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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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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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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The Importance of Regular Pediatric Doctor Visits

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

Pediatric-AppointmentsDoes it seem like you make a lot of trips to see your pediatrician? Regardless of the reason—the sniffles, a high fever, an infection or something else—it is a good idea to make regular visits to the doctor. These appointments, along with any “back-to-school” check-ups, are not only important to your child’s well being, but also can help physicians identify health risks and preventive measures.

Alison Galanopoulos, MD, NorthShore-affiliated Pediatrician, identifies some of the common health concerns that a pediatrician can often identify during regular visits:

  • Behavioral Issues. Some behavioral issues may be hard for a parent to pinpoint. Something as simple as snoring, for example, can sometimes signal serious problems, such as sleep apnea, bedwetting and even ADHD.
  • Growth and Development. Your pediatrician can monitor patterns to help determine your child’s growth and development. He or she should also be able to ask the right questions during appointments to help identify any problems.
  • Obesity. Preventive health is key. With the rise of childhood obesity, having regular appointments that can track your child’s weight and height are essential to help determine a potential weight problem. Your pediatrician can work with you to establish healthy eating habits and promote exercise from a young age.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies. Many children have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to future health problems. The best way to combat this is to have your child (depending on age) eat 2-3 servings of calcium a day.
  • Vaccinations. There are many required immunizations, and it can be overwhelming for a parent to keep track of what is needed. You can work with your pediatrician to confirm your child is up to date.

How frequently do you take your child/children to the pediatrician?

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Guide to Buying and Giving Age-Appropriate Toys

Thursday, December 06, 2012 5:37 PM comments (0)

Now is the time when our shopping lists for holiday giving may include items for children of varying ages. While walking through the aisles, you’ll see plenty of new toys along with many of the tried-and-true classics (like building blocks and dolls). With all the options out there, how do you know which toys are best suited for what ages?

The most colorful or cute toy on the shelf doesn’t always make it the best choice. It’s worthwhile to recognize that children of varying ages have achieved different development milestones.  Just as you wouldn’t give an infant a LEGO® set, you also wouldn’t buy a four year old a teething rattle.

Kenneth Fox, MD, a pediatrician at NorthShore, gives the following recommendations when shopping for age-appropriate toys:

  • Safety first. Choose sturdy toys with washable surfaces. Watch out for small parts, sharp points or edges. Make sure attached pieces (eyes, buttons, etc.) cannot be torn or bitten off to create choking hazards. Avoid toys made of or decorated with toxic substances or chemicals (paints, dyes, glazes or other embellishments). As much as possible, try to understand where toys or other gifts are made and avoid untrustworthy sources even if they appear to be bargains. Make certain batteries are not accessible to curious and nimble little hands and mouths. Battery- or electric-powered toys should be  labeled “UL approved.” For more detailed information on specific toys consult Consumer Protection Safety Commission website (www.CPSC.gov).
  • Read the packaging information. Most toys include a recommended age on the packaging. These labels, based on a typical child’s abilities and skills at a particular age, should serve as guidelines. But remember, every child is different and develops at his own pace. Ask yourself the basic question: “Is this toy right for this particular child, given his particular developmental stage?”
  • Resist buying toys that a child can “grow into”. Age guidelines on toys exist for a reason. As nice as it may be to stock up on new toys for the growing child, it’s often hard to keep these toys out of reach until they are age appropriate.
  • Choose usefulness over fad, “must-have” toys. Every year there are countless new toy trends and gimmicks. It often is best to stick to options that have been around long enough to be dependable and tested. The best, most fun toys often have an unstructured aspect. They invite and engage the child’s imagination and creativity.
  • Kids learn a lot both by receiving and by giving. Basic capacities for empathy emerge in childhood through experiences with gift exchange and through symbolic play. Kids learn to be generous givers and gracious receivers of gifts through practice, guided by caring adults. From choosing, wrapping and presenting gifts to others, a capacity for empathy is nurtured, supported and reinforced. Also, modeling how to show one’s appreciation is a great gift in itself. “Thank you” goes a long way, even in today’s world of rampant consumerism.
  • Set limits on gifts and keep things simple. How often have you noticed that young children are often more entertained by gift wrapping and packages—like big empty boxes—for creative play? Art supplies are often the most treasured, enduring and useful gifts.
  • As much as possible, try to connect a gift with an experience. For example, handmade or homemade gifts or cards in which the child participates creatively make for heartfelt and memorable experiences. A book about or memento of a particular activity, thing or place that a child can then have direct experience with in a hands-on way, makes for a wonderful, cherished gift.

Play is essential to a child’s physical, cognitive, social and moral development. Toys, books and experiences that enrich creative play make wonderful gifts for the season and support healthy child development all year long.

Can you remember a time when one of your children received a toy not well suited for his or her age? What did you do?

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Spoon-Fed to Self-Serve: When to Transition Your Baby

Thursday, May 17, 2012 8:07 AM comments (0)

baby foodThe first year of your baby’s life will involve various dietary changes. For the first three to four months, your infant will only need breast milk or formula.

As your baby begins to hold his head up, is teething and shows interest in food (at around four to six months), you can start to introduce pureed foods and cereals (iron-fortified) into his diet.

This transition may be messy at first. Over time your baby will become more independent (and interested!) in feeding himself. When do you know it is a good time to hand the spoon over?
 
Sharon Robinson, MD, Pediatrician, at NorthShore provides some tips on how you can transition your child from being spoon-fed to beginning to eat on his own:

  • Encourage your baby to hold, touch and sample food on his own.
  • Let your baby help you put the spoon into his mouth during feedings. Once he is comfortable on his own, let him do it by himself.
  • Offer your baby finger foods. You can then gradually transition to a spoon.
  • Plan to eat your meal at the same time as your baby. This will reinforce correct behaviors and encourage independence.
  • Be patient and don’t rush your baby. At first more food may end up on the ground than in your baby’s mouth. Over time your baby will learn how to eat properly with making such a mess.

When did your kids start eating solid foods? How old were they when they began feeding themselves? What were some of their favorite foods?

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