Monday, July 16, 2007

10 helpful hints from the Pediatrician…

  1. Pacifiers - Pacifiers serve an important function for many infant and parents. One of the most effective ways an infant can console himself is to suck. Sucking can help an infant fall asleep and even relieve significant pain. In a recent analysis infants who sucked on pacifiers during sleep even had lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Most experts agree that by the first birthday the pacifier should be discarded. At that point, the pacifier starts to interfere with teeth position and speech development. The longer parents hang onto the pacifier, the harder it is to throw out. If parents start to wean it at about 6-9 months, then throwing them all out at a year is much easier.
  2. The bottle - Again the first birthday should bring the end to the bottle. Parents will often ask, “How will she get her milk?” In a cup! If parents introduce a cup around 6 months of age, then by the first birthday most toddlers have the hang of it. Getting rid of the bottle early (at one year) is much easier than waiting until the toddler is older. Prolonged bottle use can lead to tooth decay, speech delay, and ear infections. Think of getting rid of the pacifier and bottle as the first steps in behavior parenting.
  3. Sleep - Unfortunately many parents seek help after bad habits are already in place. Parents who place their child down awake from the beginning generally have no sleep problems. If babies are placed in their crib while drowsy and are allowed to fall asleep alone then they learn how to console themselves. Good sleep habits from the start, are key. At about 6 months of life most babies do not require calories in the middle of the night; however, they are beginning to develop a more mature sleep cycle. They begin to have nighttime arousals as a part of their sleep cycle. If their environment is as it was when they went to sleep, then they can easily slip back into the next cycle, if they wake to find that they are in a new situation they will awaken more and cry out. I usually give parents the example of going to sleep in your bed and waking to adjust your pillow (as we all do each night) and finding yourself outside. You’d cry out too! The same thing happens to the child when he has been rocked or fed to sleep, he wakes at the end of a cycle and finds himself in the crib by himself so he calls for Mom. Introducing a routine before each sleep time often helps the child learn to fall asleep alone.
  4. Constipation - Babies are not like adults. After the second week of life, breastfed infants may have a bowel movement very infrequently, in fact sometimes only once a week and formula fed infants aren’t far behind. An infant should be considered constipated if she is having hard stools, even if it is many times in one day. Stool consistency is key, not frequency.
  5. Green does not equal bad - Green mucus does not mean bacterial infection! Many parents think that the color of snot is indicative of infection. This is not true. During the average viral cold mucus changes from clear to yellow to green back to yellow back to clear.
  6. Healthy relationships - One of the most important things you can do for your child is have a healthy relationship with your significant other. Time with your spouse/significant other without the children is important and helps you to be a better parent. The corollary of this is take care of yourself so you can take the best care of your child.
  7. Shots - Vaccinations are not a punishment. Immunizations are an important aspect of preventative care, so children should not be made to feel that if they don’t behave they will get a shot. If parents have parenting questions about effective discipline, pediatricians are happy to offer advice or reading material.
  8. No Juice – Fruit juice is not necessary. Parents frequently ask how much juice does my child need? The answer: NONE! The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends a limit on juice knowing that parents frequently offer too much juice. If you are going to give your child juice, it should be 100% juice only.
  9. Milk is okay – Milk is fine when you are sick. Many people think milk will increase mucus production when you have a cold. It does not. With a lot of mucus in the back of your throat, it may not feel good or taste as good as usual but it certainly does not increase the mucus production.
  10. Read - Please read to your child. Children whose parents read to them are automatically ahead in school. It is one of the most important steps in language development, not to mention quality time with your child. Enjoy a good book today!

    Your pediatrician will be happy to discuss any of these issues as it relates to your child specifically. Just ask!

Zoey Goore, MD, MPH, Pediatrics

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