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Daily Dose

New Iron Recommendations for Children

A new study says many U.S. children are iron deficient. How much iron do children need to stay healthy? New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.An article released in the journal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition, sets new guidelines for iron intake in infants and children.  The news is not good.  According to Dr. Frank Greer, who is the co-author of the report, “iron deficiency remains common in the United States”.

The effects of being iron deficient not only cause anemia, but may also cause “long term  irreversible effects on children’s cognitive and behavioral development.  Because of these findings it is imperative that adequate iron is provided in infancy and early childhood. Studies have shown that 4 percent of 6 month olds, and 12 percent of 12 month olds are iron deficient.  Children between the ages of 1-3 years of age have rates of iron deficiency between 6-15 percent. Preterm infants, infants who are exclusively breastfed and infants who are at risk for developmental disabilities seem to be at higher risk to develop iron deficiency. The committee recognized that the ideal way to prevent iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia would be with a diet consisting of foods that are naturally rich in iron, but realized that in some cases “children will still need liquid iron supplements or chewable vitamins to get the iron they need. The AAP guidelines now recommend that: 1.  Term healthy babies that are exclusively breast fed should receive an iron supplement (1 mg per day) beginning at 4 months of age 2.  Whole milk should not be started until 12 months of age 3.  Infants 6–12 months of age need 11 mg of iron per day, which should be met via the use of “complementary” foods.  Red meat and vegetables with high iron content should be introduced early, as well as the use of iron fortified cereals. 4.  Toddlers ages 1-3 years need 7 mg of iron per day, and again this is best if iron comes from foods. 5.  Children should have their hemoglobin checked sometime between 9–12 months of age, and again between 15-18 months of age, and follow-up for iron deficiency treatment and testing is recommended 6.  Children who do not meet their iron needs via foods should receive a daily iron supplement The article contains a table which shows many foods from each food group that are good sources of iron.  Foods like meat, shellfish, beans, iron fortified cereals, and fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C (which aids in iron absorption) are all encouraged. Thanks to my mother, I have always known that liver is a good source of iron (never my favorite dinner as a child), but who would have known that clams and oysters are also high in iron.  While oatmeal is a good iron source, molasses is also high in iron.  Tofu and wheat germ are also high in iron, as are edema me beans, which many kids love. By getting creative with foods that are high in iron beginning early in a child’s life, iron deficiency may be avoided.  You never know what your child will eat, unless you try it! That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Common Newborn Questions Answered!

Dr. Sue answers common questions about newborn babies.Well, it seems like it takes more than one column to discuss the first days home with a newborn baby.  After discussing the nuances of breast feeding, there are also many questions regarding all of the noises that babies make.

Everyone thinks that infants are pretty quiet, that is until you sleep with a newborn in the bassinet right next to your bed.  Newborns are noisy!!  They not only cry (that is a whole other topic) but they squeak, grunt, stretch, yawn, have weird breathing noises, hiccup and pass tons of gas. (Dad’s are so cute when they say, “there is something wrong with my baby girl as she FARTS and it stinks, this can’t be normal?”) The first thing that many parents will notice is that their infant has “weird” breathing patterns. The baby seems to take some rapid breaths and then pauses and it looks like “they have stopped breathing” for a few seconds, and then resumes their more normal breathing.   This is called periodic breathing and is quite normal for the first few weeks of a baby’s life.  I swear only first time parents notice this, as you have the time to watch your precious baby and count their breaths. Every subsequent baby in the family is equally loved, but is typically not under the microscope like a first born and we only notice that they are ‘’’breathing”.  As an infant matures so does the breathing pattern and the respiratory rate becomes more rhythmic. If your baby has any color changes, i.e  turns dusky, or blue with their breathing that is a cause for immediate concern and a call to the doctor or 911. Another common concern is often how many times a day a baby will hiccup. If you remember, the baby often hiccupped in utero, and this too continues after they are born. Babies seem to hiccup for an inordinate amount of time, which bothers parents, but usually seems not to faze the baby at all. It is fine to try and give your newborn water if they are hiccupping and it is really bothering either you or them, but is not necessary.  Just like an infant’s startle (Moro) reflex, babies seem to get the hiccups when they are younger and they slow down as the baby’s nervous system matures.  A baby may hiccup for minutes to an hour and then just stop and fall asleep, oblivious to the concern that this event has caused their parents. Babies also make a lot of stretching and grunting and groaning noises, and are perfectly comfortable.  But these noises will awaken a sleeping parent.  If your baby is not crying during all of these noises, I would not pick he/she up, but would wait to see if they then go back to sleep. Some of these noises occur even while a baby is sound asleep. In this case the adage, “never wake a sleeping baby” is good advice.  These noises do not necessarily mean a baby needs to eat, especially if you think they may have just eaten an hour ago. Again, your baby should not appear in any distress or have color changes, they are just noisy! Lastly, GAS!  All babies have gas, and no one knows that until they have cared for a newborn.  It does not matter if a baby is breast or bottle fed, they produce gas, and it is loud and may be stinky. I think that infants produce more gas in the first 3-4 months of life than they will again until they are old (grandparents age, ask them). It seems like so many things occur both early and later in life, and gas is just one example. As a newborn’s GI tract matures, they seem to produce less gas, and are also often more comfortable after a feeding. When a baby is “gassy” they often like to have movement, so they like to be rocked, or put on their tummy and patted (only if awake, never to sleep), and they may enjoy the swing, or the motion of riding in a car, or putting the infant seat on top or a vibrating washing machine or dryer.  There are many “home remedies” but maturation of the GI tract just takes time. In most cases, changing an infant’s formula or a mother’s diet will not change the gas, but many people will try it. Remember, this too shall pass! 
(no pun intended) That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Get Your Toddlers Walking!

With childhood obesity numbers rising, get your toddlers out of a stroller and walking!I walked into our office waiting room recently and was shocked at how crowded it was!! It really wasn’t that there were that many patients waiting, but it was the fact that there were about 6 “triple wide” strollers holding children of various ages who were being wheeled in and parked in the waiting room.

Not one toddler was walking or even standing!! I had a huge epiphany, children don’t walk anymore!! So, after looking out at the parking lot in our waiting room, I watched as these strollers maneuvered around hallways and doors as mothers brought their children to an exam room. Now, I must tell you, these children were not infants, or even new walkers. They were not twins or triplets either. These strollers were often holding a 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old, all being pushed toward their destination. In many cases, the older children were playing with a Nintendo DSL or their mother’s iPhone oblivious to the fact that their mother was struggling to push the “wide load” down the hallway.  It was reminiscent of a Cleopatra movie, while she was being carried eating grapes! I know I'm showing my age, but what happened to the day that the baby was in a stroller while the parent held the older children’s hands as they walked into our office, or a store or a restaurant. You may have even tried to maneuver around one of these mega strollers while shopping alone.  They take up entire aisles and should have to have a “wide load” sign with flashing lights. Not only are they a “road hazard” I think that they promote inactivity. Knowing that we have a terrible problem with childhood obesity, it seems that these” strollers on steroids”, only help promote inactivity. Not only are these toddlers and young children not walking on their own, they are missing out on many learning opportunities.  How many times do you remember saying or hearing,  “hold my hand” before you started walking through grocery store the parking lot?  How about “we have to stop and look both ways” as you came up to an curb or intersection.  If there were more than 1 or 2 children it was not uncommon to hear “hold your brother’s hand and he will hold my hand and we will all walk together”. These are important skills/lessons for a child to learn as they begin to establish some independence and autonomy.  You have to learn to ”run before you walk” and you have to learn how to navigate on your own by following simple “rules of the road” for safety, all of which needs to be achieved under a parent’s watchful eye during those early childhood years. These skills cannot be mastered when you are being “wheeled” around town without the need to pay attention to what is happening around you. At the same time that a child is inactive in the stroller, they are often eating cookies, goldfish, cheerios or granola bars and drinking from the sippy cup which is conveniently strapped to the side of their seat.  The combination of inactivity and snacking cannot be a positive way to promote a healthy lifestyle. I challenge mothers and fathers to get their children back on terra firma, and to hold hands and walk with their children rather than push those heavy children around. (can’t be good for the parent’s backs either).  Talk about where you are going, what you see along the way, and practice your child’s listening skills and following directions.  Return the mega stroller to the store and get those toddlers and pre-schoolers some good walking shoes! What do you think?  Send me your comments! That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your comment or question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

When to Start Baby Food in Infants

I get numerous questions everyday from parents who are eager to start your-baby foods in their infants. It seems that there are a lot of “myths” about starting foods, things like “your your-baby will sleep through the night after you start your-baby food”, “it is important to start your-baby food sooner than later”, and “just put rice cereal in their bottles”.

The recommendation from the AAP is to begin your-baby food, typically rice cereal when your infant is between five and six months of age. An infant does not need any other nutrition besides breast or formula in the first six months. There are plenty, if not the majority of babies who will have been sleeping through the night long before beginning cereal, so there is no correlation between sleep and introducing your-baby food. The other thing that you will notice is that infants have a prominent tongue thrust in the first four and five months of life, so they are pushing things out of their mouths (like the pacifier we have discussed previously) and don’t do well with a spoon feeding until they are a little older. There is no magic to beginning cereal and you always want to start something new when your your-baby is in a good mood. This is often in the morning, a short while after having their morning bottle or breastfeeding. Think of it like having your cup of coffee and then having breakfast a little later on. I think it is easiest to feed a your-baby from their high chair, and by this age they are able to sit fairly well in the chair with a back supporting them. Mix a couple of tablespoons of rice cereal in a small bowl and with formula/breast milk to the consistency of cereal you would eat off of a spoon, not too thick, not too runny, but “just right”. As you start spoon feeding your your-baby their body language will tell you how much to feed them, let them lead the dance, a few bites to start or more if they want. There is no magic to first feedings, some babies take to it quickly and others take a few days or weeks to get used to spoon-feeding. Don’t be frustrated or worried if it takes awhile for your your-baby to get the hang of it, the adage “try, try again” comes to mind. Next step veggies, but more about that another time. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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Daily Dose

Toddler Day at the Office

Today seemed to be "toddler" day in the office and I was just amazed that the questions from room to room and morning to afternoon were essentially all the same. Forget that these were all different kids with different parents; the concerns were echoed from room to room.

  1. He/she doesn't eat: Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters and they also are smart enough to self-regulate. In other words, they only eat when hungry (such a novel idea to us adults, as I sit here eating a four-day-old cupcake just because it was there). If you provide your toddler with a balanced meal three times a day, they may choose to eat it or not, but I promise you they will not starve. Toddlers seem to grow and gain weight on air alone, and they also really only eat once a day, and pick at the other meals. Who needs a trainer when you know when to stop? A parent's job is to provide the healthy, well-balanced meals and the child will learn to eat a wide variety of foods, over many years. No need to bribe, scream, beg or feel guilty.
  2. Toddlers hit/bite/spit/pinch/pull hair. You fill in the blank. This is what I call "age appropriate, in-appropriate behavior." We all go through this as parents, some more than others. But this is also the time to begin teaching your toddler appropriate expectations as to playing, sharing, and the social graces. Correct your child when they misbehave. Begin time-out and consequences. Learn to get on your child's level to redirect inappropriate behaviors. Use a firm voice when talking told a child about their behavior, no need to scream or yell, but voice inflection is important as your child learns to listen to you.
  3. Sleep is also a big concern, and most toddlers should be sleeping alone at night. Have a set bedtime and bedtime routine and begin a sticker chart for good bedtime behavior and for staying in their bed.

The toddler years are some of the most important for a child's development and long term well being. Start young, if not it only gets harder. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Cut Soda to Fight Childhood Obesity

Getting rid of sugar-laden drinks and replacing them with water has a dramatic impact on the amount of calories children consume and could help in the fight against childhood obesity. Researchers from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York found that children get 10 to 15 percent of the daily caloric intake from empty calories.

"The key observation is that when kids substitute sugar-sweetened beverages with water, there is a significant decline in total energy intake without any compensatory increase in the consumption of other beverages or food," said Dr. Y. Claire Wang. Dr. Wang also noted that substituting calorie-free beverages "is a simple and effective way of eliminating the excess calories while improving the diet quality." Sugar-sweetened beverages "should be viewed as treats, not necessities, and water is a perfect substitute for the purpose of thirst-quenching," Wang said. Wang and her colleagues looked at diet data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Survey of over 4,000 children aged two to 19 years. They found that substituting sugar-sweetened beverages with water was associated with significant reductions in total calories consumed. Wang and colleagues estimate that replacing all sugary drinks with water could cut out an average of 235 calories out of kids' diets each day. Since the late 1970s, consumption of sugary drinks by children and adolescents has increased "substantially," and is thought to be "an important contributing factor to obesity," the researchers point out in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. "Replacing these liquid calories with calorie-free beverage alternatives therefore represents a key strategy to eliminate excess calories and to prevent obesity in childhood," they conclude.

Daily Dose

Don't Give-In To Picky Eating

I am trying to clean up my desk and I have been looking through stacks of pediatric articles that I felt were really interesting.

An article by Dr. Barbara Howard entitled “Three Magic Words Offer Food for Thought” made a wonderful point regarding family meals and eating habits. She states that one of the best questions to ask a child during a “well-child” visit only requires three words, but offers so much insight into a family’s interactions. What are the magic words? “How are your meals?” I know you know how much I believe in, and promote, families eating together. There has been a lot of data substantiating the many positive side effects that stem from family meals. You can look at some of the studies by going to The Promoting Family Meals Project, http://www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFP/promotingfamilymeals. Not only does eating together as a family help improve food choices which may help prevent obesity, it also leads to children who have improved vocabulary and language skills, social skills and manners. Family meals have also been shown to lessen the chance of risk taking behaviors in adolescents. There has also been an association with fewer eating disorders among adolescents who have regular family meals. So, when I ask children about their meals, I also get parental feedback. The biggest complaint is that their children are “picky eaters”. Many children and parents will say that they don’t eat together as a family as everyone eats something different. I don’t think being a “short order cook” is a job requirement of any parent. Social worker Ally Slater, delineates parent’s responsibilities with regard to food as “what, when and where” while leaving children, “how much and whether”. I love that!! Parents control the grocery cart, meal and snack choices and food offerings on the plate. It is nice to always offer at least one food that most family members like. Once that food is offered and we are gathered together to eat, parents need to back off. Is that easier said than done? Maybe in the beginning, but over time it actually simplifies family life. I think it is really fairly easy if you “buy into” the idea of family meals and know that children will make better and wider food choices if given that opportunity. It may take up to 100 times, and many months for your child to try different foods, but eventually you will be pleased that you have a child who is a healthy eater, and who also enjoys a wide variety of foods. Trust me, your children when raised this way, really turn out to be great eaters as adolescents and young adults.  I think my boys are less “picky” than I am! (No sushi for me). Make family meal time a priority. Your children will respect the rules, learn table manners, and enjoy dinnertime conversation, while eventually developing a more mature palate. It just takes time. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Diagnosing Celiac Disease

How do you diagnose celiac disease. I received an email via our iPhone App from a mother who was concerned because her 2 year old son had skinny arms and legs, but a “big tummy” and she thought this might be a symptom of celiac disease.  Most toddlers have “big tummies” even if they are skinny kids as their abdominal musculature (future 6 pack) is not developed.

I often have questions from concerned parents whose children are growing perfectly normally, but their “belly sticks out”.  This is often a comment made about little girls (gender specific concerns already!) and I tell the parents that there are not many toddlers that don’t have protuberant little tummies. If you go to the pool in the next several months, check out the baby pool,  as this is not a good age to wear a bikini or “speedo” with that big tummy pushing down the bottoms,   save that look for later on. Now, what do you typically look for in  child who you suspect might have celiac disease?  Celiac disease typically causes failure to thrive in young children. I know this well,  as I got this question wrong on my oral boards many years ago, and have spent the last 20 years making sure never to miss a case. (maybe I should leave that little tidbit out?) At any rate, you see symptoms like persistent diarrhea, weight loss or failure to gain weight, a large protuberant abdomen, and a lack of appetite (no, being a picky eater does not count).   Because celiac disease is an auto-immune disease where the body responds abnormally to a protein (gluten) found in foods like wheat,  rye, barley and many other prepared foods, it differs from a food allergy.  A food allergy typically causes symptoms like hives, wheezing or vomiting. The first step in testing for possible celiac disease will be a blood test on your child.  This will show if there are elevated levels of antibodies, called tissue-trans-glutaminase (tTG), in the blood. If a child has high levels of these antibodies (tTG), then a biopsy of the small intestine may be taken to confirm the diagnosis. A small bowel biopsy is done while a child is sedated, through an endoscope, and actually takes a small piece of the lining of the intestine to see if the villi are flattened and damaged.  The gluten in the diet of a child with celiac disease causes these changes to the intestine, and once gluten is removed from the diet the villi will return to normal and normal absorption of food will take place. If a child is confirmed to have celiac disease (which is as lifelong problem) they have to remain on a gluten free diet, which means restricting many foods and drinks.  A gluten free diet, while seemingly difficult to adhere to at first, will allow the child to grow and develop normally and your child will typically have more energy and feel better in general.  After being on a gluten free diet another blood test may be done to confirm that the tTG level has come down. With the advent of more gluten free products it has become easier for parents and children to follow a gluten free diet. There are many websites that help teach a family to read labels (similar to those with a food allergy) and to also provide resources for recipes or products that are gluten free. Although I continue to look for a patient with celiac disease, I have yet to diagnose one, and remember to consider the diagnosis in any child who is having “failure to thrive”. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send Dr. Sue your question now!

Daily Dose

Don't Give In To Picky Eating

2.00 to read

I am trying to clean up my desk and I have been looking through stacks of pediatric articles that I felt were really interesting.

An article by Dr. Barbara Howard entitled “Three Magic Words Offer Food for Thought” made a wonderful point regarding family meals and eating habits. She states that one of the best questions to ask a child during a “well-child” visit only requires three words, but offers so much insight into a family’s interactions. What are the magic words? “How are your meals?” I know you know how much I believe in, and promote, families eating together. There has been a lot of data substantiating the many positive side effects that stem from family meals.

You can look at some of the studies by going to The Promoting Family Meals Project, http://www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFP/promotingfamilymeals. Not only does eating together as a family help improve food choices which may help prevent obesity, it also leads to children who have improved vocabulary and language skills, social skills and manners.

Family meals have also been shown to lessen the chance of risk taking behaviors in adolescents. There has also been an association with fewer eating disorders among adolescents who have regular family meals. So, when I ask children about their meals, I also get parental feedback. The biggest complaint is that their children are “picky eaters”. Many children and parents will say that they don’t eat together as a family as everyone eats something different. I don’t think being a “short order cook” is a job requirement of any parent.

Social worker Ally Slater, delineates parent’s responsibilities with regard to food as “what, when and where” while leaving children, “how much and whether”. I love that!! Parents control the grocery cart, meal and snack choices and food offerings on the plate. It is nice to always offer at least one food that most family members like. Once that food is offered and we are gathered together to eat, parents need to back off. Is that easier said than done? Maybe in the beginning, but over time it actually simplifies family life.

I think it is really fairly easy if you “buy into” the idea of family meals and know that children will make better and wider food choices if given that opportunity. It may take up to 100 times, and many months for your child to try different foods, but eventually you will be pleased that you have a child who is a healthy eater, and who also enjoys a wide variety of foods. Trust me, your children when raised this way, really turn out to be great eaters as adolescents and young adults. I think my boys are less “picky” than I am! (no sushi for me).

Make family meal time a priority. Your children will respect the rules, learn table manners, and enjoy dinnertime conversation, while eventually developing a more mature palate. It just takes time.

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

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