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Daily Dose

Fussy Babies

1:30 to read

I have written a lot about fussy infants, spitting up and gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD). The diagnosis of GERD in infants in the past 10 - 15 years has soared….especially in irritable infants some of whom arch their backs and act as if they are uncomfortable while feeding (both breast and bottle fed babies) and spit up frequently,  to those who are diagnosed with “silent reflux”. 

 

When new drugs came to the market for adults with GERD, initially H-2 blockers like Zantac (ranitidine), Pepcid (famotidine) and Axid (nizatidine) they were soon prescribed for children as well. These drugs were followed by the introduction of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) which also inhibit gastric acid production, and include Prevacid (lasoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), and Prilosec (omeprazole).  Suddenly, younger and younger children were being placed on either H-2 blockers or PPI’s and many of these prescriptions were being written for infants under 6 months of age.

 

Being a pediatrician who had practiced for a long time and also had a incredibly fussy, irritable and colicky baby myself….I could never really decide if these drugs worked well or if “we” wanted them to work. There were some cases where it was quickly evident that the baby’s symptoms improved, while in many others the parents “were not sure”.  But, the use of these drugs has soared.

 

I have more and more young parents who want to start medication within their baby’s first month of life…”just because they are fussy”.  But there are new studies showing that the use of these medications in young children, especially those under one year, may have lasting side effects including an increased risk of fractures. In a retrospective study looking at over 850,000 children born between 2001-2013, those prescribed PPI’s had a 23% increased risk of fractures and those prescribed H2 blockers had a 13% increased risk while those prescribed combination therapy had a 32% increased risk of fractures. The risk also increased if children took these medications before 6 months of age, and there was also increased risk for those who used medications for longer periods of time.

 

Take home message for both doctors and parents….if these drugs need to be used it is preferable to limit it to one type, preferably H2 blockers and for the shortest amount of time possible. The use of other remedies including herbal remedies, thickening of feeds and probiotics should be first line treatment. When symptoms persist or are worsening and GERD is suspected, a 2 week trial of medication may be considered with ongoing discussion as to improvement in symptoms. Use the lowest dose for the shortest period of time as well.

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Daily Dose

A Baby's Neck Issue

1:30 to read

Torticollis is becoming more and more common and it may be related to several different things. Torticollis is defined as a “twisted neck”, or as my grandmother used to say, a “wry neck”.  Most of us have experienced a tight neck after a bad night’s sleep, and you can hardly turn your head to back out of the garage it is so painful, but be reassured your baby does not have any discomfort, but will just hold their head somewhat “tilted”.

A baby’s 40 weeks spent in utero may cause some positional deformities of the head and neck.  Due to the intrauterine positioning a baby may “favor” turning their head to one side rather than another. At the same time back sleeping which is recommended for all babies, may also contribute to torticollis.  

In order to help the baby resolve the tightness in the neck which is actually due to the sternocleidomastoid muscle being tight, your doctor may have you do several things early on to help stretch the neck muscle.  

If your baby prefers to look to the right they have left sided torticollis. In this case turn your baby in the crib so they have to turn to the left to look out (they don’t want to face a boring wall). When you are feeding them have the bottle on your right arm. When changing diapers, place the baby so that they have to tur left to see you.  Hold the baby on your left hip as well and burp them on your right shoulder. All of these strategies will help to stretch the muscle.  On top of this the baby needs to have tummy time, when awake, and work of having them turn to the left during this time too. Lastly, do gentle neck stretches 3-4 times a day and massage the tight muscle.  

If your baby prefers to look to the left also called right sided torticollis, reverse the above.

Your baby should continue to work on stretching so that their head will also not get flattened on one side or another, which is called plagiocephaly.  By continuing to have tummy time and neck stretches, most cases of torticollis will resolve. In severe cases or when you don’t feel that the baby is improving,  ask you doctor about the possibility of physical therapy.

Daily Dose

What New Babies Need

1:30 to read

I have many friends whose own children are now having babies and they always ask, “what all do we need to have/buy for a new baby these days?”  While many things have changed since I had my own children, many have not,  and I still think “less is more” is a good adage to follow, especially for a newborn.  We all have a tendency to buy too much, or the “latest and greatest” only to find out that it is not necessary.

Carseat - a rear facing car seat is a must for your newborn!!!  Look at all of the reviews on line and pick which seat works best for you.  Do you want one with a base that you can also clip on to a stroller?  Remember your baby will sit in a rear facing car seat until 2 years. This is one item I would spend my money on!!

The baby needs a place to sleep so buy a crib and a good mattress.  If you are going to have more than one baby I would buy something that will last through several children. I like having a crib (rather than a toddler bed), as your baby will be in the crib for several years and then can move to a regular bed…no need for an “in between”.  Do not use an “old” crib that has drop sides, due to safety concerns. So that means the one that I had kept in the garage (from my kids) was a throw away! I usually move the first child to a bed when I need the crib for the next baby…no specific age. Bumpers are no longer recommended, so that saves money too!

Changing table or dresser for the millions of diaper changes.  It is so helpful to not have to bend over each time. I would also buy a diaper cream (Dr. Smiths, Destin or Butt paste) to have on hand….your baby will probably get a diaper rash at some time during their time in a diaper.

Baby bath tub: while you can bathe your baby in the sink, the newer bathtubs do make it easier for a newborn and you can use it in the tub as well until your baby can sit up alone. Remember, you will NEVER leave your child in the tub alone…even with all of the seats, rings and things  that they sell to support your baby!!  For bathing I like gentle bath wash like Cetaphil, Cerave, and Eucerin products….good for all skin types.  Pick one!

Swaddle blankets: WOW there are a million on the market and they all “claim” to help your baby to sleep better. I don’t think any of the products say “it will also takes weeks to months for your baby to sleep through the night” , no matter what you use.  I do like the thin swaddle blankets as they are useful for a number of things besides swaddling. Once you have your baby have the nurses show you how to swaddle (quick and easy).  The Miracle Blanket, Woombie and Halo also make it easy to swaddle as well. Pick one (or two) and stick with that.  Remember, your baby is going to be put in their crib on their back whether swaddled or not!! NO TUMMY SLEEPING.  

Diaper Bag: again their are a million out there in all shapes, sizes and price points. In the beginning you need to have a pad for changing (you will end up changing that baby all sorts of weird places), diapers, burp clothes, wipes…as your baby gets bigger you will have bottles, cups, toys all shoved in there too. All of my patients seem to have a travel size Purell strapped to the side of the bag as well. I would get a bag that you can wipe out as there will be spills of all sorts of stuff in that bag I assure you!  Somehow, over time you go back to “less is more” and the diapers end up in your purse!!  

So…that is a start. Will do another post on some other products in the future. 

 

 

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

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

Breastfeeding Anxiety

1:30 to read

I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding and having breast fed 3 babies of my own I do remember several things about “learning to breast feed”.  Now that my children are grown and I am taking care of my 2nd” generation of babies, I have decided that “we” (doctors, hospitals, lactation consultants etc.) are making breast feeding more and more stressful rather than just letting it happen “organically”, the way it has been done for hundreds if not thousands of years.

 

I make newborn nursery rounds and see new mothers within 24 hours of their baby’s birth, and then everyday until discharge. I am noticing more and more tearful, anxious mothers who are completely “stressed out” about breastfeeding and their milk is typically not even “in” yet.  So, how is it that they already feel as if they have failed, or “can’t do this”??  We have so many different people coming into their room telling them to cluster feed, not to use a pacifier or that their baby is tongue tied, and they are overwhelmed - and the baby is one day old!

 

Sometimes too much information is detrimental rather than helpful. Being a bit “clueless” and having no expectations did not make breast feeding seem stressful. A foreign sensation yes, awkward at times absolutely!!  A mother’s milk will “come in” on day 2, 3 or 4 even if you don’t cluster feed for hours at a time and even if you decide to use a pacifier. Nature has a plan….whether we do or not.

 

Just like many things in life….it is easier for some mother’s and harder for others.  Some babies just seem to latch on immediately, while others take a while to figure it out.  But, practice is the name of the game, and you cannot practice breast feeding. It is postpartum on the job training..and some mothers may need extra help and some “tutoring”. No new mother needs to hear discouraging words…encouragement and reassurance is the name of the game in the first few days after giving birth.

 

Babies are expected to lose weight after birth…but parents are now told how much weight their baby has lost and what will happen i”f they lose more than 10%”of their birth weight”. They are also told the transcutaneous bilirubin level every morning even though they “are not sure what that means”, but it is another number thrown out there to add to their worry list.  Maybe I am old school, but I tell my patients that my job is to “tell you if there is a concern”…and not have you worry about 7% weight loss on day 3 of life or a bilirubin of 10 mg/dl, so that parents can “Google” hyperbirubinemia and worry about kernicterus and brain damage. 

 

Letting a new mother get some rest while encouraging her to feed her baby every 2-3 hours while practicing different positions for latching seems to be a much more natural and relaxing method to promote breast feeding and not anxiety provoking “rules”. 

 

I do not encourage a new mother to  cluster feed for hours at a time so that her nipples are already blistered, bleeding and painful,  before even leaving the hospital. I also let her know that it is not abnormal for breast feeding to be a bit “painful” , and for her breasts to feel engorged as the milk “comes in”. There are lots of new “feelings” going on in the initial postpartum days, including all of those raging hormones!

 

So…try to relax, enjoy your baby and not et overly anxious about “breastfeeding” correctly…as one way does not fit everyone. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Rice Cereal & Childhood Obesity

Does white rice cereal cause childhood obesity? One pediatrician thinks so.I recently saw Dr. Alan Greene on TV discussing infant feeding practices and how that may relate to the problem of childhood obesity. Dr. Greene, like most pediatricians, has long been a proponent of healthy eating. He recently launched his “White Out” campaign to change how babies are introduced to solid foods.

His argument is that an infant’s first food has long been rice cereal.   Rice cereal is typically introduced to a baby between 5 – 6 months of age when they are just beginning to sit up in a high chair, and may be fed with a spoon. Rice cereal  typically comes in a box and breast milk or formula is added to the dried flakes in order to make it the consistency where the  baby may be  offered a few bites from a spoon. Although rice is a “white grain” there are also other infant cereal products available, and there are no “directives” that say that a brown rice or mixed grain cereal may not  be used. As I understand it, the whole idea is really just to get the baby used to spoon feeding and then I begin introducing my infant patients to vegetables and fruits. So, the idea that the baby rice cereal is somehow linked to the entire problem of childhood obesity seems somewhat shortsighted to me. An infant is only fed rice cereal one or two times a day while still receiving either breast milk or a formula. Remember that breast milk and formulas contain carbohydrates too. Infant cereal whether it be brown or white rice should not be the only food a baby is introduced too, nor should they eat cereal all day long. While Dr. Greene is concerned that babies will “get hooked on the taste of highly processed foods”, I'm more concerned that parents will quickly forgo rice and whole grain cereals, fruits, veggies and meats and begin feeding their children frosted or honey nut cheerios (a favorite early finger food),  as wells as goldfish and puffs, pasta and other white foods.  These are the foods I  am most likely to see in my office, not a bowl fruits and vegetables. Babies really get the  majority of their calories from breast milk or formula until about 9 – 12 months of age. Parents should be encouraged to feed their babies a wide array of healthy foods including cereals, vegetables, fruits and meats.  Dr. Greene is right,  a baby doesn’t tell you he won’t eat brown rice, or oatmeal or spinach or prunes. For the most part an infant happily opens their mouths and will take what is fed to them. The problem occurs a little later as babies start to show a preference for foods , whether that is by making a face, or pushing food away, they definitely show preferences. This is when the idea of getting “hooked on foods” really begins. It is not uncommon for me to hear a parent of a one year old say, “my baby doesn’t like…… squash, or cereal, or peaches.”  Soon thereafter you hear, “my toddler will only eat…..fill in the blank”. Those are the words that send shivers down my spine. Trying to get those parents to buy into the fix the meal and they will eat it if they are hungry is quite a difficult concept at times. The issue is not only beginning a baby on rice cereal, the problem is more complex. It is getting parents to understand that our children will always have food preferences, that does not mean that we need to acknowledge them or submit to them. It means that we need to make good healthy meals for our families, white rice or brown rice is only the beginning of the story. That's your daily dose for today. What do you think? Leave your comments below!

Daily Dose

Diaper Dermatitis

1:30 to read

Newborn babies have the softest little bottoms and they also have a lot of poop! The combination often leads to a raw red bottom and a diaper rash. A newborn often poops every time they eat and sometimes in between....and you don’t even realize they have pooped again.

Even with the constant diaper changing (would you have believed you would use 8-12 diapers a day) it is very common for that newborn to develop their first diaper rash.  Not only will the skin be red and raw....it may even sometimes be so chapped that it may bleed a bit.  This diaper rash is causes a lot of parental concern and will often result in the new parent’s first of many calls to their pediatrician.

A new baby is supposed to poop a lot, so you can’t change that fact,  but you can try all sorts of things to protect that precious bottom and treat the diaper rash.  After using a diaper wipe (non-perfumed, hypo-allergenic) I sometimes bring out the blow dryer and turn it to cool and dry the baby’s bottom a bit. Then I apply a mixture of a zinc based diaper cream (examples:  Desitin, Dr. Smith’s, Triple Paste cream), which I mix in the palm of my hand with a tiny bit of liquid over the counter antacid.  (I don’t measure it:  just a lot of diaper cream and small amount of antacid so it won’t be runny).  I put a really heavy layer of this on the baby’s bottom.

If after several days rash is still not improving it may have become secondarily infected with yeast so I add a yeast cream (Lotrimin AF, Triple Paste AF) to the concoction. If it has yeast this should do the trick to treat all of the problems.

I will also sometimes alternate using Aquaphor on the bottom with the above diaper cream concoction.  It will take some time for it to totally go away but you are trying to get a barrier between the poop and the skin on the baby’s bottom. She keep something on there after each diaper change.

After a few weeks of constant pooping the number of stools do slow down and bit and that will help heal that new baby’s bottom as well. 

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Daily Dose

Sleep & Your Baby

1:30 to read

Once a new baby joins a family one of the first questions I am often asked is, “when will my baby sleep thru the night?”.  SLEEP is one thing that all parents crave and for one reason or another many parents with infants over 6 months of age, complain that their baby is still not “sleeping through the night”. If your baby or child is not sleeping well, that typically means that parents are having disturbed sleep as well.   

By 6 months of age a baby should be able to self soothe and fall asleep on their own and the majority of babies are sleeping 10-12 hours thru the night as well.  After many years of practicing pediatrics and dealing with my own children’s sleep issues, I spend quite a bit of time with my patients discussing healthy sleep habits.  Like most things, it is easier to start off with good habits and bedtime routines.

So….when parents come in at the 6 month visit and are concerned about their baby’s sleep and awakenings I typically discuss “letting their baby cry it out”. This advice is met with varying responses.  Some parents are ready to get a good night’s sleep and will do “anything”, while others think I am “a mean doctor” and would “never let their baby cry”.  Like most things it is not always black and white and that is why we have chocolate and vanilla.  But, in my experience, the sooner you deal with sleep issues the faster they seem to resolve…

A recent article in Pediatrics should now reassure parents that they are not “harming their baby” by letting them “cry it out” which is called graduated extinction.  The study done in Australia found that infants whose parents let them “cry it out” fell asleep 13 minutes sooner than a control group and woke up less often during the night, and had no significant differences in stress levels (based upon salivary cortisol levels). The study also found no long term effects on parent-child attachment.  All good news for some sleepless parents who are considering this method to get their baby to sleep through the night. 

The researchers also looked at another behavioral sleep training intervention called “bedtime fading” which some feel is a “gentler” method of sleep training. In this case a baby’s bedtime is delayed with the thought that a sleepier child will fall asleep faster and may not cry as long.  This may be an easier method for some parents who continue to be anxious about “graduated extinction”.  This too showed that infants fell asleep sooner than controls but they showed no change in the number of nighttime awakenings.

Bottom line, sleep is important for the entire family ….all ages.  This article should hopefully go a long way in reassuring sleep deprived parents that a baby’s cries are not harmful and may actually get everyone to sleep faster, longer and more peacefully….you just have to believe the research and hang in there. 

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