Daily Dose

Kids & Bedtimes

1.30 to read

As the summer winds down, my office is bust with back to school check-ups.  During these exams, I find myself asking a lot of questions related to a child’s sleep routines. Over the years I have always asked about sleep, and for so many  parents it is one of their main concerns.  

But what I have noticed is it seems children are going to bed later and later. I know the summer months are less scheduled for many families and children tend to get out of routines, but never the less, when I routinely ask, “during the school year what time does your child go to bed at night?” I am surprised by some of the answers.  And I am not talking about teens either, this is mainly the 5-13 year old set. (I do think teens need bedtime guidelines as well, that is a different discussion). 

As a working parent I totally understand and empathize with how busy the evenings are. I tell new parents that the evening hours between 6-9 pm are often the “witching hours” for newborns but I also see these same “crazy hours”  for most families once their children get to be school aged. (is this why cocktail hour was invented?)  It is the time of day for after school activities, homework to be done, dinners to be cooked and children to be bathed. Add in bedtime stories and/or reading by your child and it is CRAZY....but even so children need to have bedtimes appropriate for their ages.

Hearing that 5 year olds go to bed at 9 pm or that 10 year olds are up until 10 or 11 pm not only makes me tired but worries me as well that these children are not getting enough sleep. And the statement from frazzled parents, “they just won’t go to bed” makes me know just how important early good sleep habits are. Bedtime is a statement not a question!

While some children are just natural sleepers, others can be more difficult, but I am convinced that early good sleep habits help all children to be better and more independent sleepers.  Self soothing begins in infancy, but self calming and sleeping in your own bed is an important milestone as well. A child who awakens every night and ends up sleeping in their parents bed is disrupting both their sleep and their parents, which leads to irritable, unfocused and tired children and adults.

So, this seems to be a good time to re-look at bedtimes and adjust accordingly for your child’s age.  Once you get a good routine going, good habits are easy to continue.  

Daily Dose

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

1.00 to read

I get asked the questions a lot "At what age can I leave my child home alone?"  There is no simple answer but a progressibe one.

I tend to think most children are ready to spend 20-30 minutes alone at home between the ages of 10-11, but every child is different.  It depends on a number of things including how your child feels about being alone, the length of time, and if you and your child have discussed how to handle emergencies and getting a hold of you or a neighbor in case there is an emergency or even just a question that needs to be answered.  

Well, this topic brought up an interesting question, what do you do when you leave your child alone and there is not a home phone?  I have never even given that a thought as I am “old school” and still have that landline in my house. It just gives me a “good feeling” to know that it is there, even if it rarely rings. (although the kids know to call the home number as I typically turn off the cell as soon as I hit the door from work).   

More and more families have given up a home phone and I think this brings up so many different topics for discussion, but for starts how does your child call you when you leave them alone?  Or how do they call the trusty neighbor if they need something.  Do you get them a cell phone? Do you have to have an extra cell phone to have at home?  It seems to me that a home phone is important for just that reason. In case of an emergency, your child can pick up the phone and call for help, assistance or just a friendly voice. I don’t think they need a cell phone!  

Also, landlines are relatively inexpensive. Cell phones for 8,10, 11 year olds?  Sounds inappropriate and expensive.  Wouldn’t it be easier to keep a home phone so children can learn to answer a phone, use good phone manners, and when you are ready to let them stay at home by themselves for a few minutes, there is always a phone available. I don’t know, just seems easy solution to me.    

What do you think? I would love to hear from you!

 

Daily Dose

No More Food Battles

1.30 to read

Seems that I spend several times a day discussing “food battles” with my patients and their families.  I guess the longer I practice the more I don’t think we should even have to discuss how often parents “battle” with their kids about eating.  

From the early days of parenting when a baby is first offered either breast or formula, they are not asked “do you like this?”.  It is taken for granted that an infant will eat and grow and  there you have it.  The easiest days of parenting, correct? (except for a few months of sleep deprivation).  But once that baby begins to eat the discussions start about “he makes a face when he eats spinach”, or “she will only eat chicken tenders from Chik-fil-a”, or “he only likes pasta and won’t eat meat”, or even “I make 3 diferent meals for my 3 kids”.  If you have a child older than 9 months you understand what I am talking about. 

Food is necessary to nutrition, growth and health. But, with that being said, parents have to trust that a child WILL EAT when they are hungry.  Really, hunger drives us all to eat, eventually.  That bowl or cereal, or the steamed vegetables or even the dreaded chicken breast will get eaten if your child gets hungry enough. I remember reading somewhere that , “ a parent’s job is to provide food for their children at appropriate meal times, and child’s job is to decide if they will eat it.”  In other words, make the meal whether for your toddler or teen and “forget about it”.  Meal time needn’t be a battle but more a gathering to enjoy being together eating is just a bonus.  

As an adult, when you go to a dinner party, you don’t ask what they are serving before you accept, nor do you tell the host/hostess, I hate lamb!!  (my example).  You just smile and find something to eat and there is not a battle.  We all need to approach family meals as a dinner party. Our children are our guests, and sometimes they like what we fix and other times they push some food around their plate and choose not to eat.  The good news for most children is that there is another meal to follow. 

So, think about it and don’t let certain food likes and dislikes dictate mealtime. The more foods young children are exposed to the better chance they have of EVENTUALLY becoming a well rounded eater.  Children’s taste buds change with time as well, so you will find some foods that a 3 year old loved is no longer the favorite at 13 years of age.   

Well balanced, nutritious, colorful meals are the family goal and “food battles” can be left out of the vocabulary.   

Daily Dose

No Power, No Problem

1.30 to read

t has been a really crazy two week around Dallas.  Not only did we have the first Ebola case, we were hit with thunderstorms which resulted in many homes without power, including mine. I quickly learned a lot about living without power, and just how much we depend on technology.

Of course I was on call so I needed to have the cell phones charged and after a night of darkness and sleeping with windows open hoping for cooler temps, (which did occur)I realized that my phones were almost dead, and how do you take all without a cell phone?   So where do you head?  Straight to Starbucks for coffee and power....somehow my nearby Starbucks had power.  After an hour of charging and waiting for the sun to come up I returned home to get ready for a day of rounds and office patients.   I did try to navigate flashlights all over the floor to try and shower in the dark, trust me.....not a good idea.

While over 300,000 households in Dallas didn’t have power one of  the most interesting lessons I learned was how different generations “cope” without power. Both of my sons were also without power and the oldest has the sweet newborn (my first grand baby!) so they too were navigating in the dark. They had to deal with breast pumps, diaper wipe warmers, video cameras and baby monitors that would not work. Somehow they managed to learn about parenting with only the basics and as they said, “you can hear the baby cry without a monitor”.   Back to basics.  After they spent a night without power they encamped to our house as we had our power was restored before theirs.  What a treat to have them and that precious baby with us for 2 days! Pure joy to get to pamper that sweet grand daughter.

The youngest son was also without power and he said he had “nothing to do” when he got home from work as he is so tech reliant. I told him that I had gone to bed in the dark and had read the newspaper by flashlight...and he just laughed!  What newspaper or book? No paper at his house...he gets it all on line. When the power eventually returned he found himself with lights but no internet service so he came over to hang at our house. No, not to see his parents, but to use the internet! Oh well, at least he was home for a few hours.

Tonight, power back on for all and the house is again quiet and I am back “online”. 

Daily Dose

Are Parents Too Connected?

1.30 to read

Has your spouse, babysitter or other child care provider ever called you to come home “because the baby is crying”?  It seems that technology, which is readily at our finger tips 24/7, has created yet another dilemma - what to do if a baby is crying? 

Pre-cell phone days, there really was not much to do if you the parent left home and your baby/child started crying.  Outside of calling the restaurant, store, movie theater (directly), and asking them to page a parent, most of us just muddled through a crying child.  I also think that in most cases, said child eventually stopped crying (unless there was an obvious reason that could be “fixed”) and by the time you the parent returned home, all was typically well.  

But now, with a cell phone in every hand, it only takes one call to summon the parent of a crying child.  I think this is a good news/bad news dilemma.  The good news is: parents may feel more comfortable leaving their child with a babysitter, knowing that they may be reached in the event of an emergency.  The bad news is:  is a baby or child who is only crying, typically an emergency?  Depends on your definition. 

The reason I bring this up is that I often hear young parents, and especially mothers, tell me that during the first several months of their infant’s life, they cannot leave the house for more than minutes, before being called home....because the baby is crying.  Some of these mothers are really “stressed out and exhausted” and need a bit of a get-away to “re-boot”. I am not talking about a trip to the day spa. I am simply talking about an hour or 2 to go to the store or meet a friend for lunch or just sit alone in the park and read a book.  Just a bit of quiet after being home with a baby day in and day out for the first 4 weeks of their newborn’s life.  If you have been there you understand. 

But, now that they have a cell phone, there is CONSTANT communication.  The minute the baby cries, the cell phone rings....”the baby is CRYING, come home.”  My husband would tell you that his best parenting started the first time I left him alone with our first son and I actually went away for the weekend.  (I believe the baby was 6 or 7 weeks old and off I went breast pump in hand to a reunion.)  No cell phones then, and guess what, he did a great job!!!!  He told me how after the first 24 hours he figured out that he really didn’t have to have the baby in the bathroom with him in order to take a shower. He later told me that the first shower he took, not only was our son in the room in his “bouncy” chair, but he left the shower door open as the door got steamy and he couldn’t see the baby!! How cute is that. 

Technology, as wonderful as it is, may also enable us to “cop out” when things get a bit difficult.  That goes for parenting as well. 

Turnoff your phone off sometime and let the “other parent” or babysitter handle it for awhile. Being disconnected is NOT always a bad thing!

Daily Dose

Potty Questions Keep Coming

1.15 to read

Potty training always gets lots of questions and one of the most common is having a child who will "tinkle" in the potty but is not yet "pooping". When potty training all three of my boys, they all pooped later than they tinkled. I know some people disagree, but I certainly think I hear of more people who have to work a little harder and longer to get to pooping on the potty. It may be due to a toddler's fear of letting their poop go, or the difference in sensation with stooling or any number of issues that toddlers are working through as they are potty trained.

Whatever the reason for children who arenot wanting to poop, you have to continue to be patient and praise their success on the potty with urination. Continue to discuss poop within the family, and let your child see you going to the bathroom. Talk about how animals, birds, fish and people all poop and they don't do it in a diaper or underpants but in the potty. During all of this conversation (and while you are frustrated), make sure that your child is not holding stool and becoming uncomfortable, which only adds to anxiety and fear and further withholding poop. You might want to try putting your child on a prune juice cocktail, milk of magnesia, or Miralax to soften the stool and ensure that they are having a soft stool every couple of days. A toddler will often hold their stool until bedtime when they are in their diaper and will then poop or may ask for a diaper to poop during the day. This is not uncommon and usually does not last terribly long. If they want to poop in their diaper I would have them sit on the potty with a diaper and poop and then put them back in their training pants. I also praise and rewardthem for sitting on the potty to poop, even if it is in a diaper, and use a sticker chart or M&Ms or both. Hopefully, over time they will realize that sitting on the potty to poop is perfectly normal and will give up the diaper. You can even cut a hole in the diaper to let the stool come out into the potty so that they may see that it is not painful, scary or difficult. Always remember to praise and not punish and to be patient and consistent with your messages about poop. Rewards seem to go a long way, and albeit small, they often work wonders. It may take several months of persistence to conquer the poop issue, so remain calm. If they continue to have problems have a further conversation with your doctor about the possibility of stool holding and encopresis. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Prebiotics and Probiotics

2.00 to read

Lots of discussion about using prebiotics and probiotics in your child's diet. What is the difference between the two?There has been a lot of discussion lately (in both medical and lay literature) surrounding the use of prebiotics and probiotics.  The first question patients/parents often ask is what is the difference between the two “biotics”? Prebiotics are non-digestible nutrients that are found in foods such as legumes, fruits, and whole grains. They are also found in breast milk.  Prebiotics have also been called fermentable fiber. Once ingested, prebiotics may be used as an energy source for the good bacteria that live in the intestines. Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that you actually ingest. These bacteria then pass from the stomach into the intestine to promote “gut health”. The gut is full of bacteria and these are the “good bacteria”.  

There are currently hundreds of different probiotics being marketed. The research on the value of using prebiotics and probiotics has been ongoing, but there are actually very few randomized, double blind, controlled studies to document that pre and pro-biotics provide any true benefit to treat many of the diseases that they are marketed to treat. There are several areas where probiotics have been shown to be beneficial. By beginning probiotics early in the course of a viral “tummy infection” in children the length of diarrhea may be reduced by one day. Probiotics have also been shown to be moderately effective in helping to prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, but not for treatment of that diarrhea.

There are also studies that are looking at giving very low birth weight premies probitoics to help prevent a serious intestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis. To date there seems to be evidence to support this and there are currently more ongoing studies. Studies are also being done to look at the use of probiotics as an adjunct to the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, infantile colic, and chronic ulcerative colitis as well as to possibly prevent eczema.  While preliminary results are “encouraging” there is not enough evidence to date to support their widespread use. In the meantime, there are so many different products available.  Prebiotics and probiotics are now often found in dietary supplements as well as in yogurts, drink mixes and meal replacement bars. It is important to read the label to see if these products are making claims that are not proven such as, “protects from common colds”,  or “good bacteria helps heal body”.  Many of the statements seem too good to be true!

Until further studies are done there is no evidence that these products will harm otherwise healthy children, but at the same time there is not a lot of data to recommend them. They should never be used in children who are immunocompromised,  or who have indwelling catheters as they may cause infection. This is a good topic to discuss with your doctor as well.

Daily Dose

How is School Going?

1.15 to read

So with everyone back in school, I am already discussing “how is school going?” during my patients check ups. This question is great for kids from 5-18 years of age and you get various amounts of feedback depending on age and gender!  The elementary school set is usually talkative and goes into great detail about their teachers and classmates while most of my high school students just tell me their classes are “hard” and they are “busy and tired”.

The cutest comment came last week from an 8 year old little girl. She had only been in school a few days and when I asked her how it was going she said, “I am nervousited”.  What a great way to sum it all up! Of course she was both nervous and excited. A great way to sum up the start of school.

I think any of us at any age can understand being “nervousited”. The start of any new school year typically comes with excitement about the next grade, or a new school,  and a new teacher.  The start of school also makes many children, as well as their parents and teachers a bit nervous.  New friends to make, new expectations for the next grade level, new lockers....the list is very long for some.

But, I think we parents can help our kids to understand that being “nervousited” is normal and healthy.   Reassurance, good listening to our kids concerns and comments will make the new school year get off to a good start.

I must say I am still “nervousited” with the new TV show each week....but I am hopeful that it gets easier each week, right??  Stay tuned, will let you know if those butterflies go away in the next few months as I get used to this new gig...same as a new class. 

Daily Dose

Food in a Pouch

1:15

I have to tell you that I recently had the weirdest dream which was about children who were in a cafeteria in an elementary school and continued to eat pureed foods out of those pouches!  I woke up and realized I was dreaming....but about a topic that I had recently been discussing with several parents and children.

Those pureed pouches that came to market several years ago were meant as a new way to introduce pureed baby foods to....babies!!! But suddenly I see parents coming to my office giving these pouches of pureed foods to toddlers, pre-schoolers and now elementary students.  For many parents the ease in which they can offer fruits and veggies to their kids seems to be an answered prayer.

 It is important for children to learn about textures and chewing. Young children are first introduced to pureed foods to learn about different tastes as well as learning how to put new textures into their mouth.  But, with that being said, it is also important that children learn about “real” food as they get into the toddler years. 

Once a child is over the age of about 2 -3 years they start learning how to chew small pieces of food.  I always talk about avoiding choking hazards like nuts, hard candies, and foods that have not been cut up, but this age child should be eating table food and meals, just like their siblings and parents.  Hopefully this means a wide array of healthy foods: chicken, fish, beef, veggies, and fruits.  There really are no “forbidden foods”, but again watch for choking hazards.

I don’t think there are any recommendations that children should continue to squeeze pouches of pureed fruits and veggies into their mouths rather than learning how to use a spoon and fork and eat table food. Can you picture a dinner party with everyone with pouches on their plates...maybe astronauts in orbit.

Dentists are also concerned about all of the sugar in these pureed pouches and having the puree stick to children’s teeth rather than being washed down with saliva after chewing. These pouches are really just baby food in new packages and are not for older kids!  No need to buy these for your school aged child....pack some apples slices or carrot sticks and let them chew away.    

 

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Kids are too busy and it's curbing their development