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Halloween

I worry most about pedestrian injuries on Halloween. In fact data from Safe Kids Worldwide finds that children are 2 times as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Eeeps! The news isn’t all bad though — a 2010 report found that in the emergency room doctors see more sports injuries on Halloween than they see Halloween ones. We just have to be smart about how our children enjoy the exciting day.

Quick Tips & Reminders For A Safe Halloween

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Trick-o-Treating: Every child deserves and needs a sober adult supervisor. If your children are 13 years and up, consider letting them go out with a group of friends but have a route planned and a contract that they’ll call to check in every 1 hour or so– even if just with a quick text message.

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Candy: Make a plan ahead of time for candy. Discuss how much they’ll have on October 31st and then how much each day thereafter. Don’t forget to employ the Switch Witch on November 5th to eradicate the candy battles from continuing 1 week after Halloween. If your child has a life-threatening allergy to any food I recommend there is a parent around with Epinephrine at all times while out. If your child has a diagnosis of insulin-dependent diabetes check out a list of carb counts for common candy.

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Costumes: Costumes should –of course– still allow your child to see and move without causing them harm. Because getting hit by a car is a real risk when out and about on Halloween, ensure they are set up for success. If you’re thinking about colored contacts, read tips on selecting safe ones – who knew they were considered medical devices and thus regulated by the FDA? Whenever possible attach lights, LED add-ons, and reflectors so the rest of the world can see your child’s costume. Here’s more tips on safety from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Remarkable Facts About Young Brains

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I’m thinking about the high stakes of parenting. Thing is, the more I learn about early child brain development, the more I’m astounded by the opportunity and simultaneous great responsibility it is to care for and nurture young children during their first few years. The reality is: the brain is rapidly evolving as children grow– the connections between brain cells shift and change based on experiences children have. I mean, the brain really just learns how to think as our children age, especially as infants and toddlers.

I’m at the national American Academy of Pediatrics meeting this weekend in Orlando. I’ll be sharing ideas and things I’m learning on Twitter and my Mama Doc Facebook so please follow along if you’re interested. Yet in the immediate I wanted to share a couple things I heard this afternoon about early brain development that can easily change how we think about our children’s lives now.

The first speaker I was lucky enough to hear is Dr Pat Levitt an expert on early brain development from University of Southern California. He shared some fantastic science. Here are 4 quotes from his talk and 5 ideas for what we can do to incorporate science into everyday life while raising children: Read full post »

Tiny Little Kisses

I’ve had an enormously stressful week or so. Seriously maxed out in a way I haven’t been in some time — smooooshed if you will. The reason I mention my stress is that I’ve found in the past, like this week, these stressful episodes are often peppered with moments of mindfulness that penetrate into my life and stick. Little reminders of what matters most — they seem to bubble up inconveniently, often during these times, and then form exceptional meaning going forward. I’m certain you know what I mean—I think perhaps its the context or the heightened sense of acuity when trying to balance work and family during stress that brings us to our knees while also serving up reminders to consume life’s essence.

Thankfully there are buoys around us that get us through these stressful episodes. A joke our child makes while running by, a story on the radio that allows us to pause, the simple beauty of a red tree passing into sight on the side of the road. Sometimes when we’re most amped and stressed our lenses on life de-fog in a way where the beauty is just crystal clear.

What I’m talking about is my sudden sense of realizing how the tiny little kisses I give my boys at bedtime may be the most essential routine of my day. I’ve just written about bedtime routines and their importance for children’s health. But yesterday I realized how essential they are for their social emotional wellbeing, too.

Here’s why: Read full post »

Buying Breast Milk Online

New research out today confirms that buying breast milk on the Internet via milk-sharing sites may not be safe. Although breast milk purchased from online sites may be free or as cheap as $1-$2 an ounce, it may carry significant risk for babies. Clearly the benefits of breast milk are vast; pediatricians and health experts recommend exclusive breast feeding until 6 months of age. However, simply put, breast milk obtained from unknown (or known) individuals online may carry contamination from medications/drugs excreted in the breast milk,  bacterial, or viral contamination. If a mother isn’t able to provide enough breast milk for her newborn or infant, parents must know that milk from online sellers can be contaminated at the time of collection and/or during transport, dangerous especially for babies born prematurely. If buying human breast milk parents should look for a certified milk bank.

Back in 2010 the FDA spoke out against the practice of buying breast milk online, warning parents of potential risks due to bacteria or viral contamination, exposure to chemicals, medications, and drugs. The research out today confirmed these hesitations: nearly 3/4 of the breast milk obtained by researchers online had bacterial contamination and 20% of the samples tested positive for a virus called CMV.

It should be noted that breast milk bacteria (or virus) counts aren’t deterministic for infection, meaning that just having bacteria in a breast milk sample doesn’t mean a baby will get sick from it. How old a baby is, the amount of bacteria in the sample, and the immune status of an infant all also play a part. However, there are reports of premature babies and babies with immune dysfunction becoming seriously ill from donated unpasteurized breast milk so caution is necessary.

To be very clear the breast milk obtained and studied in the new research was NOT from a milk bank. Human Milk Banking of North America (HMBANA)  breast milk banks screen donors for infections (like HIV) and pasteurize the breast milk to ensure improved safety protection. The trouble for many families unable to make enough breast milk with using these banks can be very costly secondary to the handling, screening, and pasteurization. Milk can be several dollars an ounce! Read full post »

Status Update: Facebook Changes For Teens

Facebook imageFacebook changed its privacy policy for teens this week, despite work from advocacy groups and media experts against the change. On Wednesday October 16th teen privacy settings were adjusted to allow teens to share status updates and photos publicly. The change literally allows the public a window into a teen’s thoughts and photos on Facebook for the first time.

Fortunately, teens can control this by opting out of public sharing. The default setting at this point for teens when joining Facebook will not automatically allow for public sharing. Teens can opt-in after clicking through a pop-up notice. This step could of course change.

Visit the privacy setting page on Facebook with your teen.

In my opinion this is not in the best interest of our children. As we evolve and adapt to using social tools, we’re all still getting our footing. So are our teens as they begin to create a digital footprint of thoughts and photos online. Further, concerns about this shift include public access to teen sharing that will likely be data-mined and scoured by advertisers and companies hoping to target teens with goods and services.

Read this blog post from pediatrician and social media expert, Dr Megan Moreno, on the new changes for teens. Information and links on how to talk to teens about changes along with resources for learning more are included. A recent Q&A she completed online about parents and teens is linked. She says it best when she says:

This situation presents an enormous opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teens about privacy settings online.  For parents who have already had these conversations in the past, it’s time to sit down and discuss Facebook’s decision, review your family’s rules about online safety, and review your teen’s current privacy settings on Facebook – both their overall  “privacy settings” and the “audience” for their posts.

Read full post »

Nothing Better

sleepNothing better than watching our children sleep peacefully. Independent of our circumstance there is nothing more settling, or prettier, than a child at peace. A day of happiness and good health or one where a child has battled pain or a fever, one filled with challenges at school or one where we’ve simply had a bad day at work. Doesn’t really matter what’s stirring or what’s not, there is something precious we all discover once we become parents–we can stare at our children endlessly while they rest. It can provide a sense of ease unmatched elsewhere in our lives.

Slipping back into the room to catch a glimpse of our children enjoying a peaceful rest is truly one of life’s greatest gifts.

Years ago an experienced father said to me, “Don’t let a single night go by where the last thing you do before heading off to bed isn’t kissing your kids goodnight one more time.” I took the advice. The ritual has perhaps compounded the obvious truth ~ nothing better than witnessing the beauty of our children at peace. Sleep is such a treasure.

Consistency May Be The “Secret Sauce”

Consistency may be the “secret sauce” in parenthood. Anything from helping children survive temper tantrums to helping your children eat more diverse foods, providing consistency with expectations and daily routines may be the very special thing we do that allows our children to thrive. Like most challenges in life, talking about and identifying the need for consistency is easy, implementing it throughout our daily lives is much more of a challenge. Finding and securing a consistent bedtime is one place where this “secret sauce” may really work. New data on sleep patterns for young children drives this point home. Getting your children to bed at the same time each night is powerful.

A study out today in Pediatrics evaluated data from over 10,000 children in the UK. As a part of a larger study (UK Millennium Cohort Study) researchers collected bedtime data at age 3, 5, and 7 years for children. They found children with nonregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties. Further, as children progressed through childhood there was incremental worsening in children’s behavior scores as they were exposed to more and more inconsistent bedtimes. Read full post »

The Lion Dad And Over-Enrolled Kids

photo[1]Someone mentioned recently that I was potentially a Tiger Mom. That’s when I realized we have a Lion Dad situation around here.

So many of us now “co-parent” our children. We share the responsibilities of raising children with our spouse or partner. Although co-parenting usually describes parents separated or divorced who take turns raising children, I think “co-parenting” describes many of us living together while raising children, too. In our home everything from feeding to toilet training, preschool pick-ups to soccer sign-up, and bathing to bedtime routines are divided and diced. The dance is typically elaborate and often it can be very messy. Sometimes it makes no sense how we split the tasks and of course sometimes we mess up– both forgetting something that needs to be done. I often feel like we’re always the last ones signing up for parent conference or preschool home visits–we just aren’t entirely always on top of our game! I know you know what I mean—so many of us divvy up the tasks necessary in raising children these days I’d suggest this co-parenting is just a part of modern parenting. A tango of sorts.

So it’s awkward at times that women, particularly those of us who work outside the home, are the key go-to or point person for outside institutions, families, and sports teams when someone tries to reach in and coordinate with us. I often feel the world is behind the times. Read full post »

Undervaccination

There isn’t a lot of research on children’s safety when a child is on an alternative vaccine schedule. While we clearly know that the longer you wait to immunize a child for vaccine-preventable illnesses, the longer the window of time a child is left susceptible, there isn’t a huge data set on children who are late to get shots or who are considered “undervaccinated.” Although it’s intuitive to think that a child who is not getting immunizations on time is at higher risk for infections (particularly during times of epidemics), it’s helpful when the science backs up our instinct and thinking.

This is likely something you already knew but there’s new research to compound our understanding.

Children Late On Shots Are At Risk For Whooping Cough

Recent pediatric research found that when it comes to whooping cough, children who were late on getting their shots are more prone to infection. In fact the more doses of the DTaP shot that a child misses, the more likely it is that they could be diagnosed with whooping cough.

A JAMA Pediatrics study published online in September 2013 evaluated children between 3 months to 36 months of age. During the first three years of life children are recommended to have 4 doses of the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis) shot starting at 2 months of age. In the JAMA matched case-control study children who were late on 3 doses of DTaP were 18 times as likely be diagnosed with whooping cough compared to children who were up to date on their shots. Children unvaccinated (missing 4 doses of DTaP) were 28 times more likely to be diagnosed with whooping cough when compared with fully vaccinated children.

The takeaway reminder? When you start a series of immunizations for your children, make sure you complete all shots in the series. Most experts believe children aren’t fully protected from whooping cough until they’ve received 4 doses of DTaP (at 15 months of age if on-schedule).

We have to finish what we start — another reason to get in on-time for well-care visits during the first few years of a your child’s life. And as a final note, the value of well-child care extends well past immunization.

Easy Ways To Prepare Your Family For An Emergency

In the past I’ve hated preparing for emergencies. It made me nervous and like most people I procrastinated because I hated playing out a potential tragedy in my head. However it’s easy to say:

I am really happy I made an emergency kit about 3 years ago. I really don’t regret the time or money I spent getting it done. I do think I’m less anxious now.

September is Emergency Preparedness Month so hopefully in the nick of time we can all make preparing our family a priority. Before you read on know that pacing yourself and setting a goal for completing a full preparation can be set months out. Make a goal perhaps that by the end of 2013 you’ll have a communication plan, a 3-day emergency kit prepared, and have met with or talked with a neighbor or two about how you can work together in the event of an earthquake, tornado, other weather-related emergencies, fire, or safety threat that cuts you off from others’ help. Experts recommend you have enough supplies, first aid kits, medications, water, and some battery backup to last you for at least 3 days. If you’ve already purchased and/or assembled a kit, don’t forget to refresh it. I realized just this week that the water in our emergency kits had somehow leaked and/or partially evaporated. Time to replace it. Water does expire so instructions for “making” safe water from the Centers for Disease Control help. Read full post »