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Daily Dose

Baby's First Foods

1:30 to read

Have you heard of “baby led weaning” (BLW)? Many of my patients who have infants that are ready to start “solid foods”, also called complementary foods, have questions about this method. Most babies begin eating foods along with breast milk or formula somewhere around 5 - 6 months of age.  So BLW is not really “weaning”,  as your infant will continue to have breast milk or formula in conjunction with foods…so this really should more aptly be named “baby self feeding”. 

In this method you never offer your baby “mush” or pureed foods, but rather offer them foods from the table.   While I am a huge advocate of self feeding (old term is finger feeding), I also think that early on offering a baby “mushy” food on a spoon is an important milestone. In fact, for most babies at 5 -6 months, it is difficult to pick up a small piece of food to self feed as the pincer grasp has not developed. So, a baby is trying to get food to their mouths by cupping it or hoping it sticks to their hand while pushing pieces around their tray. Some parents will put the food into their baby’s hand.  But, by 8-ish months most babies have developed their pincer grasp and the finger feeding should be preferred.  

Parents are also concerned about starting solid foods and the possibility of choking.  I am always discussing how to make sure that your child avoids choking hazards with foods. In other words, no whole grapes, or hot dogs, or popcorn or chunks of meat.   Other hazards are raw carrots, apples, celery and any “hard” food that your baby might be able to bite a chunk of and then choke. But, if you cook the carrots and then cut them in small bites they are easily handled by a baby who is self feeding.  It is really all about the consistency of the food as once your baby has lower teeth they can easily bite/pry off a big “chunk” of food that could lead to a choking hazard.

Interestingly, there was a recent study that looked at the incidence of choking in children who started with self feeding vs those fed traditionally with pureed foods from a spoon. In this study of about 200 children between 6 - 8 months of age the incidence of choking was similar, while there were more gagging events in the BLW group.  Fortunately, “the choking events resolved on their own”. Gagging is quite different than choking. Some children will gag on pureed foods just due to texture issues. 

I am an advocate of what I am going to call parent led feeding followed by early self feeding of appropriate foods. By the time a child is 9 months of age they should be able to finger feeding the majority of their meals. But there are some foods that are just not conducive to finger feeding at all….yogurt, apple sauce, puddings…and they will be spoon fed until your child is capable of using a spoon which is anywhere from 12 -18 months.   But as a reminder, whenever you offer your child a finger food you should remember two things, #1 is the piece small enough that my child cannot choke and #2 is the food cooked well enough to not pose a choking hazard.  

Several years ago there was a 1 year old in our practice who was given a piece of an apple to chew on… she bit off a chunk of the apple, aspirated and died. It was a terrible accident.  I will never forget that….and re-iterate to all of my patients…a pork chop, or chicken leg or any number of foods can become a choking hazard if your child bites off a chunk. Children really don’t chew until they are around 2 years, they just bite and try to swallow so I pay a great deal of attention to what foods they are offered.

 

Old school and new school…the combo seems to make sense to me. 

Daily Dose

Too Much Pressure to Play Sports?

1:30 to read

Does your child play a sport “after school”?  It seems children as young as 3-4 years of age are now involved in soccer and even football.  Some children are barely walking before they are signed up for a team.  Parents tell me various reasons for this including, “if they don’t start young they will be at a disadvantage athletically”, “if we don’t get on a team now, there will not be room for our child once they start kindergarten or first grade”,  and “our child wants to play and wear a uniform”. I just see lots of issues with burn out.

It seems awfully early to start “team sports” to me. I am a huge advocate of families and children playing together and learning all sorts of games and sporting skills. Kicking a soccer ball in the yard, or hitting the wiffle ball off of the tee, or having Dad throw a pass with the football all seems pretty “normal” to me. But organized sports with a 3 year old who is still in diapers….really?  Maybe one of the “guidelines” should be you have to be potty trained.  Yes, this is true, I see children in diapers who “will not pee or poop in the potty” according to their parents, but they go to soccer practice?  What is wrong with this picture?

So, while some of these well intentioned parents have told me that they are having fun being the coach, or attending games with other friends, their pre-school children “don’t have time to be potty trained”. They are too busy going to school, followed by organized activities that “it is just easier to let them stay in diapers”. I was even with a 4 year old at a football game and she was still in diapers?

At some point these children and parents will need to skip a practice or two and stay home long enough to get potty trained.  I am noticing that children are getting older and older before they are potty trained. I know there are books written on this topic with the philosophy that “the child will ultimately train themselves”, or “ how to potty train in 3 days, with a child who shows no interest”…or something along those lines.  But really, in my experience, if you watch your child’s cues, spend the time to “talk bathroom habits” and have the “time” to be home to potty train most children are potty trained between 24-36 months of age.  Yes, there are occasional children (none of my own) that just show interest earlier and say things like “I go potty now” and really do it on their own. There are also some who are more difficult to get interested and may be harder to potty train…but again, which is probably a more important life time skill…..getting out of a diaper or trying to figure out how to line up for a soccer game? I’m just saying.

Daily Dose

What Are Breast Buds?

1.15 to read

I received a phone call today from a mother who was worried about the “bump” beneath her 12 year old daughter’s nipple. I do get this phone call quite often and even see mothers and daughters in the office who are concerned about this lump?  First thought is often, “is this breast cancer?”  The answer is a resounding “NO” but rather a breast bud.  While all mothers developed their own breast buds in years past, many have either forgotten or suppressed the memory of early puberty and breast budding.

Breast buds are small lumps the size of a blueberry or marble that “erupt” directly beneath a young girl’s areola and nipple. Most girls experience breast budding somewhere around 10-12 years of age although it may happen a bit sooner or even later. It is one of the early signs of puberty and estrogen effects.

Many girls will complain that the nipple area is sore and tender and that they are lopsided!! It is not unusual for one side to “sprout” before the other. Sometimes one breast will bud and the other is months behind. All of this is normal. 

While a lump in the breast is concerning in women reassure your daughter that this is not breast cancer (happy that they are so aware) but a normal part of body changes that happen to all girls as they enter adolescence.   Breast budding does not mean that their period is around the corner either, and periods usually start at least 2 years after breast budding (often longer).

Breast buds have also been known to come and go, again not to worry. But at some point the budding will actually progress to breast development and the continuing changes of the breast during puberty.

Reassurance is really all you need and if your daughter is self-conscious this is a good time to start them wearing a light camisole of “sports bra.”  

Daily Dose

Birthmarks

1:15 to read

Many years ago when children asked their parents “where did I come from?” they answered “the stork brought you”.  The picture of the stork’s beak holding on to the baby’s neck and flying to drop the baby on the new parent’s doorstep was known by all….but things change and that visual is not known by my newest parents.  In fact they look at me with completely blank stares when I discuss the birthmark on the nape of their child’s neck.

But the term “stork bite” comes from that old story, and the red birthmark seen on up to 50% of babies necks is also called nevus flammeus or nevus simplex. They are flat, pink and irregularly shaped and while they occur most commonly on the nape of the neck, they are common on the forehead, eyelids and above the upper lip as well. They are due to capillaries close to the skins surface. The stork bites on the face typically fade over time while the ones on the nape of the neck may continue to be present but are obscured and typically forgotten once the baby has hair. Many people are not even aware that they themselves have one.

When I am doing a newborn exam I see so many of these little “flat red patches” that I often to forget to bring them up as they are small and typically fade….but sometimes a parent will specifically ask about them. After I apologize for not bringing it up….as I know they are small and fade, but they are concerned,  I tell them that they are “stork bites” and get that blank look.  Then I launch into the etiology for the name etc. But, things are getting ready to change as STORKS a new animated movie is just bring released.  The old myth of the stork is making a come back!

So…if your baby has this small birthmark, no need to worry.  Be assured that most will fade but if they have not resolved by the age of 3 or 4 years, there are now lasers available to treat them.

In the meantime..take your family to see "STORKS" so they are aware of where “you used to come from”!  We can still tell our children the myth of the stork and then make sure to discuss the truth about “where did I come from?”. 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Off The Grid

1:30 to read

As the summer is coming to a close and school is starting in the next few weeks, I am doing a lot of check ups, especially the tweens and teens who are getting ready for school sports.  I have been asking all of them about their summers…camp, vacations, volunteer work, travel….and interestingly many of them commented about being without their electronics for one reason or another. (In several cases their parents were insistent that the family “go off the grid” for their vacation, while some went to camp where they were not allowed to have electronics, while a few others were in such remote places the internet was just not available.)

So, what did they have to say about putting up their cell phones and laptops….surprisingly, many of them ended up liking it!!  Now they did say that the whole “idea” of no electronics put them in a total tailspin… but, after a few days of not reaching for the ubiquitous cell phone every 30 seconds to check for texts, and not feeling as if they had to take a “selfie” of every moment to share with their friends, the whole experiment (whether forced or not) ending up being quite freeing!!

Lots of the teens began to talk to their friends or family, that is in language and conversation using spoken words…no typing, and how personal it seemed. The entire family at times was engaged in conversation about many topics where everyone was talking together and not isolated by the screen and individual texts.  Lots of my patients said that they enjoyed the scenery without feeling as if they had to document each minute with their camera phone…but rather just take in their surroundings through their own lens….making it seem even more memorable.

Many of the teens also worked on their summer reading with less stress, as they read throughout the summer and actually “enjoyed” reading…and did not find themselves trying to read 500-600 pages in the 2 nights before school started. Some even remarked that they had missed reading books and having the quiet time.

All in all they did say that as difficult as it is to “disconnect” it is probably a good thing once in awhile. They were not giving up their cell phones (CRAZY IDEA), but they did realize that they may spend and excessive amount of time trying to stay connected, when they are really not connected at all.

So….let’s all try to commit to cutting back on electronics for the school year and going back to some basics…conversation, family meals, reading at bedtime (not on electronics ) and no screens in the bedroom….agreed?

 

 

 

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

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.

 
Daily Dose

Read To Your Kids

1:30 to read

I know that there seems to be a “national” day for almost everything these days…we just celebrated National Dog Day! (who doesn’t love a dog…but not all families want, have space or  extra income to care for a dog). But there is one thing all parents can do and celebrate very day regardless of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or geographic location…they can read to their child in the first 5 years of life (and maybe even longer!) 

Try reading to your child 15 minutes a day. The benefits are endless!  Seems like an easy enough “to do” and something that all parents can start from the time their baby is an infant. Newborns need to hear their parents voices and  language early on as a baby’s brain grows exponentially and will actually double in size in the first year of life alone.

A recent study conducted by You.Gov for the Read Aloud Campaign found that only about 46% of parents read aloud with their child every day and only 34% do so for the recommended 15 minutes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also recommended that all children, beginning at birth, are read to every day. In another survey while six in 10 ( 62%) of parents admit to receiving advice to read aloud to their child only 8% actually followed through.  When asked why they have not read to their child parents site “I can’t find the time in the day”, while over half of the parents surveyed say “their child watches TV or uses a tablet at home rather than being read to”. Some parents say, “their child won’t sit still” to be read aloud to.  But if you realized the head start you are giving your child….could you find the time?

Scientists know that a baby’s and toddler’s brain is making huge connections among the 100 billion neurons they are born with.  By the age 3 there will be about 1,000 trillion connections between those neurons.  These are also the critical years in the development of a child’s language skills.   A child will quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1 and 2 years.  Yes, they will mimic everything….even words you wished they had not heard so be careful.

Reading aloud is one of the single most important things a parent or caregiver can do to help a child prepare for learning.  Children who have been exposed to books while listening and reading daily with a parent get a head start in language and literacy skills.  Unfortunately,  more than one in three children begin kindergarten without the necessary skills of listening and learning.  Some are at such a disadvantage that they may not be able to “catch up”.

So, I find myself giving books as baby gifts more and more these days - as who doesn’t have a favorite book or two that make timeless gifts (that may even be passed on to the next generation).  Nursery rhymes, Good Night Moon, Pat the Bunny are a few of my favorites as well as all books by Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. 

So make it a new habit whether your child is 1 day, 1 month, 1 year or older….read aloud 15 minutes a day and before you know it your child will be reading to you!!!

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”.   

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

What is baby led weaning when it comes to first foods?

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