Daily Dose

Fruits & Veggies in a Pouch

1.15 to read

OK, I am back to the subject of “squeeze pouch foods” or as another cute 2 1/2 year old called it “squeegy fruit”.  I have written about this before as I was fascinated by these when they first hit the market. On the one hand, I get that they are convenient and are easy to use for those first months of pureed baby foods, but beyond that, I think they are given to older children.  

It seems that more and more kids are enjoying “squeegy fruit” and also “slurping” pureed vegetables. The issue is these pouches foods are being “masqueraded” as healthy foods.  Yes, they are fruits and vegetables often mixed together, but if you read the labels it gets a bit more complicated.

I see so many toddlers in my office who are happily “sucking down” a packet of apples and blueberries.  These parents are adamant that their kids don’t drink juice boxes or eat “junk food” but at the same time they are letting their children “suck down” several of these pouches a day.  This is also often in place of meals, as many of these children are described as “picky eaters”.  I saw a little boy today who had been vomiting, but was on the exam table with pouch to mouth as he “drank/ate” a combo of apples, peas and something else.  (note: not recommended when vomiting).

So....I decided to look up the nutritional value of these pouches....many of them although “all organic” or described as “healthy” do contain a lot of carbohydrate and sugars.  Actually, as much as two fruit roll ups!  Yes, I did a little comparison and 2 of the “dreaded” fruit rolls ups contain 23 grams of carbs and almost 11 grams of sugar.....while a 3.2 ounce pouch has somewhere between 19-24 grams of carbs and between 14-23 grams of sugar.  

The point of this is not to say that “squeeze pouches” are bad, or that a child should never have a fruit roll up.  Rather, it is to point out that even “healthy” snacks can be full of sugar.  Rather than a fruit roll up or a  squeeze pouch, what about a piece of fruit?  Sure, it may be a bit messier to cut up a piece of fruit, but those pouches are not teaching children about textures and chewing.

Pouches are great for travel, special occasions and babies. But, they are not for toddlers and certainly not for everyday consumption.  Oh lastly, they are bad for the teeth as well!  

Daily Dose

Your Baby's Toenails

1:15 to read

I have noticed over the years, that babies are born with the weirdest toenails.  I get a lot of phone calls, pictures and questions during those first few visits about these little toenails.  Just like everything else, they are just “immature” and often are totally flimsy or at times appear to be “ingrown” as they grow and push a bit of skin away.

In most cases I tell patients to just leave them alone, even is they are a bit irritated and red on the edge. That is unless the toe is warm to the touch, or tender or has an obvious infection with drainage. Typically when you push on the toe the even though it may appear a bit irritated and bothersome to you, it should not bother your child or seem to cause them pain.  They should NEVER have a fever due to the toenail issue and if your infant has a temperature above 100.4 you do need to call your doctor.

While a baby’s fingernails seem to grow overnight (and are really sharp), newborns toenails grow at a snails pace. It sometimes seems babies don’t really even have all of their toenails until they are over 1 year and in most cases by then you have stopped paying attention as your child is walking, falling and has a lot of bumps and bruises so the toenails are no longer an issue.

If your baby’s toenails look irritated, clean them with a little soap and warm water and leave them alone!

 

Daily Dose

Baby Bling Can Be Dangerous!

1.15 to read

I recently saw a TV segment on “blinging” your baby and toddler. It seems that the latest craze is decking out not only little girls, but also little boys. Being the mother of three sons I can understand wanting to “dress up” boys as well (little boy clothes can be a bit boring) but a few of the models on TV were wearing necklaces. 

Now, a boy wearing a necklace doesn’t bother me at all, but a baby or toddler with a necklace worries me!  This isn’t about gender, rather about safety.  

A necklace is a real choking and strangling danger for babies and young children. I know that many parents receive necklaces for their babies on the occasion of a baptism and in some cultures an infant is given a necklace made of string or beads to wear soon after birth. 

But, whenever a baby comes into my office with a necklace on I discuss the possibility, even if remote, of the child suffocating if the necklace gets caught or twisted around the child’s neck. There is no reason to even risk it! 

Baby bling is great if you want to put your child in cute shirts, hats, or even trendy jeans. Go for it!  But I would never put a necklace on a child. It is akin to the adage about peanuts...when should a child be allowed to eat peanuts?  When they can spell the word!  

We pediatricians are no longer worried about peanut allergies in the young child, it is the choking hazard that is the real concern. It’s the same for a necklace. Let your child wear it when they can spell the word, or put it on when your 3 year old plays dress up, but take it off once finished. There is no need to ever have a young child sleep in anything like a necklace, or anything that has a cord until they are much older. 

Children ages 4 and under, and especially those under the age of 1 year, are at the greatest risk for airway obstruction and suffocation.  So, put the necklace back in the jewelry box for awhile. You can re-wrap for re-gifting and re-wearing at a later date. Safety before bling! 

Daily Dose

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

At what age can you leave your child home alone?

I get asked this question 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

Timeout!

1:30 to read

When I am seeing toddlers for their check ups, the topic of behavior is usually at the top of both the parent’s and my list for discussion.  Once a child is walking and beginning to talk, all sorts of new behaviors seem to occur! 

Parents ask, “how do I stop my child from hitting or biting?”  “What about misbehaving and not listening?”  The toddler years are challenging for behavior as a child is gaining independence, and testing as well.  Toddler and teens have some of the same attributes and it is important to begin behavior modification during the toddler years. 

Time out is the most commonly used behavior modification and not only will parents use this method at home, but preschool and day care teachers begin using this technique as well. This is the age that children begin to understand rules and consequences. 

So how do you “do” time out and when?  I usually start using time out when a child is between 15 -18 months of age. While I try to ignore and distract tantrums, I use time out for biting, hitting and those age appropriate yet inappropriate behaviors. 

I pick a chair in the house (we had a small set of table and chairs which seemed perfect) and every parent needs a kitchen timer to use for time out.   It is important to get at your child’s level when disciplining them as well. Tell them why they are going to time out and then have them sit in the chair for 1 minute per year of age.  (Trust me a minute sometimes feels like forever!)  

Here is the trick, if your child will not just sit in the chair (and many won’t), go behind them and hold them in the chair as if you were a human rope.  In most cases the child will be crying and trying to get up out of the chair, but you calmly hold them in the chair from behind. No eye contact!  Once the timer goes off, you let go of them, go back around so that you make eye contact again, get down to their level, and explain once again that they had to sit in the chair because they (fill in the blank).  

Time out takes time and patience.  If you are consistent about using time out for misbehaving, your child will learn to sit in the chair.  For some it may only take 1 time and others are more head-strong and it may take months of “human rope” before they decide to sit alone. 

Don’t give up!!!  This is a very important lesson for children to learn and you will use time out many times, not only in that little chair, but in other venues as your child gets older.    

Daily Dose

Low Carb Diets

1.15 to read

A recent study in Pediatrics caught my eye as it related to childhood obesity. I spend a good deal of time discussing healthy eating and exercise with my families but I too continue to see children who gain too much weight each year. Some of my patients even qualify as being obese. 

This study out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital looked at 100 obese 7 -12 year old children and randomly assigned them to one of three different eating plans. One plan followed the wisdom of portion control, another followed a low-carb diet, and the last was a “reduced glycemic load” plan that cut down on certain carbs (like white bread and sweets and white potatoes). 

Over a one year period  all three of the plans worked equally well in helping to control a child’s weight gain. Researchers did find that the low carb plan was tough for kids to stick to. Most of the kids in this group really followed the low carb plan to an extent by reducing carbs and calories, but not to the “strict limits of the low carb plan”. In other words, they modified the plan. 

It seemed that the plan that “reduced the glycemic load” was essentially a modified low carb diet. Children could eat certain “unrestricted” carbs, like fruits and vegetables low in starch as well as whole grains. The limits were only placed on starchy carbs, but even some of those were not “forbidden”. 

The beauty of teaching these kids about modifying their diets early on is that they can see changes in their BMI (body mass index) more quickly than an adult. Why?  They are still growing!! I explain to the kids (and their parents) that a pre-pubertal child grows about 2 inches a year and should gain somewhere around 3 - 6 lbs a year.  All of that changes with puberty as their child’s growth velocity and weight gain both increase. 

But, since a child is growing that by just maintaining their weight, not losing weight, they will see changes in their body. Although children think this is “easy” it still requires effort and changes.   

Small changes like cutting portions and reducing carbs (rather than trying to eliminate them) will reduce total daily calories. Add in daily exercise and your child will see real results. It is still a matter of burning more calories than you consume! 

Lastly, the whole family has to be involved in the changes. You have to pick a plan that the entire family can follow and stick to as families come in all different sizes. 

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

Daily Dose

It's Croup Season!

1.45 to read

It is definitely fall and all around the country, the temperatures are cooling off and the chill is in the air at night. With the cooler temperatures more of those pesky viruses come out and once again I am seeing croup.

Croup is a viral upper respiratory infection that causes swelling of the trachea and larynx (voice box) which causes young children to cough and at times to bark like a seal. This hoarse raspy cough is most problematic in younger children who have smaller airways.  

Children often go to bed at night with nothing more than a little runny nose, and then suddenly awaken with this barking cough. Many times the noise emanating from the child’s room sounds more like a sick animal than your previously healthy toddler and may be alarming to both parents and the child.  

Whenever you awaken to a croupy child, the first thing to do is turn on the hot shower and shut the bathroom door as you head down the hall to your child’s room.  After getting your child, grab several of their favorite books and head back to the steamy bathroom. Sit in the bathroom and try to calm your child down and let the steam work.

Typically in several minutes (or until the hot water runs out) their coughing should improve and they will relax. Remember, they have suddenly awakened and are trying to figure out what is going on as well so they may appear to be tired and anxious as well.

In most cases the steam and humidity will help to relax the airway. If the steam doesn’t seem to be working after 5– 10 minutes try going outside into the cool night air. Many times a frantic parent will put their child into the car for a trip to the ER, only to find the child perfectly calm and no longer coughing on arrival to the hospital. The reason being, the cool air has also helped to calm the coughing.

If your child is having stridor (a high pitched squeal) when they breath in and appears to be having any respiratory distress with pulling of their ribs when they are breathing (called retractions), then you need to call your doctor. If they are coughing and turning bright red while coughing be reassured that they are still moving air well. You should not see any duskiness or blue color and if you do call 911. (Remember the adage blue is bad, and red is good).

If by morning your child is having continued symptoms you may want to see your doctor as steroids (given orally or by injection) may be used to help shrink the airway swelling. Most cases of croup do not require hospitalization. After several days of croup your child will probably be well.  

Lastly, older children and adults may also get the virus that causes croup, but with larger airways will simply show signs of laryngitis and being hoarse.

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

Daily Dose

Homework Help: The REAL Lesson

When you kids have homework to do, how much help do you give them? I can remember the first time a son of mine had homework and how exciting it was for “us” to all sit together and watch him do his homework and let him ask for help when he needed it. I can also remember the last time a child asked me for help with his homework, in Calculus, and I had no idea what he was doing.  So the full circle of homework has been completed in my house.

While I was so anxious to begin the whole homework thing as a first time parent (as we are for so many milestones), I was equally joyful when I no longer even thought about a child’s homework, and also knew I was no longer even competent to help. (Calculus, are you kidding me, it was a lifetime ago).  I think homework has a real purpose when a teacher gives an assignment to reinforce the day’s lesson, and the amount of homework is not unreasonable.  There were times as a parent that I felt that there may have been too much homework, or that the homework was really busy work, but be that as it may, it was an assignment from a teacher and therefore it was completed. I was fortunate that from the beginning we started having a good homework routine where our boys all gathered at the kitchen table to do homework in the afternoon. The routine was pick up carpool, come home and get a snack, have some down time, typically outside to get rid of excess boy energy, and then homework started.  The habit of doing homework at the kitchen table began with our oldest son and his brother’s followed suit. When our oldest son started school, the younger boys would “want” to have homework and we would make up things for them to do. As everyone got older the kitchen table suddenly had 3 boys doing homework and they would often help one another. The other thing about being a working mother was that I was often not at home to “supervise” homework, or to make sure that it was being done. I was fortunate I guess, it was just assumed that “homework is finished before Mom gets home”. By the time our boys were in middle school and high school, they had typically moved to a desk in their own rooms.  The benchmark of getting “your own desk” was somewhat of privilege and a ”right of passage”  in our house, and each child took great pride in the fact that they had a desk in their room and had moved out of the kitchen. Once our children had left the communal homework kitchen table I really never knew if and when they finished their homework.  They were responsible for knowing what they needed to do each night, and for getting it completed. Their father and I did not know when they had tests of what needed to be done, but we were there to support them if needed. What we did do is have dinner ready for them each evening and they had “a bedtime range” which was usually followed. They also had what we called “a homework pass”.  In other words each semester they would get a “ticket” that allowed them to call us from school to bring a forgotten assignment, or take them back to school to pick up a forgotten book. They got one each semester, beyond that, as difficult as it was, they had to figure out how to get that assignment or suffer the consequences. It was probably harder on me than them, but it was a lesson well learned. They did not forget many things at school or home and I think it made them the organized young adults they are today. The hardest thing for a parent is to watch your child struggle, or fail. But sometimes it is THE most important lesson that they will learn. Letting your child suffer the consequences of a paper not turned in on time, or a homework assignment not done, hurts every parent. But more importantly, it will prepare your son or daughter for college and their careers beyond. As much as we “want” to do the work, or bring them the project, that is not our job as parents.  Our job is to prepare them to be responsible, organized and independent adults who will go forward on their own, and not call home to talk to “the boss”. That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

It's Cold Season!

1:30 to read

It is already starting....fall and colds and parents are already wondering why their toddler or young child may have already had 2 colds and it is not even winter!  It is incredible how often a toddler can get sick....I even had a hard time believing there were so many viruses for one child to get.

But, I do know that there does not seem to be any way “around” the frequent runny noses, coughs, mystery fevers, and episodes of vomiting and diarrhea that a parent has to get through!! There is not a short cut to get through this desert of illness...you have to walk the walk.

Yes, it takes a lot of little viral illnesses to help build a child’s immune system. We can give vaccinations to prevent meningitis, whooping cough, polio, mumps, measles and rubella.  But there are hundreds of viruses that cause colds and coughs....and there is not a vaccine for any of these viruses.  

So, once your child reaches the age where they are walking and touching a million things a day (even though you wash their hands), you should not be surprised or alarmed that they seem to have a new illness every few weeks. Parents ask me everyday, “what vitamin works to prevent colds?”, “do probiotics prevent those fever viruses?”. If I had the “secret” potion, trust me I would tell them, but I would also bottle it and sell it on the internet and retire to an island , after receiving the Nobel Prize in medicine for finding the “secret”.  But in the meantime, I will continue to reassure parents that they will get through these early illnesses.....everyone does. 

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