Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

A mom, a pediatrician, and her insights about keeping your kids healthy.

Constipation, No Fun For Anyone

Constipation is really no fun for anyone. No fun for baby or child, no fun for the parent who cleans the clogged toilet, no fun for the sister or brother who waits while someone works on solving the problem in the room next door. In general, constipation is a frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and often chronic problem for young children. Here are a few ideas to get rid of the no-fun part and ways to protect your children, support them positively, and avoid dangers that can rarely come from over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Before you reach for OTC medications, consider what is normal and what is not normal when it comes to poop. I usually break this down for children (and parents) in visual terms. I talk about things you find outside.

In general, poop in the toilet can look like a pond, a snakea log, or a pebble. When it comes to poop, we’re always looking for snakes. It seems to me that framed this way, school age children can do a better job knowing if they’re constipated or not. We’re looking for  Snakes in the Lake, people! Frame it this way with your child and perhaps they will be more likely to get a glimpse of what they produce in the toilet?

In my experience, parents worry a lot about hard infant or toddler poop in the diaper but constipation sneaks up on many families to school-aged children. After children are toilet trained and wiping themselves (around age 4 or 5) many parents no longer gaze in the toilet bowl. Long gone are the days of staring at every diaper as parents lose track of the daily poops, how often they poop, and how a child feels when pooping. But first, some definitions: Read full post »

A Rocket And Planet Earth

rocket for pocket There are moments that take our breath away. I’ve said before that it tends to be the things we don’t think of that takes our breath away while parenting. Warning: this post will sound as if it’s written by somebody’s mom.

With the two boys I have so many of those moments, the ones so luscious that when they happen I can hardly breathe and certainly don’t see straight. When these wondrous, unexpected child utterances occur, it can feel a little like the earth stops rotating for a just a beat.

Two things recently to report. One happened this morning around 8am. I’ve written about preschool drop-offs previously. After getting over the tantrums and the wretched separation anxiety the drop-offs have really blossomed. It’s now a luxury to get to drop our 5 year-old off at school. O is really excited to be there and saying goodbye while watching him trot off and fold into his circle of friends is settling to me. Today though, he dropped a delicious bomb. We got to his cubby and he sorted through a few things. Then reached up and handed me a little piece of paper just as he was running off.

Mommy, a rocket for your pocket.

He’s a funny little guy and I’ve held onto that piece of paper (ahem, rocket) all day.

And then a moment on being a grown-up. We do this all the time, act our age… Recently we were talking with our 7 year-old about visiting grandparents and travel, the future and where he will live. One set of his grandparents lives in California and so as he was chatting about travel my husband asked,

Where do you think you’re going to live when you grow up, California or Washington?

To which our wise, old-souled 7 year-old replied,

Oh Daddy, there’s a whole planet to explore.

We really can be shortsighted while parenting these brilliant, funny, lovely people who walk around masquerading as the children in the room. We can think dreams to be contained and we can make the bad assumption that school drop-off is routine. All the while our children remind us the world is without margin and a whole lot sweeter and so much funnier than we ever imagined it could be.

Digitally Savvy Parenthood

As a pediatrician, I encourage families to search online for health advice. Yet how you search and where you click matters. Tips for you and your time with “Dr Google” or “Surgeon Bing.”

The Pew Internet Project’s research finds that over 70% of Internet users in the United States say they have looked online for health information in the last year. Furthermore, most health information seekers (ie freaked out parents searching in the middle of the night) don’t start their health search on their pediatrician’s website. More than ¾ of people in the United States start their health search by typing something into a search engine like Google or Bing. Where you click and what you do next is key.

As a mom, pediatrician, blogger and general online enthusiast, here are a few insights to assist you when looking online for health information for your child or family. We parents are active information seekers on our phones and computer ~ I maintain that this is a GREAT thing! For practicing physicians, there is a tricky balance in believing that the Internet can help save lives. Have You Been In To See Doctor Google? A few ideas to improve trust for us all.

7 Tips For Becoming A Savvy Digital Parent:

Read full post »

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:

Read full post »

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

  1. Read full post »

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 »