Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

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

Worry Be Gone

When the exam room door closes, most parents have some questions about how their child is developing or behaving. Competitive parenting abounds; everyone wants to prove or believe his or her child is above average. The he-did-what?-she’s-so-smart stories can strike fear in your heart when your child is nowhere near the same accomplishment and of similar age. These comparisons can sometimes lead to worry. A lightning bolt drove through my chest when my mom started to compare F to other children and expressed worry that he might never say, “Mama.” I waited impatiently and in unified worry until about 18 ½ months.

Even the mamas and papas who seem to brag at the supermarket, on the phone, or at book club about how much their child talks-walks-sleeps-eats worry. I mean it; they worry, too. Don’t let ‘em fool you. Worry may be just below sleep deprivation on the job description for parenthood. Being a pediatrician has proven this to me.

If you worry about what or how your child is doing, speak up. Let your pediatrician know. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the appointment, the reason for your worry (Joey is eating toe jam) or even if you’ve asked before. If you’ve previously discussed a problem, revisit your concern if worry remains in your heart. Your instincts matter. Read full post »

Cross Your Fingers I Don’t Pull A Cindy Brady

Wendy Sue Brady

I’m going to be on TV tomorrow. Cross your fingers I don’t pull a Cindy Brady. Remember the Brady Bunch episode, “You Can’t Win Em All” where Cindy takes a test and wins the opportunity to go on live TV to compete in a game show? When the red light goes on she is rendered silent and freezes. She spends the entire time on TV staring hopelessly at the light. Please world, don’t let me freeze; don’t let me pull a Cindy Brady. Thank goodness it’s no game show…

Tomorrow morning, you can watch me discuss insights on toddlerhood and typical development, live (in Seattle) on local NBC. Gulp.

But just for the record, or maybe to provide merit to my personal don’t-pull-a-Cindy-Brady-pep-talk, what gives me insight on toddlerhood is probably not just my MD/pediatric board certification or the articles I read every day to write this blog. Rather, it might be the confluence of all these roles, my effort to understand medicine from the vantage point as mother to 2 boys. Being a parent helps me frame and understand the data, putting it into perspective. Maybe why I’m willing to talk about toddlerhood on TV.

When I finished residency, got pregnant and eventually had given birth to F, a long time family friend of the husband, Dr Arne Anderson, wrote a letter to congratulate us. He was a pioneering pediatrician with Minneapolis Children’s and practiced pediatrics for decades. In the letter he said, “And now the real Professor of Pediatrics moves in.”

Agreed. I learn a lot from my kids. Tune in tomorrow morning to see if you concur.

NBC Kong 6/16 around 8:15-8:20am, tomorrow, Thursday February 18th.

Valentine, Circa 2004

Sweet Boy Be MineTell me, shall I re-use this little valentine? Part of my efforts to reduce, re-use, & recycle? See, I’ve got these little boys now…

I make the husband a valentine each year. The valentines of the past few years have been less beautiful and less wondrous than the first few, some decade ago. The distractions of the-making-of-a-pediatrician (residency) and the-making-of-a-family (two boys) have influenced this.The valentine here was painted on a park bench halfway between the hospital and my afternoon clinic in South Seattle when I was an intern at Children’s Hospital, February 2004. No idea why I snapped the photo.

Re-use? Tempting. This particular valentine is so perfectly suited for these little boys I love. I’ll just water color in an “s” after “boy” and slip it under their bedroom door Saturday night. We’ll see how the husband takes it.

Verbatim: “You Mean Because I’m Fat?”

Recently, one of my teenage patients was in to see me. I’ve seen him a lot this year. I think about him nearly every day because I’m desperately trying to help him. I’m just so stinking worried about the choices he’s making. At the end of the visit, I said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do so I’ll see you in 2 weeks.”  He responded, “You mean, because I’m fat?”

No, I didn’t. We hadn’t even talked about his obesity at the visit. We’d talked about all the other stuff clogging up his path to happiness, long life, good health, generous love and earnest support. He’s had a heap of trouble this past year. He’s run away from home about 4 times (once for over 40 days–his poor mom), he’s currently living in a shelter, he was using drugs, he was self-tattooing with an ink pen under her skin (eeeeep!), he stopped taking his daily medicines, he’s obese and gaining weight, he got an STD….it goes on and on. My worry is real and rationale, you see.

But his comment at the end of our visit reminded me about how hard I work to talk to children and their families about overweight in ways that don’t alienate them. And how I obviously need to work harder. A new study points out the importance of letting kids know they are overweight. Read full post »

Atta Girl, Michelle Obama: Let’s Move!

Let's Move Atta girl, Michelle Obama. Thank you for the personal, passionate and most excellent articulation of a big problem facing nearly 1/3 of all children in the US today.

Michelle Obama’s introduction of Let’s Move to end childhood obesity in one generation will do wonders.

Thank you, Michelle. I know we’re not personally friends but you do send me regular e-mails and sign them, “Michelle.” So we’ll go forth on a first name basis. And whenever you’re ready for a play date, I’m game.  Let’s meet at your house; we’ll introduce the husbands.

Let’s end the obesity challenge for our children, now. Speaking of now, now that about 1/3 of the children I see in the office are overweight, I spend hours (read: hours) every day in clinic talking about it. I worry our country’s problem with obesity isn’t going away any time soon. As a pediatrician I can help my patients gain perspective and knowledge but I ultimately need my patients to help themselves move more, eat right and turn off the TV. They need help from their families and communities to do this. Hard to do. Like most things in my life, these kids (and all of us!) need a lot of help from our friends. Read full post »

(Our) Doctor (To)day Keeps Those (Pull-ups) Away

F woke up with a wet bed. First time since the amazing transformation this past month where he decided to wear underwear. It felt like a miracle. New Year’s hopes and dreams come true. Wait until you hear how it happened.
I just couldn’t bring myself to write about toilet training until now. Didn’t want to jinx it. Now with the wet bed this morning, I’m safe. Can’t blame the blog for any future wetting-messiness. You’re off the hook, SeattleMamaDoc.

There is some new data suggesting there is an ideal time for initiation of toilet training. A recent study suggests half way between age 2 and 3 years is the golden age. Ditch the diapers between 27-32 months, the urologists say.

Finally, a data-driven answer to the question of “When should I toilet train little Jane?” Read full post »

Dear Sleep, Come Home.

You’ll be pleased to know in response to the poor quality of sleep in our house, for 4 consecutive nights, due to colds and random screaming I’ve just sent a memo to the boys. It reads:

Beloved Boys,

Sleep starts at 8pm and no later.

We rise around 7am in our home, just after Mommy and Daddy are ready for the day.

Thank you for adjusting your schedules accordingly.

I love you,

Mama

I’m waiting for them to respond. A re-tweet or Facebook status update would suffice.

She-Woman Wednesday

She RaOur nanny called in sick yesterday. I felt like a She-Woman (think gender equal of He-man circa 1988) after making it through the day. Maybe it’s more, She-Ra. Between the hours of 7:50am when I got the call and 5:50pm when I sat down to dinner with my little boys I : Read full post »

If It Were My Child: Infant Swimming Lessons

It turns out, I don’t think you do have to be careful what you wait for when it comes to swimming. A study published a few weeks ago suggested that children under the age of 2 were at higher risk for bronchiolitis, a common pediatric lung infection, if they swam in chlorinated pools when they were babies. I’ve mulled this over and done additional reading. If it were my child, I’d sign up for infant swimming lessons. Believe me, I’m not getting off any swim/pool wait list any time soon! Yet, I do think the study offers a chance to re-frame how we think about protecting our kids around the water.

Although O will be well over 2 years old when he gets off the decade long wait list for the pools in our area, he’ll be swimming in chlorinated pools before then. From how I see it, chlorine exposure is only one side of the story when it comes to infant swimming and safety. It’s okay, maybe even wonderful if I dare say, to swim with an infant. The video we have from F swimming in the first time is hilarious. I am far more ecstatic than any normal human should be in a pool. It’s true; most babies simply love the water. So do plenty of adults (read: me).

Swimming if not only delightful, it is also dangerous. Worldwide, drowning while swimming is the 2nd most common injury that kills children under age of 14. Therefore how our infants and children come to know the water may be as important as how we think about using car seats. Read full post »

Tape Measuring Time

I had a great weekend. Nothing truly spectacular happened. I, for the most part, tucked the blog away in my top drawer. I wasn’t on call and didn’t connect into my clinic computer. I tried to be really present with all 3 boys in my house.

I played with my kids. We did the typical things that dress up weekends for normal people: errands, a grocery store trip, naps, dinner, test drove a car, met friends and their kids for lunch, met friends and their kids for dinner, went to IKEA, had dinner with grandma, took out the recycling, rearranged the living room.

Usually, that little “trip to IKEA” sandwiched in there would be a back/mood/weekend breaker. This time, no.

In the midst of this wholly normal yet stupendous weekend, I had mentioned to a friend how F was having a hard time with the concept of single digits forming greater numbers, especially in the teens. That is, he can count pretty easily from one to fifty, but when I point to the clock and ask what time it is, he says “seven, one, three.” Read full post »