Author Archive

Smartphones At Dinner: A Wake-Up Call

lego iPhoneA new observational study illuminates some ugly truths about parental/caregiver use of cell phones and smartphones at the dinner table. More than anything else, the observations serve up a hearty reminder that cell phones are embedded into our lives (see my son’s “Lego iPhone” as case in point) and that we have to be diligent in making digital breaks a habit. As phones and devices get more useful, they become harder and harder from which to separate.

Reading the new study I felt a little queasy for two reasons.

ONE: there are moments I fail my children in this regard. I think you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think you are (if you own a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or computer). I would suspect most parents who read the study see a bit of themselves in there. I certainly remember (vividly) the day that my then 3 year-old son wanted my attention while I was working on my phone. He must have asked and gotten no response. He then literally put his head between my cell phone and my face to get my attention. Talk about a wake-up call…

TWO: I really hate to read about children becoming either helpless and/or giving up on trying for their parents’ attention (this was observed in the study). I also hated reading about children who kept vying for their parents attention and then get shot down and yelled at for interrupting. Just so unfair to children during dinner. Parenting really is different now. We weren’t raised by parents with these distractions. The implications on our children’s (and our own) health are just starting to to come into focus.

We’re all vying for a sane balance with our digital devices. The study detailed below offers up some uncomfortable observations and fuel to make changes now:

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Finding Calm And Confidence

Mama Doc Medicine Cover Hi-ResOfficial launch of my book is…… today! Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Child Health, Parenting, and Work-Life Balance. I’m seeing patients in clinic today but certainly am planning on walking over to the bookstore during my lunch break at clinic to see if it’s there. That will be a first…

More than anything, I wrote Mama Doc Medicine to connect parents and families with science and story (see video below). Although in some regards this book was designed to be the perfect baby shower gift, it has information on parenting children at any age, work-life-balance, and tips for raising your children with great social emotional skills.  There is information about sunscreen on babies, fostering generosity, fighting cavities, Tina Fey, risks for SIDS, Measles in America, taking digital breaks from your cell phone, and chicken pox.

In addition to about 100 magazine length sections (perfect for reading while nursing or sitting in the bleachers waiting for practice to finish), there are tweets, infographics, bar graphs (bouncy house injuries!) and boxes with custom links to research, awesome parenting videos, and online resources I go to.

If you’re wondering just when and why the soft spot closes or exactly how much crying is normal for a one month-old, or are looking for simple ways to increase your family’s health (hint: go outside) this is for you. The book is available in bookstores everywhere today and of course, online. Kindle version is also available!

Book Reading And Appearances

similarities

The book has offered up a flurry of opportunity to talk about health and prevention, vaccine science, and my journey as a digital and public physician. In addition to a number of Seattle and Chicago appearances,  I’ll be on The Today Show on March 13th and interviewing with Katie Couric (and taking audience questions) on Katie in April. Would love to know you’re watching while I’m there…

I’ll be presenting and doing a book signing this weekend in Chicago at the American Academy of Pediatric Expo — the first ever Healthy Children educational event designed for parents and children. Only $8 to attend (kids are free). I’m doing a talk with 10 things families should know and a book signing at 12pm (first 300 books are free and we can connect in real life!).

Next couple book readings are near Seattle: University Book Store (March 20) and Third Place Books (April 9th) and Village Books (April 26th) Read full post »

New Recommendations Parents Should Know

New 2014 recommendations are out for improving our prevention efforts for children. Parents can help ensure children get what they deserve at check ups. The updates to recommendations for wellness check-up are written to guide physicians but parents are a key voice in ensuring it all happens!

Updated 2014 Recommendations For Check-Ups

Some relevant changes to prevention/screening for children:

  • Infants: All infants need a pulse oximetry screen at or after 1 day of life to screen for heart defects. The test is non-invasive (just requires a technician, nurse, or doctor put an oxygen probe on their arms and legs). More information on the test here. Ideal time for testing is between 24 and 48 hours of life. If your baby is born at home or outside the hospital, go in to see pediatrician for the screen on day 1 or 2! Toddlers should be screened for iron deficiency risk at 15 and 30 months of age.
  • Children: All children should be screened for depression every single year starting at age 11 years. Don’t ever shy away from discussions about mood with your pediatrician. In addition, all children are recommended to have cholesterol screening at age 9-11. I reviewed ways to prevent heart disease and cholesterol screening policy statement here.
  • Teens: All teens need an annual check-up (a complete check-up will provide some time alone with doctor and nurse; mom or dad will be asked to leave for at least part of the visit). All teens need HIV screening test at age 16-18 (or sooner) and girls get their first pap smear at age 21.

5 Things Parents Need To Know About Check-Ups

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New Obesity Data And Tips To Avoid It

New data published in JAMA today finds that there has been no significant change in rates of overweight/obesity overall for children between age 2 to 19 years of age since 2003. This is unfortunate news in the big fight against overweight and obesity. Conclusions from the study, “Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.” Obesity rates remain high at with 17% of children and more than 1/3 of adults.

The good news is that there was improvement in one small group, toddlers age 2 to 5. Numbers from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey(NHANES) show reductions in overweight and obesity for the preschoolers by as much as 43% during the last decade. Really hoping this is a canary in a coal mine situation — perhaps they’re chirping a clue. Learning the “why” behind the reduction in obesity for preschoolers feels like a huge opportunity. However for the mass of people researched in total (over 9,000 from birth to age > 60 years) the data confirms we’re not done tipping the scales.

The research article evaluated rates of overweight and obesity between 2003-04 NHANES data and 2011-12 data on children and adults. The CDC is highlighting the success in the toddlers, stating:

While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity among 2 to 5 year olds are not clear, many child care centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years.  In addition, CDC data show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years. Another possible factor might be the improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which is beneficial to staving off obesity in breastfed children.

It’s wonderful to see signs of improvement in the small population of children included in the NHANES data but this research article doesn’t investigate how the improvements were made and/if they are stable. More research will have to unfold. We’re all desperate — parents, pediatricians, public health experts — for solutions that work in not only curbing, but reversing the rates of overweight and obesity. This data can potentially focus the light on where we need to look to study cause and effect to determine possible success stories and strategies. Five quick tips for parents now: Read full post »

The Moment Is Now

Today my heart is stuck in my typical quarterly crisis about how I’m spending time on earth. Each goodbye with the boys leaves me a bit emptied. I planned to write about kids’ check-ups and health insurance today, which I will do– but tomorrow, because my heart is here:

It’s becoming more obvious to me that the current work-life-balance crisis I’m swirled up in (or smashed into) was triggered by the recent deaths of 2 people I loved, a delicious movie about connection and time, the juxtaposition in watching Jimmy Fallen express love for his Winnie just a minute before Will Smith mentioned everyone’s art could be used to enhance lives, and a voice in me that’s getting louder and louder. I’m hearing the echoes of this voice in almost everything I do right now. Yes I desperately want to work to improve children’s health. Yes I desperately want to witness my life. The gist of the echoes are urging me to consider how I carve out time for mindfulness and unhurried time with the boys. Over the last 24 hours I also read two articles, “Recline! How ‘Leaning In’ is Killing Us” and “Clinging to Each Other, We Survived the Storm” and I knew I could sit quietly no longer. (pssst, read those articles) Read full post »

Want A Copy Of Mama Doc Medicine?

Mama Doc Medicine Cover Hi-ResMama Doc Medicine shipped from online retailers over the weekend. It’s been such an exciting time to hear from colleagues and friends all over the US reading the book. Much of the book content stems from writing I’ve shared here and I remain so thankful for all those who continue to help me learn how to translate science and health information.

Like every blogger on planet earth, I’m so thankful for comments on the blog. I learn a ton from parents, pediatricians, and all you experts here. Conversation can be exceptionally fruitful. As a tiny token of appreciation for the comments (you can also read about my appreciation in the Acknowledgment section of the book) I’m giving away 20 copies of the book to loyal followers and commenters. I’ll sign and endorse the book for you or for whomever you’d like!

2 Ways To Get A Signed Copy Of Mama Doc Medicine:

  1. If you’re a loyal follower and/or specifically a loyal commenter (Viki, you know who you are) please leave a comment below. WordPress (the service that hosts the blog) knows how many comments you’ve left previously (it tracks commenters by the email address you use when leaving a comment). However if you’re a loyal reader who doesn’t leave comments, will you please leave a comment below so I know you’ve been here reading? For 10 who respond/comment here, we’ll send copies to you as a thanks! Leave a comment below (perhaps including a post you’d like me to write). I’ll email you back for details to send you a book if you’re one of the frequent commenters or prove/insist you’re a very loyal reader :-) You have 1 week (until March 4th) to leave a comment. Please do!
  2. 10 copies of the book will also be gifted through GoodReads giveaway (just click on the link, register on Good Reads, and enter). Ten winners will be randomly selected by GoodReads as winners. You have until March 4th to enter the GoodReads giveaway as well.

Many thanks for all of your support. Really hope you enjoy the book and find the links, infographics and stories helpful!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mama Doc Medicine by Wendy Sue Swanson

Mama Doc Medicine

by Wendy Sue Swanson

Giveaway ends March 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

We Want Your BPOD

And now for something a little different….We want to animate your child’s BPOD (Best Part of Day). Send us a short recording of your child talking about their BPOD and we’ll bring their experience to life in an animated video (see video above)! We’ll never disclose their name or age, just share their journey and insight through their words.

Email your recording to my Seattle Mama Doc email (seattlemamadoc@seattlechildrens.org) by Feb 26, and we’ll select 5-10 recordings to animate and share the first week of March. As a note, I typically record these audio recordings on my iPhone (in “voice memos”) and it allows me to email or share them easily. See below for more details & the text you’ll need to include when you send your audio files! Read full post »

My Three Valentines

Valentine constructionI had to bring my valentine supplies to work today. Have yet to construct them or profess my love on these big red hearts but I will before heading home. I’m not buying the boys any flowers or candy (their school friends did, thank goodness) but I do revel in the opportunity to put words on a heart each year on February 14th.

Yesterday I had meetings all day. The best part of my work day came at the end during a delightful interview (with ParentMap) when I was asked, “What time do you love or treasure most with your boys?” My response was totally off the cuff. But I’ll say, even just getting an opportunity to respond to the question was a huge delight. I’ve been reading and reflecting on how we share our journey of parenthood because of a Slate article I read earlier this week entitled, “My Life Is A Waking Nightmare.” The author protests the amount of negativity we share about parenthood.

As I reflected on the interview last night I realized it was the foundation for my three valentines. Everything in my heart is different after having children, of course. My romantic love for my husband remains and is nurtured with time but these little boys take up huge real estate now. For the rest of time I’ll always send at least 3 valentines. Just the way it is now after having my boys.

If you’re curious, here’s what I said (I’m paraphrasing). Don’t worry I’ll condense this for the cards!

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Caffeine Intake High For Children But Shifting

CoffeeI was up helping my son for the majority of the night. He’s got a stomach bug (which he got from his brother) therefore I was up dealing with the enormous mess that comes with vomiting in the middle of the night. I know you know my woe. This is the second round of this bug at our house so I was clearly exhausted when 6 am rolled around.

First thing I reached for was my cup of coffee. Pretty typical for a working mom just trying to get by. As I write about caffeine, from my perch in this dear coffee town, I’m in no way suggesting we parents should ditch the latte! In fact the health benefits of moderate coffee intake during adulthood continue to unfold amidst ongoing small concerns. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth on the health benefits lurking in coffee. Moderation, like always, is key.

Yet when it comes to children, we may be more lax about caffeine intake than ideal. Caffeine consumption is pretty high in the US with more than 70% of children having caffeine on a daily basis. New research out today evaluating trends in caffeine intake from 1999 to 2010 illuminates the shifts in our children’s consumption. The researchers summed it up best here:

Mean caffeine intake has not increased among children and adolescents in recent years. However, coffee and energy drinks represent a greater proportion of caffeine intake as soda intake has declined, and generally have higher concentrations and amounts of caffeine than soda.

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CVS Stops Selling Tobacco

Doctors are tough critics — as well they should be. Today the news that CVS Caremark pharmacies will no longer sell tobacco brought about quite a bit of rapid online dialogue. Even President Obama chimed-in with praise, a response that some in the business world say is worth billions for CVS. Having a good reputation, particularly when you’re in the business of delivering health care and lending health advice, seems essential. In my mind we should praise and celebrate what today brings – leadership for making it harder to get addicted to tobacco products we know seriously harm health.

But not all doctors may think a move to ban the sale of tobacco in a health care environment is enough. Dr Sunny Chan, a family doctor in Canada, asked the tough question about our health care providers (HCP) working environment:

Meanwhile, Texas pediatrician Dr Bryan Vartabedian wrote a blog post this morning asking CVS to take a bigger step  by banning sales of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages (that we know are associated with obesity) and junk food. He wrote,

You can’t make money peddling savory snacks while at once setting the pace for a healthy lifestyle.  And condemning one vice works for the press release, but not as a brand offering health solutions.

When focusing singularly on CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco products, it’s easy to say the choice is a phenomenal one. Not promoting (or profiting) from the sale of carcinogens is always in the best interest of our communities and our long-term health. I return to what Centers For Disease Control’s Director, Dr Thomas Friedman, recently wrote in JAMA , “Tobacco is, quite simply, in a league of its own in terms of the sheer numbers and varieties of ways it kills and maims people.” Read full post »