Safe and Sound: Reducing SIDS in Infants

Monday, December 01, 2014 4:56 PM comments (0)

For exhausted new parents, it can be a relief when your infant finally settles down to sleep for the night (or even just a couple of hours) but there can be fear as well. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can happen even when all the right safety measures are practiced. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown. SIDS is most common in infants less than six months of age but can occur between one month and one year. 

While nothing can prevent every case, there are ways to significantly reduce the risk of SIDS. William MacKendrick, MD, Neonatologist at NorthShore, shares safe sleeping recommendations every parent should practice:

  • Place your baby on his or her back in the crib. Incidences of SIDS are higher in babies placed on their stomachs to sleep.
  • Use a firm mattress and don't place anything other than your infant in the crib. It’s important to keep all toys, sheets, blankets, pillows and other materials out of the crib as they can be unsafe and hazardous. Crib bumpers are also not recommended.
  • Keep your baby away from smoke. If you smoke, only smoke outdoors away from your child. Fumes from smoking can increase a baby's risk for breathing difficulties.
  • Avoid co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed) with your infant; however, cribs can be kept in your bedroom but your baby should sleep in his or her crib.
  • Keep the temperature in your baby’s room comfortable but not too warm. Warmer temperatures can put your baby too deeply to sleep, making it difficult to wake.

Have your own questions about safe sleeping or another parenting topic? Join the conversation in our new online community: The Parent 'Hood. 

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Ready to Hit the Books: Healthy Kids Make Happy, Successful Students [Infographic]

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:40 AM comments (0)

The kids are back in school and already busy with homework, classes and practice. Don't let hectic schedules put your children’s health in detention. Parents can do plenty to help their children stay healthy and succeed in school—from ensuring they get adequate sleep and regular exercise to serving up balanced meals and more. After all, children’s health has been shown to be directly linked to success in school. 

Our latest infographic explores the connection between children’s health and academic performance with health information and tips from the experts at NorthShore University HealthSystem. Click on the image below to see the full infographic. 

 

Join NorthShore's new online community, The Parent 'Hood, to connect with other new and expecting parents, as well as our expert physicians. Find support, ask questions and share your stories. Click The Parent 'Hood to start now! 

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Get Fit: Great Exercises Your Family Can Enjoy Together

Friday, January 17, 2014 10:00 AM comments (0)

family fitnessGet them when they’re young! Exercise is important for every single member of the family, even the small ones. Physically active kids are more likely to grow up into physically active adults, which could ultimately reduce their risk for heart disease, obesity and many other health issues. In addition to the long-term and obvious physical benefits, children that are physically active have better concentration at school, higher self esteem, improved ability to handle stress and greater social acceptance than those who are not active.

Help your kids make a lifetime commitment to health and fitness by making that commitment as a family. Show your kids the way it’s done and you could set them on a path for a healthier future. 

Ideally, all children over the age of two should be physically active for at least one hour per day.  For toddlers and preschoolers, much of that will be unstructured play, but it’s important, nonetheless.  If a child or family is not currently active at all and one hour per day seems intimidating or unrealistic, it’s perfectly fine to set smaller goals (i.e., 15-20 minutes per day) and build from there.

Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares some ideas for family fitness that will get everyone moving and, most importantly, having fun:

Hiking. A moderately difficult hike can burn approximately 400 calories per hour.  If you don’t happen to be near a hike-friendly area, simply go for a brisk walk as a family. It’s a great safe way for the family to catch up, explore the outdoors and get fit together. 

Ice-Skating. Cold weather doesn’t mean the entire family should hibernate. There are many calorie-burning activities that embrace the season and feel more like fun than exercise, including ice-skating, which can burn over 400 calories per hour. Make sure everyone stays safe by keeping ice-skating confined to skating rinks and not lakes or ponds.

Yoga. The family that does yoga together reduces stress levels together. There is a yoga type for every age and every fitness level. When introducing beginners and children to yoga, help prevent injury by using a certified yoga instructor.

Biking. When roads aren’t icy or snowy, break out the helmets and hit the road. Make sure everyone is up-to-date on safety and the rules of the road before heading out. Biking is a great way to explore as a family, and, it could potentially awaken a lifetime passion for fitness for your kids.

Dancing. Nothing could be simpler or more fun than turning on some tunes and dancing as a family. If a fitness craze like Zumba can work magic for adults, a little dancing could do wonders for kids too. Dance games for the Wii, Xbox or other gaming consoles are also a great way to get the family dancing at home during the cold months.  Parents and kids, alike, love a little bit of friendly competition when everyone is laughing and grooving together.

How do you stay fit as a family?

 

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The Tough Stuff: When Eating and Sleeping Don’t Come Easily for Your Child

Thursday, December 05, 2013 1:55 PM comments (0)

veggie haterAre your kids getting the sleep they need each night? Is your picky eater turning down fruits and vegetables at every meal? Are bedtimes and mealtimes a daily struggle in your home? This is the “tough stuff.”

Lindsay Uzunlar, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, answers these tough questions, sharing bedtime and mealtime solutions and tips to ensure every member of the family—large and small—is getting the sleep and nutrition they need to thrive.  

When should your child start to regularly sleep through the night? When should you be worried that they aren’t sleeping through the night or are waking up too frequently? 
Your child is biologically able to sleep through the night around 3-4 months, so with your help they should be able to sleep through the night by six months—meaning sleeping between 6-7 hours without waking up. If your baby is still waking up frequently at nine months, talk with your pediatrician about some possible sleep-training strategies. Consider talking to your pediatrician about sleep-training techniques earlier than six months, or even during pregnancy. 

How do you set bedtimes? How much sleep do children need?
A lot of babies need help learning when and how to sleep so this is where you can make a big difference. Observe when your child seems become naturally sleepy or when he starts to be fussier. When that time comes, put him to bed drowsy but not sleeping. 

The key to remember is that you are in charge of bedtime, from infancy until they leave your house.  Setting bedtimes is really important and can vary depending on age. Children will naturally start to go to bed later as they need less sleep. A newborn needs up to 15-17 hours of sleep; a six-month-old needs 13-14 hours; 9-24 months need about 12 hours; school age between 9-10 hours and adolescents 8-9 hours.

How long is it normal for a child to wet the bed? Is a family history of bedwetting a contributing factor? What can you do to stop it? 
It is still normal to have nighttime wetting up to the age of six, especially if there is a family history. There are different techniques that you can try. The simplest is just having scheduled wake-up times. With this technique, you set your own alarm and wake him up to take him to the bathroom. In a perfect world, you could wake him up before you go to bed (assuming you go to bed later than him) and then not worry about it for the rest of the night.

How do you wean an infant of needing a pacifier to remain asleep at night?
As you may have realized, children use pacifiers as a self-soothing object. So the key to helping them transition to good sleeping without is to replace the pacifier with something else. For instance, this is a great time for a teddy bear or blanket. Put them to sleep with both the pacifier and the new object so that they can learn to associate both with self-soothing. Then you can take away the pacifier and ideally he or she won't notice its absence too much. You can work on having the pacifier gone over the next 2-3 months. I would recommend that you take all pacifiers away at once, that way when he wants it, you can 100% truthfully say that they are "all gone."

What do you do if your child refuses meat? How do you ensure he or she gets enough protein? 
Vegetarianism is fine for kids but it is understandable to worry about protein intake. There are other sources of protein besides peanut butter and meat. Some other good sources are: eggs, milk, soy products and whole grain cereals. Try to make sure your child gets a combination of these at each meal. 

How do you handle a picky eater who won’t eat anything other than his or her favorite and probably unhealthy foods?
It takes kids about 10-15 tries of a food before they will like it. So making sure that they take a “no thank you” bite will help give them exposure to the new foods. You can also try introducing new tastes of food mixed with their favorites such as peas with macaroni and cheese. Your child should be eating the same dinner that everyone else is eating. If they don’t want it, then accept their opinion and let them know that this is the only thing that will be prepared tonight. He or she will be more likely to eat what has been prepared if they know that they don’t have other options. The key to helping instill change is consistency. So it is important that anyone who consistently cares for your child be on the same page about introducing new foods. 

What are some strategies to help children learn to explore more food types if they have texture sensitivities?
For texture sensitivities, it’s a good idea to attempt “try and try again." It can take kids awhile to get used to new things, tastes and textures, so just encourage a single bite each meal and if he or she takes it, consider that a success! If you find that this is taking longer than you think it should, speak with your pediatrician.

Are dairy and gluten considered safe for children? Are they a necessary part of a child’s diet?
Dairy-free and gluten-free diets are very popular right now; however, they are only necessary for a select number of people and otherwise are part of a healthy diet. Children who experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, stomach cramping, vomiting or bloating after eating one or both of these may have a sensitivity. In that case, it is a good idea to see your pediatrician about safely removing these from the diet. If they don't experience these symptoms, they are fine and your children can continue eating food with dairy and gluten without issue.

When should babies start drinking animal milk? Do you have recommendations on cow vs. goat?
To help with brain growth, babies should remain on breast milk or formula until 12 months old. After that, trying cow's milk is best as it has a more complete set of nutrients. Goat's milk is an option if you feel your child may not be tolerating the cow's milk,but in that case, he should be taking a multivitamin with it.

 

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Simple Parenting Tips for a Happy, Healthy Family

Friday, August 02, 2013 12:00 PM comments (0)

parentingParenting may be one of the most rewarding jobs but it can also be the most demanding and difficult. Parents have a big impact on their growing children, influencing their attitudes, behaviors and habits. As parents, you are your child's first teacher.

While there isn’t a user manual on how to be a parent, there are things you can do to help. Susan Roth, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, outlines some ideas and rules parents can consider incorporating:

  • Set a good example. You are your child’s biggest fan, and in many cases he or she will watch your every move. Make smart choices when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Manage your stress, anger and emotions as best as you can.
  • Be consistent with discipline. Treat bad behavior the same way every time. It’s important that both parents are on the same page and approach discipline as a team. 
  • Make the most of your shared time. Schedules get busy and it may be difficult to find time together as a family. Set aside part of each day for family activities that don’t include technology—cell phones, computers, television, etc. If this shared time can involve active play, you’ll be staying fit as a family and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Encourage conversation and keep lines of communication open. If your schedule allows, try to eat at least one meal a day as a family. This is the perfect opportunity to have open discussions about your child’s day-to-day activities and any potential issues. If you can’t eat as a family, find time each day to check in with your child to see how everything is going.
  • Set a bedtime schedule. No matter his or her age, having an established bedtime and routine is very important. Children of all ages need a good night’s rest to be able to perform their best at school.
  • Volunteer at school. Volunteer at your child’s school, chaperone after-school activities or help organize activities after practice. This is an easy and natural way to get to know your child’s friends, teachers and the other parents. 

What tips or recommendations have helped you most as a parent?

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Staying in Shape: Exercise and Sports Safety for Kids and Young Athletes

Friday, July 12, 2013 1:59 PM comments (0)

Frequent exercise is an important part of keeping your kids happy, healthy and fit. Starting a fitness routine early can be a great way to teach your children how to live healthier lives for years to come. Whether your child is an athlete or just starting out, preventing injury is the key to keeping fitness safe and fun. 

Adam Bennett, Family and Sports Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of his suggestions for getting your kids interested in fitness and keeping exercise novices and young athletes safe and injury free.

kidsfitnessWhat are some good ways to motivate children to exercise if they are not naturally athletic or have not expressed an interest in participating in team sports?
Getting kids to exercise is often a tough challenge. Having your child choose a sport, no matter how obscure, may help encourage them to stay active—anything from fencing to yoga to bowling is worth a try. Other parents have had success by allowing their inactive kids to earn TV or video game time by spending time exercising. That said, most kids like doing what their friends are doing, so consider finding out if their friends play sports and encourage them to participate. Lastly, children learn by example. If you exercise, your child just might want to join you.

If a child has been fairly inactive, how should exercise be introduced to avoid injury?
It’s best to error on the side of a gradual transition. Kids of all shapes and sizes who have not exercised regularly are at risk for overuse injuries if they rush into activity too quickly. Exercising every other day is a great way to give your muscles, tendons and bones enough time to recover and prevent injury. Altering the type of activity might also be helpful, with perhaps one day of swimming followed by a game of basketball or a bike ride the next. 

How much water should children drink during exercise in the summer? Is water better than electrolyte replacement fluid?
Avoiding dehydration in the summer is very important. If your child is an athlete who will be at outdoor practice regularly during the summer, one easy way to avoid it is to weigh your child before and after exercise, especially during two-a-days. Athletes need to make sure they are drinking enough water to recover their pre-activity weight. If they haven’t, they might be dehydrated. Athletes should also be told to watch the color of their urine. A light yellow or clearer means they aren’t dehydrated. 

Water is fine for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less, but supplementation with water, electrolytes and sugar is essential for optimal performance and recovery when exercising for longer than 20 minutes, especially if the exercise involves intense exertion.

Are two-a-day practices safe for kids?
It’s not an ideal schedule to avoid overuse injuries and dehydration. If there is no pain or sign of injury, it’s a safe schedule, especially if children and coaches are vigilant about preventing dehydration. Most coaches are knowledgeable about proper conditioning and training programs and choose a program that gets their players fit without causing harm.

What can you do to prevent injury in young athletes?
Soreness that resolves itself after a day or two is common; however, pain that seems to be getting worse with each practice may be a sign of an overuse injury. Any swelling of joints, catching or locking of joints might also indicate a more serious injury. To prevent injury, a day of rest between workouts is wise. If the young athlete is a runner, mixing things up and trying some biking or swimming to cross train will give joints a break. 

If a young athlete is already suffering from some overuse injuries, like tendonitis, how can he or she prevent more serious injury? Can training continue? 
Overuse injuries can be a real problem in children who play multiple sports during the same season. During a sports season, dedicated days off from activity will help avoid further injury. In the summer or during off-season, regular exercise that is similar to the sport played may help avoid overuse injuries once their season starts up again. If injuries persist, physical therapy may be required.

Is a marathon safe for a younger runner?
If he or she is comfortable running long distances and distances are gradually increased during a supervised running program; there is no pain during training and there are days off to recover, it’s likely safe for a younger runner to participate in a marathon. Keep in mind, however, that a marathon is an intense endeavor which puts the body through unnatural stress. As such, a 10k or even a half marathon may a good alternative for younger runners before undertaking a marathon. 

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The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom and Baby

Friday, July 05, 2013 1:00 PM comments (0)

breastfeedingIn return for sweet smiles and abundant cuteness, babies ask only for love, affection, the right to be awake when you want to sleep and nourishment. What form that nourishment takes is up to you.

New mothers who are unable to breastfeed should not feel guilty because formula is an effective way to feed your baby and ensure he or she receives proper nutrition.  But, the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby are many and exclusive breastfeeding for the first few months of a baby’s life is recommended. New moms should take note that many of the same benefits of breastfeeding can be achieved through a combination of breastfeeding and supplementing with formula.  

Ann Borders, MD, and Emmet Hirsch, MD, obsectrics/gynecology at NorthShore, share some of the valuable health benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Breast milk is nutritious and easy to digest. It’s the perfect combination of vitamins, fat and protein. It’s easy for a baby’s sensitive digestive system to break down, reducing constipation and gas.
  • Breast milk is an infection and disease fighter. It provides antibodies that help combat infection. Breastfed babies have fewer ear and respiratory infections. Breastfed babies have less risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies breastfed for at least six months are less likely to become obese as children and adults. It’s believed that breastfeeding is linked to lower rates of asthma, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer later in life. 
  • Breastfeeding is a bonding experience. It is extremely important for a mother and child to establish a secure bond in the first months of a child’s life. The physical closeness and contact of breastfeeding is an important opportunity for bonding. 
  • Breastfeeding saves money. Formula comes with a heavy price tag. Breastfeeding can save thousands of dollars a year. Add to that sum the potential long-term costs of healthcare for issues breastfeeding might help prevent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that families that follow breastfeeding guidelines save $1,200 - $1,500 in formula costs alone in the first year.
  • Breastfeeding burns calories. A woman who breastfeeds burns approximately 500 extra calories per day, making it easier to shift those extra pounds from pregnancy. That’s the equivalent of jogging for one hour. It also helps her uterus return to the size it was before pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding is healthy for mom too. Breastfeeding lowers a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding has been linked to lower risk of postpartum depression. Some studies show that it could also lower her risk for osteoporosis. 

Did you breastfeed? What were the advantages/disadvantages for you? For more advice on breastfeeding from Ann Borders, MD, click here

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Summer Fun: Water Safety for Kids

Tuesday, July 02, 2013 5:05 PM comments (0)

water safetySpending time by the water is a great way to cool off during the hottest months of the year but it can be a dangerous place, too, especially for small children. There are a number of measures parents can take to ensure time by the pool or on the beach is always safe and lots of fun.

Joseph Terrizzi, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares his tips and precautions to ensure the entire family stays safe all summer long:

  • Always supervise children. Never leave children alone in the pool or near bodies of water. Infants and young children can drown in as little as one inch of water. If your children are frequently exposed to water, consider enrolling them in swim lessons. If your children can swim that doesn’t mean supervision isn’t necessary because even the strongest swimmers can drown after experiencing a muscle cramp or fatigue. Always be vigilant about supervision.
  • Fence backyard pools. It’s difficult to have both eyes on small children at all times. If you have a backyard pool, make sure it’s fenced with locks that can’t be easily opened by children.
  • Take swim breaks. Buoyed by the water, it can be hard to tell that your muscles are getting tired. Get out, rehydrate and relax throughout the day. Fatigue and dehydration can lead to drowning.
  • Establish safety rules. Public pools have rules in place and these rules can and should apply to backyard pools as well. Pool rules should include: no running or pushing near the pool; always swim with a buddy; no screaming; no diving in water less than five feet deep.
  • Avoid the use of flotation devices. Inflatable toys and rafts can deflate suddenly, leaving your child without protection in deep water. Don’t rely on them or allow children to use inflatable objects to swim into water that’s too deep for their age and ability level.
  • Always wear a lifejacket. Every member of your family, from the youngest to the oldest, should wear a lifejacket at all times on boats or in large bodies of water. A lifejacket fits correctly if it can’t be lifted over the head of the wearer when fastened.
  • Stay up-to-date on pool maintenance. Faulty pool drains can suck in and catch hair, and even arms and legs, so have your equipment inspected at the start of every swim season. Recreational water illnesses are caused by germs that are swallowed in contaminated pools and hot tubs. Keeping chlorine at recommended levels is essential.

What do you do to keep to promote water safety at home by the pool?

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Tips for a Happy, Healthy Pregnancy After Age 35

Wednesday, June 05, 2013 12:42 PM comments (0)

pregnancyIncreasingly more women are waiting until later in life to start families. And while there are many benefits to postponing motherhood, there are some health risks that increase as a woman ages. 

What are the risks? Starting in their mid-30s, women face an increased risk for miscarriage, fetal chromosomal abnormalities, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, placental abruption, preeclampsia, early labor and are more likely to require a cesarean. 

It’s important to remember that these are risks all women, no matter their age, face during pregnancy. While every woman’s pregnancy is unique, older moms-to-be often face some unique challenges. Knowing what challenges might arise and how to reduce your risk increases the likelihood you’ll enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy.

Scott MacGregor, DO, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at NorthShore, shares his tips for staying healthy throughout your pregnancy: 

  • Talk to you doctor or midwife before getting pregnant. If you are older than 35 and thinking of starting a family, talk to your doctor or midwife about the current state of your health.  He or she can assess your personal risks and recommend certain lifestyle changes or evaluations to ensure you are at optimal health prior to getting pregnant. 
  • See your doctor or midwife early and regularly. As soon as you think you might be pregnant, see your doctor or midwife. The early stages are very important for any woman. Your doctor or midwife can assess your pregnancy and medical status in the early months and provide you with information to help guide you through the process.  Your doctor or midwife can also discuss your management plan and options during the pregnancy.
  • Take your vitamins. Again, this is important for any pregnant woman. Prenatal vitamins should contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. If you are not yet pregnant but are considering starting a family, start prenatal vitamins or folic acid now. Getting the recommended amount of folic acid before pregnancy and during the first trimester helps prevent birth defects. 
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Pregnancy is an excellent time to embark upon smart lifestyle choices. Moderate exercise—walking, swimming, yoga, stationary bike—for 30-45 minutes daily is encouraged. Make sure to maintain adequate hydration and avoid overexertion.  Cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs should be avoided.  Over-the-counter medications and herbal medicines should be avoided. 

Are you waiting until later to start your family? When did you have your first child?

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Gearing up for Motherhood: Pregnancy Checklist from Beginning to Baby [Infographic]

Thursday, May 09, 2013 9:23 AM comments (0)

Mother's Day might have passed but every day can be a celebration of moms, moms-to-be and the many adventures of motherhood. For expectant mothers, the experts at NorthShore University HealthSystem have created a checklist for the stages of pregnancy, week by week. Every mommy-to-be can learn how to take care of herself during each and every stage of pregnancy and track her baby’s developments along the way.

Click on the infographic to learn more about the stages of pregnancy and how a mommy-to-be can prepare for baby.

motherhood

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