Daily Dose

Head Flattening on the Rise!

1.15 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”.   

Daily Dose

Food Textures

1.30 to read

If you have a baby between the ages of 8-9 months and have already been offering them pureed baby foods it may be time to start some textures as well.  Many parents are a bit “wary” of offering any food that hasn’t been totally pureed, but it is important that your baby starts to experiment with foods that have different consistencies. 

Of course this does not mean you hand your baby anything that they could choke on like a grape, or piece of meat etc. But instead of totally pureeing carrots, why not cook them well, chop them up a bit and put them on the high chair tray. It is fun to watch how they touch and feel the carrots, before they “smoosh and moosh” them and get them to their mouths.   

There are so many foods that are easily offered to a baby to get them used to feeling different textures.  This is the very beginning of experimenting with finger foods, and this doesn’t just mean puffs or cheerios either. I like to encourage babies to feel cold, gooey, warm, sticky, all sorts of different textures which will ultimately help them become better and more adventuresome eaters as they get older.  

Unfortunately, I see far too many little ones (and not so little ones too) continuing to eat totally pureed foods and then becoming adverse to textures as they did not get the experience at an early enough age. 

It is also fun to watch your child as they begin to pick up foods that have been chopped and diced into small soft pieces. In the early stages they have to scoop and lick the food from their fingers and hands, but very quickly their pincer grasp takes over and suddenly they can pick up that well cooked green bean or pea!!  Such a feat and worthy of a home video to send to the grandparents for sure. 

So, put out some mushy food and let them play - I know it is messy but that is what being a kid is often about!

Daily Dose

New Test for Baby

1.30 to read

If you recently had a baby (or are getting ready to) you may have noticed another “test” being performed on your newborn before they leave the hospital. Earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the routine use of pulse oximetry to enhance detection of critical congenital heart disease.  

Critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) are serious structural heart defects that are often associated with decreased oxygen levels in infants in the newborn period. These heart defects account for about 17-31% of all congenital heart disease (or about 4,800 babies born each year in the U.S.)  

While some of these defects are found on pre-natal ultrasounds, and some may be evident immediately after birth when the pediatrician hears a murmur or the baby has difference in their pulses, others may not present until a baby is several hours - days of age.  Using pulse oximetry to measure a baby’s oxygen levels before they are discharged is just another method of screening a child, and if there are abnormalities a baby would undergo further evaluation with an echocardiogram and would see a pediatric cardiologist. 

Pulse oximetry is routinely used in all aspects of medicine these days and requires a simple non-invasive device that is placed on a babies finger or toe to measure the level of oxygen in the blood. (looks a little like ET device to light up a finger). It works by comparing the differences in red light, which is absorbed by oxygenated blood, and infrared light, which is absorbed by deoxygenated blood.  

In a large study just published in the journal Lancet (looking at over 230,000 newborns), simple pulse oximetry detected 76% of congenital heart defects, with only a rate of 0.14% false positive results. The risk of false positives was even lower than that when pulse ox was performed when the baby was over 24 hours of age. Pretty impressive! 

It has been estimated that about 280 infants with unrecognized CCHD are discharged from newborn nurseries each year. Congenital heart disease also accounts for somewhere between 3-  % of infant deaths. With early intervention and surgery the chance of survival from CCHD is greatly improved. 

So ask your pediatrician or obstetrician if they are doing routine pulse oximetry in your hospital nursery.

 

 

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

Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

1.15 to read

I get a lot of phone calls several days after parents head home with their newborn regarding their baby’s umbilical cord.  The umbilical cord really is the lifeline for the baby for 9 months, but once the baby is delivered, and the cord is clamped, it becomes a nuisance and “grosses” many parents out.  So often parents don’t even want to touch the cord and one of my patients told me....”why can’t it just dry up and fall off immediately?”. My only answer to that is, “God did not make it that way?”.

So, in a nutshell the umbilical cord is made up of 3 blood vessels, actually 2 arteries and one vein.  When the cord is cut and clamped the vessels begin to clot and eventually the cord detaches, typically in 7-14 days and then falls off.  

In the interim the cord is developing a scab so it may “ooze” a bit and there may even be dried blood on the baby’s diaper or around the edge of the cord.  A tiny bit of blood is to be expected, and parents don’t need to be worried that the baby is bleeding!!!  I like to explain that it is the first time as a parent that you might need to clean off a little blood, the same way that you will again when this sweet newborn becomes a toddler and falls down and skins their knee.

On occasion the hospital forgets to take the cord clamp off before the baby is discharged and the family comes in with the baby for their first visit with the cord clamp still on.  Poor parents have no idea that this is typically removed before discharge...somewhat like leaving the store with the magnetic tag on the outfit....just no alarm to let you know it is still there. In that case they are amazed when we pop off that yellow or blue plastic attached to their baby!

Lastly, the newborn baby can have some time on their tummy, if they are awake, even with the remnant of the cord still on. It will not hurt the baby at all and early tummy time is important...just NOT when a baby is sleeping!

I have to admit that I opened the baby book 30 years later and that dried umbilical stump was in there..Yes, I too was a first time mother.....don’t save it!

Daily Dose

Foods You Can Eat When Breast Feeding

1.30 to read

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

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

baby, breast feeding, Daily Dose, mom
Daily Dose

Over The Top Birthday parties

1.15 to read

Birthday parties are getting to be quite a big deal...even for a one year old. I have had several parents in with their children for their 1 year old check up and they often bring along birthday party pictures. WOW!

Some of these bashes look like they could be a swee” sixteen or a wedding.  No kidding. I thought I had hit the jackpot when I started printing birthday invitations on my color printer....but these days some of the invitations are printed and delivered to other “1 year olds” who I assume cannot read yet. Thankfully their parents are also included as +2. 

These parents are very clever and most of the parties had themes....with the invitation, cake and party favors all coordinating. Looked like a ton of work for the parents to put this all together. If anything, this is not a “last minute” event...lots of planning and executing. I wonder if second or third children have such elaborate “bashes”.

I know I seemed to be able to throw together a birthday party at the last minute when necessary, but I am sure that was for child number 2 or 3. My husband did remind me of our first child’s 1st birthday when we had many friends and their toddlers over. He also reminded me that it was about 110 degrees in June, and that we had a plastic baby pool that we put a bunch of hot sweaty kids in, with parents who wished that they could have fit as well.  Not sure where those pictures are.

But it seems that petting zoos, bounce houses (maybe for the adults), magicians, and even super heroes arrive to celebrate this latest group of 1 year olds.  There are themed cakes with a miniature one for the birthday child too so that they may fully indulge in their “first sweet” A few of my moms had gluten free cakes made, just because. There are often tons of gifts as well, but many parents are opting to then donate them to one of our local children’s hospitals....a wonderful idea.

Lastly, with all of the fancy new apps and iPhone photos, many of the parties look like they have been professionally photographed (some of course had been).  Some of the precious 1 year old birthday children even had several wardrobe changes to celebrate the big day (yes, those were mostly little girls), I guess to get an early start on future occasions like the wedding.

What do you think about first birthday parties... I just think it might be worth waiting till your child can appreciate it as well?

Daily Dose

Say No to Tanning Beds!

1.30 to read

I have previously discussed the importance of sunscreen but it is equally important to discuss the risk of artificial tanning and the use of tanning beds. I have emphasized that it is never too young to start using sunscreen, but for some reason teens think that tanning beds are a safe way to tan rather than going outside in the sun.

Not so.....tanning beds are using UVA radiation which can cause mutations in your DNA which can then lead to skin cancers. Dermatologists are seeing an increase in young women (who are more likely to use tanning booths) in their mid to late 20’s with  the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. Many of these women admit to frequent tanning during their teen age years.

Malignant melanoma is different than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma,  the other more common forms of skin cancer. Malignant melanoma may spread rapidly to internal organs and lymph nodes, and if not detected at an early stage,  may be fatal within months to years.

Young girls need to understand the risks of using a tanning bed and should be encourage to use a spray tan or a tan towel to achieve the “glow” that they are wanting. They need to understand the risks that are proven to be associated with tanning bed use. Many teens and young adults are using tanning beds that are provided at their dorms or apartments as well.

If there is a family history of melanoma or unusual moles then the risk may be greater to develop an atypical mole. Those young adults who have tanned need to be followed by a dermatologist who can examine their body head to toe and “map” their moles and identify any unusual moles. At the same time they may be educated as to how to follow their own moles and changes they should be aware of.  Do you know that melanomas may arise anywhere on the body, not only the sun exposed area!

Recent articles have shown that tanning beds may be associated with an increase in non melanoma skin cancers as well. While these lesions may take longer to develop, teens and young adults need to be aware of this risk as well.

The state of California has become quite progressive in advocating for the safety of children and their skin.  California recently passed a law that children under the age of 18 may no longer use tanning beds. Other states are looking at similar legislation. Makes sense to me!

So....... no suntanning and no tanning beds. Rub, wipe or spray on your tan or enjoy beautiful fair skin. Not only is it safer, you don’t have to worry about wrinkles later in life (trust me on this issue!)

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

Daily Dose

Jaundice in Your Bbay

1.30 to read

Newborn infants will often experience an elevation in their bilirubin (one mother thought it was “belly robin”) levels in the first several days after birth. This makes the baby appear to be yellow or jaundiced.  

Parents may hear their nurses discussing a baby’s TcB (transcutaneous bilirubin) level, and some nurses may even show parents the nomogram which the hospital uses to chart bilirubin levels.  It seems there is now a lot of anxiety among new parents about what this all means and in most cases the levels are to be totally expected.  I continue to think, “too much information for a brand new parent may be harmful to their health”. I want parents to be informed, but only if there is a problem. Is a bili of 7.4 really any different than 8.2?  Do you need to be up at night worrying about that? The answer is no - I will be up at night if necessary and let you know.   Knowing your baby’s hourly or daily TcB is not necessary and in fact, in my experience they often do not correlate with actual serum bilirubin levels.  

Newborn jaundice is due to the fact that infants break down red blood cells in the first several days after birth which causes the release of bilirubin. Bilirubin excretion is also facilitated by the liver, and just like everything else in a new baby....it isn’t in full working mode quite yet. It takes a few days for everything to kick start. At the same time a breast fed baby may be more likely to  get jaundiced  due to the fact that they often don’t pee and poop as much a formula fed baby....that all corrects itself once the mother’s milk is “in”. Lots of recent articles about this...be reassured.

If your baby does have a problem with higher bilirubin levels, which typically occur somewhere between days 2 -7, then your doctor may recommend phototherapy with special lights that help to breakdown the bilirubin in the skin. This may be done in the hospital or even at home under a contraption called a “bili -blanket”.  Once the bilirubin levels drop the lights are turned off!

But, what did our mother’s say long ago, “don’t ask for trouble”. Ask your doctor before you start to worry and remember a little yellow is to be expected.  

Here is a picture of one of my newborns in their bili -blanket at home! Looks pretty comfy to me.

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Why your kids need to drink milk.