Infant

All Articles in the Category ‘Infant’

Home Births: Polarizing Views

baby OLike so many controversial parenting topics, discussing home births brings out dynamic opinions. These controversial topics unfortunately often tear us apart from one another. This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement on home births that will hopefully help inform. In general, the policy statement identified data confirming it’s safer to have birth in a hospital, but outlined ways to decrease risks for moms and families, midwives, and doulas that want to partner with moms to have their babies at home, as safely as possible.

  • Home births only occur in about 1% of births here in the United States although interest in increasing. Distance from the hospital matters~ if it takes more than 20 minutes to get into a hospital from home, risk of complications including infant mortality are higher. Data shows that home births carry at 2-3 fold higher risk for infant death when compared to hospital births. 
  • The AAP states home births should only be considered if no maternal health problems, if it’s a term baby (after 37 weeks and before 41 weeks gestation), labor started at home spontaneously or as an outpatient, and it’s a single pregnancy that isn’t breech. Having had a previous C-section makes a home birth a no-no in their mind.
  • The AAP recommends having at least 2 people attending the birth with at least one person at the birth who’s sole job is to care for and tend to the baby after the birth. They outline that the baby’s caregiver needs to know how and why to resuscitate a newborn. The team caring for mom and baby need access to consultation with obstetricians and pediatricians and a well-planned way to access the hospital or medical team easily if needed.
  • The AAP says, “Every newborn infant deserves health care that adheres to the standards highlighted in this statement.” Care described includes warming the baby and initial transitions, glucose monitoring, infection monitoring, feeding assessment, jaundice checks, vitamin K shot, Hepatitis B shot, eye infection prevention, hearing screen, newborn blood screen, and follow-up care plans.

I believe we each have the right to make health care decisions that are best for our families. We also must have access to un-biased information on safety. Every single health decision we make is a process where we weigh risks against benefits. Home birth versus hospital birth is no exception.

My disclaimers: I had 2 hospital births which required all sorts of intervention and intensive care—2 C-sections, a bedside resuscitation for my newborn, and a short NICU stay for one of my sons. I would never have wanted to have a home birth after my training in pediatrics. That being said, there were aspects of the hospital care that really upset me. I didn’t have a birth plan, per se. I wanted this: a healthy baby and to survive the delivery without complication. I got both, thank goodness, but it wasn’t perfect. The beginning of motherhood was a challenge for me both times around and in part, I’ve always looked back feeling I should have been a stronger mom in the hospital… Read full post »

You Can Help Prevent Shaken Babies

Babies get shaken most after periods of inconsolable crying. Since April is Child Abuse Prevention month, here’s some information on abusive head trauma (previously know as “shaken baby syndrome”) and ways you can help support new parents with babies who cry.

All babies cry. But some babies cry more (see the graph in the video). Babies do follow predictable patterns in crying: most babies start crying around 2 weeks of age and their crying peaks by 2 months, then tends to resolve around 3 to 4 months of age. But there are some babies who simply cry more than others. Dr Ronald Barr has researched crying in infants for over 30 years and developed the PURPLE period of crying based off data on all types of infants. Learning about the PURPLE period so you can help reassure families that they aren’t doing ANYTHING WRONG when they have a fussy baby. It’s okay that a baby fusses and cries, particularly at peak times (around 2 months of age, in the evening), our job as parents and community members is to support parents dealing with this fussiness.

Crying is aggravating to all of us. When I spoke with Dr Ken Feldman, a pediatrician and expert in shaken baby syndrome (now called abusive head trauma), he reminded me of a startling finding. He mentioned a North Carolina study found that 20% of parents surveyed admitted to shaking a baby out of frustration at some point.

You’re not alone if you’ve felt overwhelmed while caring for a cranky baby.

Take turns soothing fussy babies. Put babies in their cribs on their backs if you get really frustrated. It’s always okay to walk away from a really cranky baby for a 10-15 minute break!

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Why Do Babies Wake Up At Night?

Most babies wake up at night. And although some superhero babies sleep 10-12 hours straight starting around 3-4 months of age, most infants wake up during the night and cry out for their parents. There are scientific reasons and some developmental and behavioral explanations for these awakenings. I spoke with my friend Dr Maida Chen, a pediatric pulmonologist, mother to three, and director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center to put a list together regarding why babies do this. Leave questions and comments below if we can explain more. I’ll author a follow-up blog on ways you can help your baby when they wake up, too.

10 Reasons Babies Wake Up At Night:

  1. Sleep Cycle: Babies wake up during the night primarily because their brain waves shift and change cycles as they move from REM (rapid eye movement) sleep to other stages of non-REM sleep. The different wave patterns our brains make during certain periods define these sleep cycles or “stages” of sleep. As babies move from one stage of sleep to another during the night, they transition. In that transition, many babies will awaken. Sometimes they call out or cry. Sometimes they wake hungry. It’s normal for babies (and adults) to wake 4-5 times a night during these times of transition. However, most adults wake up and then fall back to sleep so rapidly that we rarely remember the awakening. At 4 months of age, many parents notice awakenings after a first chunk of deeper sleep. This is normal, and often due to development of delta wave sleep (deep sleep). The trick for parents is to do less and less as each month of infancy unfolds during these awakenings; we want to help our babies self-soothe more and more independently (without our help) during these awakenings so that sleeping through the night becomes a reality. Read full post »

Salmonella From Food, Frogs, And Fido

African dwarf frog fr CDCSalmonella infections affect children more frequently and more severely than adults. Although most salmonella infections arise from contaminated or undercooked food (chicken, eggs, beef, and dairy typically), reptiles, pet foods and now amphibians are an important source of infection to keep in mind for our children.

Today, a new study published in Pediatrics links Salmonella infections to pet frogs here in the US. This is the first study to detail amphibians as an important source of Salmonella infections. 8 tips for preventing Salmonella are at the end of this post.

New research tracked an outbreak of a particular strain of Salmonella between 2008 and 2011. In 44 states, researchers identified 376 cases of Salmonella in children and adults with an average age of 5 years. Over 2/3 (69%) of the cases were in children under age 10. The source of these salmonella bacteria was tracked to a breeding facility that shipped an aquatic frog, the African dwarf frog, to pet stores and people around the country. Although the African dwarf frogs are not always handled, many people were presumably infected from touching the frog’s contaminated water bowl or may have been infected when aquariums and equipment were cleaned in sinks also used for food preparation.
The study uncovered an important truth:

Few patients and families were aware that Salmonella could be spread from reptiles and amphibians.

Even when we parents are aware, some children still get infected. It’s essential that children who handle reptiles and amphibians always wash their hands after playing with the pets or help clean or care for their aquariums. This data hits close to home as my son had Salmonella gastroenteritis when he was just 4 months of age after a trip to Central America. Read full post »

When Should I Start Baby Food?

first foodsWhen to start baby food? The timing on starting baby food may seem confusing. If you survey your neighbors, your own moms, the doctors you see, and the child care or daycare providers who help you, I bet you’d get about 4 different answers backed with 4 different theories and rationales. The reason is, the pendulum on when and how to start baby food has changed. Bits and pieces of old data mixed with contrasting new research findings are getting tossed around. Most new parents I talk with are a bit puzzled on what is truly best.

It’s okay to start your baby on baby foods or “complementary foods” when they show signs of readiness if they are at least 4 months of age. Signs of readiness include watching you eat (following your spoon’s every movement at a meal), lip smacking and licking when they smell food, and opening their mouths when you present them with a spoonful of food. Most babies ready to eat have also doubled their birth weight and started cooing and laughing, sitting up with assistance, and rolling over.

I used to advise families to wait until 6 months to start baby foods but new research over the last couple of years has caused me to change my tune. Read full post »

Is It Really An Ear Infection?

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 9.46.22 AMEar infections cause significant and sometimes serious ear pain, overnight awakening, missed school, missed work, and lots of parental heartache. For some children, infections in the ear can be a chronic problem and lead to repeated clinic visits, multiple courses of antibiotics, and rarely a need for tube placement by surgery. For most children, ear infections occur more sporadically,  just bad luck after a cold. Fortunately the majority of children recover from ear infections without any intervention. But about 20-30% of the time, they need help fighting the infection.

Ear infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria when excess fluid gets trapped in the middle portion of the ear, behind the eardrum. When that space fills with mucus or pus it is put under pressure and it gets inflamed causing pain. Symptoms of ear infections include pain, fever, difficulty hearing, difficultly sleeping, crankiness, or tugging and pulling at the ear. This typically happens at the time or soon after a cold—therefore the fluid in the ear can either be filled with a virus or bacteria.

The most important medicine you give your child when you first suspect an ear infection is one for pain.

Antibiotics only help if bacteria is the cause. When a true infection is present causing pain and fever, antibiotics are never the wrong choice. Often you’ll need a clinician’s help in diagnosing a true ear infection.

Three’s been a lot of work (and research) over the last 15 years to reduce unnecessary antibiotics prescribed for ear infections. There has been great progress. Less children see the doctor when they have an ear infection (only 634/1000 in 2005 versus 950/1000 back in the 1990’s) and they’re prescribed antibiotics less frequently. Recent data finds that less than half of children with ear infections receive antibiotics (only 434 of every 1000 children with ear infections). However, the far majority who go in to see a doctor do still receive a prescription for antibiotic (76%).

The American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) just released new guidelines to help physicians do a better job treating ear infections. Sometimes children really benefit from using antibiotics and new research has led to an update on the 2004 previously published recommendations. Over-use of antibiotics can lead to more resistant and aggressive bacteria so we want to use them at the right time. These recommendations may help improve care for children.

In my opinion, NPR published the best article I’ve read covering the new recommendations. I especially liked the balance provided: Read full post »

Baby’s Ears When Flying

First off, I have connected with a few engineers and pilots — I may be wrong on one point here: Commercial airplanes typically ascend/climb faster than they descend for a landing. My apologies. I’m clearly no pilot…

That being said, you can help support your baby or child’s potential ear discomfort during flying by having them suck on something like a pacifier, having them breast feed, or offer a bottle during take-off and landing. The motion of their jaw and mouth during sucking and swallowing will help them equalize to the pressure changes. When they move their jaw to suck and swallow this helps facilitate venting in the Eustachian tube that allows your child to equalize pressure from the outside world with the middle part of their ear. That click or pop you feel when you yawn is your ear drum moving back to middle after getting pushed one direction in your ear from a pressure change.

It’s true that discomfort is far greater during pressure changes when there is fluid in our middle ear (from colds to ear infections). Check in with your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner prior to flying if you’re concerned about a potential infection. If that’s not ideal, consider getting Cellscope (an iPhone app that helps you look into your child’s ear, and/or allows you to send the image to their doctor) if you’re a frequent flier and your child is prone to fluid in the middle ear.

Here’s tips for parents about fluid in the middle ear and nice summary about ears & pressure changes from Kid’s Health.

The New Norovirus

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 10.27.08 AMNorovirus is a nasty one. It’s the leading cause of epidemics of vomiting/diarrhea and causes over 20 million cases of gastrointestinal disease (“stomach flu” with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and achiness) in the US each year. Our experience with Norovirus historically is worse in years with “novel” or new strains of infection. Unfortunately there’s an new strain circulating around the globe. “Sydney 2012” was discovered in Australia last March and just last month the CDC officially announced it’s causing the majority of Norovirus infections. Over 1.2 million people in the United Kingdom have had it and the FDA reports this strain may potentially cause more hospitalizations. Time will tell if we have more Norovirus this year, too.

When new strains arrive, we tend to see a 50% increase in the number of cases of “stomach flu.” Norovirus is remarkably potent and contagious. It often isn’t killed by hand sanitizer (see #3 below). You touch the virus and touch your mouth and you could get it. We can get Norovirus multiple times in our lives because our immunity wanes after infection and new viral strains develop which cause unique disease. We get Norovirus from contaminated food, contaminated surfaces we touch, and from other people who vomit or have diarrhea and spread the virus. This is the cause of the stomach bug that you often associate with cruise ship outbreaks or daycare outbreaks when everyone starts vomiting one afternoon…

Around the holidays a stomach bug swept through our home. It did so for many of my patients, too. During the first week of January, I had a day in clinic where approximately 75% of the families I saw in clinic mentioned someone in their home had been vomiting over the past week. Unusual. I can’t tell you what virus it was (I didn’t test any child’s stool or vomit in the lab), but my bet is on Norovirus… Read full post »

People Are Dying From The Flu

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 12.45.43 PMInfluenza virus causes “the flu.” It’s a crummy cold that spreads easily causing high fever, body aches, runny nose, terrible cough, and rarely it can cause vomiting and diarrhea, too. The flu isn’t the “stomach flu.” It’s deadlier than that. It’s more dangerous for babies and young children, and for the elderly. It’s also particularly dangerous for those with asthma, diabetes, and people with neurologic or immune problems. This post is a bit of a plea: people are dying from the flu and there are ways we can potentially save others’ lives. Click through to read 5 myths about the flu and watch a 3-min interview I did for HLN television yesterday.

The bad news: We’re having a bad flu season. More people have the flu this year than at any time last year. This is early—flu usually peaks in Feb or March. The most dominate strain of flu that’s moving around the US is the strain called H3N2—it’s known to cause more serious disease. As of today, we have over 80% of our states reporting widespread circulating levels of flu. Here in Washington many people have been hospitalized from complications of the flu. Further, in Washington 6 people have died, one of them a child under the age of 12. A healthy 17 year-old died in Minnesota just this week. Flu is not just your “common cold,” it can be far worse. Eighteen children have already died this season. As of November, we didn’t even have 1/2 of our population with a flu shot. The goal to protect us all is 90%.

I’ve never had a family in clinic get influenza illness and then refuse the flu shot the following year.  They come in early and often for their shots. It’s that bad of an illness.

The good news: We have a vaccine for the virus that causes the flu. The flu shot and flumist nasal spray are effective and that H3N2 strain that we’re worried about, it’s in the flu shot and the nasal flu spray this year. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You’ll be protected against the flu somewhere from 10 day to 14 days after getting it. Go out now and protect yourself and your family. By getting a shot you protect yourself, your children, and all those more vulnerable in our community unable to get the shot (those infants under 6 mo of age, those on chemo, or those with contraindications to the shot).

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You Need A Carbon Monoxide Alarm

There’s a new law today in Washington State requiring carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in apartments, condos, and single-family residences. You should have a CO detector on every level of your home (more tips below). I know you’ve heard that CO poisoning is not only dangerous but also potentially fatal. We also often hear horrific stories of accidental deaths from carbon monoxide after natural disasters. A recent study found disaster related deaths are particularly common (your power’s wiped out so you bring in a generator or grill for heating or cooking and get exposed to CO). Using a generator indoors is the most common cause of CO poisoning, followed by use of a grill. Unfortunately, over 400 people die in the US each year from CO poisoning—all of which could be avoided with proper education and detection in the home. The odd thing is that we often get to see CO toxicity play out on our favorite television shows (think Mad Men)~ the ever-again scene where someone clogs up the exhaust pipe of a car with a banana or handkerchief and dies (or attempts to) due to the toxic fumes.

One generator running inside a home, garage, or basement creates the equivalent carbon monoxide of 6 idling cars. Precisely why a generator needs to be 20 feet from inside spaces and away from open windows/doors. Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes–it can be produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges, and heating systems. You likely know all this. But…

The thing to know: carbon monoxide in and of itself is more dangerous to babies and young children. Infants in utero, newborns, and young children process carbon monoxide differently, have more severe reactions, and may see effects faster than adults. If you and your young child were in a room that was filling with carbon monoxide, it’s your baby or child that would suffer the consequences first. They may not know how to tell you about their complaints and if they were sleeping you may not even know. Hence all of us needing a CO detector.

carbon monoxide teaching fr CDC

The Science of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

The red blood cells in our blood circulate oxygen to all of our muscles and organs for survival. When carbon monoxide (CO) is in the air it can function as a disguised villain. When carbon monoxide is inhaled into the lungs via contaminated air, the red blood cell picks up the CO instead of just oxygen. Each carbon monoxide molecule that attaches to a red blood cell displaces a spot for oxygen. Therefore the circulating red blood cells go around the body without oxygen causing improper circulation. Organ failure and death can result after higher and higher level of our cells are bound to CO instead of oxygen.

The graphic is from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC)’s comprehensive review on CO poisoning.

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