are more prone to separation anxiety.  As a new parent you are often concerned about “leaving” your child under the care of someone other than a parent. But, in actuality, it is far easier to leave a newborn or an infant than it is to leave a 8-9 month old.

By the time a child reaches this age they are beginning to show signs of stranger anxiety. In other words, they now recognize the faces and voices of their parents, routine caregivers, siblings etc.

But, when a new person (and face) reaches out for a 9 month old it is not uncommon for that child to suddenly panic and burst into tears. This is not because the “stranger” has done anything at all, but because the child now understands being separated from their parent and may fear that the parent is leaving forever. 

The bond between parent and child has been successfully established, which is quite healthy. This is the beginning of teaching a child that a parent may leave for work, school or even a trip, but that they will return.  Just because a parent leaves for awhile, they are not gone forever. 

This first stage of separation anxiety can provoke feelings of anxiousness in both child and parent, but it is an essential part of normal development. Separation anxiety, like almost all behaviors, varies from child to child. While some childen are more clingy than others, some may just be “wired” in a certain way and are more vulnerable to separating from a parent. Regardless, it is important for a child to begin to deal with healthy separation. 

During the ages of 12 – 24 months separation anxiety seems to peak, and the period of crying or anxiety when a parent drops a child at day care or Sunday school, or even at a grandparents house may escalate. 

While a child may cry after being dropped off, most children will then calm down and may be distracted and will begin playing soon after the parent has left. Again, some children just seem to take longer to adjust, so don’t be alarmed if  one child cries for 2 minutes, while another may take up to 20-30 minutes to settle down. 

Toddlers do not understand the concept of time, and therefore each one may react differently.  While happily playing while the parent is gone, it is not uncommon for the child to cry again upon seeing their parent when being picked up.  For the toddler, the return of the parent may remind them of how they felt when the parent left earlier in the day. 

For most children separation anxiety decreases between 2 -4 years of age as you can explain, and a child can understand, where you are going, how long you will be gone etc. 

For children who have rarely been left with others, it may be more difficult at this age.  Remember, healthy separations are important for both parent and child, and the idea that no one will “babysit” or care for your child other than a parent is not realistic nor does it teach your child to build trust in others. 

The more experience a child has had with earlier normal periods of separation the easier different transitions will be.  Remember, they will all be going to school one day and you want to prepare them for that separation.

Lastly, every child has good days and bad days and almost every child will have a phase when it is harder to separate than others. Just remember to hang in there, be re-assuring to your child when you leave them, do not prolong the departure, and be understanding about their anxiety. As with so many experiences in parenting, “this too shall pass”. 

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

Your Child

Playing With Food May Help Picky Eaters


If your child is a picky eater, encouraging them to play with their food may help them overcome the reluctance to try new foods according to a new study.

Researchers in the United Kingdom asked a group of 70 children – ages 2 to 5 – to play with mushy, slimy food while their parents observed, watching to see if kids would happily use their hands to search for a toy soldier buried at the bottom of a bowl of mashed potatoes or jelly. Children who wouldn't use their hands were offered a spoon.

Parents and researchers each rated how happy the kids were to get their hands dirty on a scale of one to five, with a higher number indicating more enjoyment. Children could get a total score as high as 20, a tally of the scores from researchers and parents for play with both the mashed potatoes and the jelly.

Researchers also gave parents a questionnaire to assess children's so-called tactile sensitivity, quizzing them about things like whether kids disliked going barefoot in the sand and grass or avoided getting messy.

The study found that kids who liked playing with their food were less likely to have food neophobia (the fear of trying something new) or tactile sensitivity.

"Although this is just an association, the implication is that getting children to play with messy substances may help their food acceptance," lead study author Helen Coulthard, a psychology researcher at De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K., told Reuters Health by email.

Previous research has linked food neophobia to limited fruit and vegetable consumption. Courtland and her team wanted to see if they could establish a link between touching food and tasting unfamiliar foods.

Courtland suggested that parents of picky eaters begin introducing new foods to their child by creating “food art.” Food art is making pictures or images with different foods on a plate.  The first step is letting your child make a picture or design by arranging various colored foods on the plate.  Don’t pressure them to taste their creation, but wait till they are ready to give it a try. Make it a game and eventually begin encouraging them to taste what they have created. Start small and expand to larger food groups and pictures.

Offering as much variety as possible from a young age also helps children experience lots of textures and flavors, which may minimize their fear of unfamiliar foods.

You’re probably going to have to join in on the taste experimentation to show how good these food pictures taste! You might also take a picture of your child with their creation on your phone and then show it to them – to make it a little more fun.

It’s fairly normal for kids to go through a period of refusing to try new foods, though most kids will grow out of this phase by the time they start school. However, there are some children that carry new food aversion on into adulthood. It isn't necessarily harmful as long as the children maintain a healthy weight for their height, pediatricians say.

But over time, neophobia can make it very difficult to enjoy social engagements. Parents that have a hard time trying or enjoying new foods themselves too often pass that trait onto their own children.  Most of the time it’s just a phase that kids go through and finding creative ways to help them work through it eliminates the problem.

Source: Lisa Rapaport,




Daily Dose

Childhood Obesity

1.30 to read

Everyone knows that obesity is on the rise and it is often beginning in childhood.  During well-child visits (and often during a visit for colds or flu) parents often bring up a child’s weight.  By using growth charts it is fairly easy for the doctor to show a parent and child where they fall on the growth curve and BMI (body mass index) curve as well. When discussing weight issues it is sometimes difficult to decide what terms are appropriate to use.

A study just published on line in Pediatrics surveyed 445 parents of children 2–18 years of age to assess what are perceived to be the most appropriate terms to be used when discussing weight issues in a child. The study, done at Yale University, was interesting in that more than 60% of parents said that referring to a child as “extremely fat” or “obese” would be “most stigmatizing and the least motivating terms to encourage weight loss.”

In this study, American parents preferred that terms such as “unhealthy weight”, “weight problem” or “being overweight” be used to discuss weight issues and that these terms would also be more motivating for weight loss.

In the same study about 36% of parents said that they would “put their children on a strict diet” in response to weight stigma from a doctor. This is concerning as well as since research has shown that severe dieting and restriction of calories in young children may backfire and may at times lead to other issues including eating disorders.

Whether we call it an unhealthy weight or being overweight or even using the term fat probably depends on each family and their own preferences. But whatever we call it, the topic should be addressed at each well child visit. The basic tenets of a healthy body weight still depend on eating a well balanced diet and getting daily exercise. Why does that sound so simple?

The easiest way to start to control weight gain is to begin with good habits when your children are young. If children are raised from their toddler years with a wide variety of healthy foods presented to them at meal and snack time, they will learn to enjoy these foods. “Grazing” should be discouraged and discussions should not be about “what you will or won’t eat” but rather about gathering for family meals and enjoying the time together. Parents needn’t be “short order” cooks, a child will eat if they are hungry and given the opportunity. But by offering a limited variety of foods and preparing just a few items that a child “likes” the stage is already being set for poor eating habits down the road.

Our job as parents is to provide healthy meals (and snacks) to our children, while the children will have to decide whether or not to eat it. There will be days that they are getting their favorite foods and others that they may not, but in the long run they will be a better and healthier eater. It would be nice not to have to figure out the correct term to use for being overweight or even obese.  Maybe we can cure it in the next generation and the terminology will become obsolete!

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

Your Baby

Baby's First Tooth!

Many dentists like to see a child by age one, not because there are a lot of problems to detect, but because it’s a good time to help parents learn more about dental health care and to establish a good relationship with the child.After all the crying, and teething fits, midnight trips to the crib, and endless time soothing and rubbing gums.... it’s finally here. Baby’s first tooth!  It’s also time to start thinking about your child’s dental health, and baby’s first visit to the Dentist.

It is generally recommended that an infant sees a dentist by the age of 1 or within 6 months after his or her first tooth comes in.

Many dentists like to see a child by age one, not because there are a lot of problems to detect, but because it’s a good time to help parents learn more about dental health care and to establish a good relationship with the child. The average age for continuing visits is about 2 to 2.5 years old depending on your child’s dental heredity and overall health. Many dentists like to see children every 6 months to build up the child's comfort and confidence level in visiting the dentist, to monitor the development of the teeth, and promptly treat any developing problems. What Happens at the First Dental Visit? The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. This visit gives your child an opportunity to meet the dentist in a non-threatening and friendly way. Some dentists may ask the parent to sit in the dental chair and hold their child during the examination. The parent may also be asked to wait in the reception area during part of the visit so that a relationship can be built between your child and your dentist. During the exam, your dentist should check all of your child's existing teeth for decay, examine your child's bite, and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues. If indicated, the dentist or hygienist will clean any teeth and assess the need for fluoride. He or she will also educate parents about oral health basics for children and discuss dental developmental issues and answer any questions. Topics your dentist may discuss with you might include: 1. Good oral hygiene practices for your child's teeth and gums and cavity prevention 2. Fluoride needs 3. Oral habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking. 4.  Developmental milestones 5. Teething 6. Proper nutrition You will be asked to complete medical and health information forms concerning the child during the first visit. Come prepared with the necessary information. What's the Difference Between a Pediatric Dentist and a Regular Dentist? A pediatric dentist has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school. The additional training focuses on management and treatment of a child's developing teeth, child behavior, physical growth and development, and the special needs of children's dentistry. Although either type of dentist is capable of addressing your child's oral health care needs, a pediatric dentist, his or her staff, and even the office décor are all geared to care for children and to put them at ease. If your child has special needs, care from a pediatric dentist should be considered. Ask your dentist or your child's doctor what he or she recommends for your child. When Should Children Get Their First Dental X-Ray? There are no hard-and-fast rules for when to start dental X-rays. Some children who may be at higher risk for dental problems. Children prone to baby bottle tooth decay or those with cleft lip or palate should have X-rays taken earlier than others. Usually, most children will have had X-rays taken by the age of 5 or 6. As children begin to get their adult teeth around the age of 6, X-rays play an important role in helping your dentist. X-rays allow your dentist to see if all of the adult teeth are growing in the jaw, to look for bite problems and to determine if teeth are clean and healthy. Once a child’s diet includes anything besides breast-milk or baby formula, erupted teeth are at risk for decay. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily and smile with confidence. Start your child now on a lifetime of good dental habits.

Your Child

New Guidelines for Tonsillectomies

Most children who get repeated throat infections probably don’t need surgery to remove their tonsils and would improve in time with careful monitoring, according to new clinical guidelines on tonsillectomies in children.

The new guidelines also suggest, however, that removal of the tonsils, or tonsillectomy, may improve problems tied to poor sleep, including bed-wetting, slow growth, hyperactive behavior, and poor school performance. In fact, sleep-disordered breathing -- a set or problems that range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea - is now the most common reason for tonsil removal in kids younger than 15. “We used to think that only if you were an air traffic controller did it matter if you slept well or not, and now we know that’s not the case,” says Amelia F. Drake, MD, chief of the division of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. More than half a million tonsillectomies are performed each year on children in the U.S., making it the second most common surgery in this age group, just behind procedures to place tubes in the ears to relieve recurrent ear infections. Despite the fact that it is a mainstay of American medicine, experts have long disagreed about how useful or appropriate tonsillectomies may be. The new guidelines, published Monday by the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, are the first set of official recommendations on tonsillectomy published in the U.S. The guidelines aim to give doctors and parents more information about when tonsillectomy may be warranted and to help minimize the risks and pain of this procedure in young patients. “I thought they were very comprehensive,” says Drake, who reviewed the new recommendations but was not involved in drafting them. “This is an area where improvements and refinements can have a huge impact. This is medicine at its core.” New Criteria for Removing Tonsils The guidelines update a set of clinical indicators for tonsillectomies published in 2000 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology, which suggested that doctors could consider taking out the tonsils if a child had at least three cases of swollen and infected tonsils in a year. The new guideline, however, says that kids should have at least seven episodes of throat infection, such as tonsillitis or strep throat in a year, or at least five episodes each year for two years, or three episodes annually for three years, before they become candidates for surgery, and that those infections should be documented by a doctor, rather than just reported by parents. The idea, experts said, was to reserve surgery only for the most severely affected, because the surgery can rarely have serious complications including infections and serious bleeding. “Children who have fewer episodes really aren’t going to see a lot of benefit,” says Jack L. Paradise, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “There aren’t many kids, overall, who meet those stringent criteria,” Paradise says. What’s more, Paradise, and other experts stress, that even children who satisfy the guidelines shouldn’t get an automatic green light for surgery. “I’m not sure, if I had a child that met all the criteria, that I’d automatically subject the child to the consequences of that,” Paradise says, “Post-operatively, it’s a very painful procedure.” The tonsils are cone-shaped lumps of tissue embedded in the throat, and they are believed to play a role in how the body responds to infections, though experts aren’t exactly sure how. But in the early part of the 20th century, the tonsils were blamed as the “focus of infection” in the body, and doctors began taking them out as a way to promote good health. The operation became so common for example, that entire classrooms of youngsters would get their tonsils taken out at school. But by the 1970s, many experts were questioning how effective and appropriate it was to subject kids to a painful operation that could have rare but serious complications; all for what new research suggested were minimal improvements in the risk of sore throats. At the same time, however, doctors were starting to become more aware of the myriad problems tied to sleep disordered breathing in children, a spectrum of problems that can range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea. And more tonsils began to be taken out as a way to open up the airway and improve sleep. Improvement in Care for Kids Having Surgery Several of the guidelines suggest ways doctors and parents can improve the care of children having tonsillectomies. One of the strongest recommendations is against the use of antibiotics just before or just after surgery. “They are commonly given, and there’s no evidence that antibiotics offer any benefit,” says study researcher Reginald F. Baugh, MD, professor and chief of otolaryngology at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio. “You run the risk of allergic reactions and there are the harms of over-prescribing.” In drafting the statement that advises doctors to counsel parents about the importance of pain management in kids after surgery, Baugh says the panel that reviewed the evidence behind the guidelines was alarmed to learn that many parents don’t give medications to control pain after the procedure. “That was one thing we really learned, about the importance of telling parents about the need to give pain meds in these kids,” Baugh says.

Your Child

New Guidelines for How Much Sleep Kids Really Need


As adults, we all know that without a good night’s sleep, we’re going to be struggling to get through the day’s activities. When we’re not running on all rested cylinders, small troubles seem like mountains, being able to focus and complete a project is difficult and nodding off while driving is more likely to happen.

Restful sleep is a wonderful thing and unfortunately, many of us just aren’t getting enough.

Most adults know about how much sleep they need the night before to feel their best the next day. Children, on the hand, need a certain amount of sleep depending on their age.

For the first time, a new set of sleep guidelines specially tailored to children, have been released from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The new recommendations give a precise number of hours for each age range, spanning from infancy up until 18 years old.

"Sleep is essential for a healthy life, and it is important to promote healthy sleep habits in early childhood," said Dr. Shalini Paruthi, fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, in a statement. "It is especially important as children reach adolescence to continue to ensure that teens are able to get sufficient sleep."

A team of 13 top sleep experts conducted a 10-month research project to find out how much sleep children actually need. The team reviewed 864 published scientific articles that revealed the link between sleep duration and the health of children across all age categories.

Here’s what they found:

·      Infants between 4-12 months of age should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep for any 24-hour period. This includes naps.

·      Children between 1 and 2 years of age need 11 to 13 hours for every 24-hour period.

·      Children between 3 and 5 years old need a little less at 10 to 13 hours per 24-hour period.

·      Children between 6 and 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of sleep – not including naps- in a 24-hour period.

·      Teens between 13 and 18 years old need 8 to 10 hours per 24-hour period.

All told, babies, kids, and teens spend roughly 40 percent of their childhood asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The panel points out that the right amount of shut-eye is critical for a child’s developing brain and body and overall mental and physical health.

Researchers also noted that when children do not get enough sleep, their behavior is affected and their long-term health can be negatively impacted.

"Adequate sleep duration for age on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health," the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote. "Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts."

According to Dr. Nathaniel Watson, the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, making sure that their child gets enough sleep is one of the best ways parents can lay a foundation of healthy habits that children can take with them into adulthood. With more than one third of the adult population sleep deprived, sleep becomes paramount for children to avoid the slew of consequences that come with a lifetime of sleep problems.

"The AAP endorses the guidelines and encourages pediatricians to discuss these recommendations and healthy sleep habits with parents and teens during clinical visits," they announced. "For infants and young children, establishing a bedtime routine is important to ensuring children get adequate sleep each night.”

Story source: Samantha Olson,

Daily Dose

Shingles in Childhood?

1:30 to read

Is it possible for children to come down with shingles? I recently saw a 2 year old with a most interesting history who then developed a weird rash.   Funny thing, I read an article shortly after seeing this child that described his case perfectly, only wish I had seen this the week before.

So, this 2 year old complained that his leg hurt. Enough pain that he limped and woke up at night crying that his thigh hurt. He had no history of trauma and also was otherwise well, in other words no fever, vomiting, cold symptoms etc.

After several days of watching him without resolution of his pain the mother noticed 3 little spots on his thigh, which she thought might be a bite. The little boy was seen and the diagnosis of herpes zoster (shingles) was considered.  In children the differential diagnosis of localized leg pain in the absence of a rash would not normally include shingles.

According to the pedi dermatologist (that I consulted) shingles in children occurs more frequently on their lower extremities (not for adults) and may involve the back on the same side.   Unlike adults, most cases of zoster in children are only mildly painful and resolve fairly quickly.

Well, this little boy didn’t read the book and his rash continued to get worse and spread, and was quite painful for days. Prior to this, he was a perfectly healthy little boy and had received his first varicella vaccine when he was 1.  

Since the widespread use of the varicella vaccine (chickenpox vaccine, see old post), the incidence of chickenpox has decreased dramatically, and vaccination should also reduce the risk of developing shingles later in life. In otherwise healthy children shingles (zoster) tends to develop at a younger age among vaccinated children than in those who have had a “natural” chickenpox infection.  When shingles occurs after vaccination it represents either a new infection with wild-type virus (an exposure to chickenpox or shingles) or reactivation of the vaccine virus.

Once a child has received 2 doses of varicella vaccine as recommended, the immunity is “boosted” and should further reduce the risk of developing shingles. Varicella–zoster virus can be transmitted via contact with skin lesions of those who have either chickenpox or shingles.  Infection is less likely after exposure to shingles. Transmission of the virus occurs until all lesions have crusted over. In this case, the little boy was ultimately started on an oral anti-viral therapy with slow resolution of his rash and pain and a return to normal around his house.

Note to self: “weird” pain may precede the rash in herpes zoster by several days.  Even though unusual, herpes zoster may occur in a healthy child who no history of varicella exposure and who has received all or part of their chickenpox vaccine.

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


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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!

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