We survived one of the biggest tantrums of all time in June. At the Oakland, California airport check-in of all places. Did you happen to hear about it? I literally had to physically hold and restrain my son from running off into moving traffic. The tantrum caused for lots of staring and avoidance. It does feel like judgment sometimes, which only makes us feel worse. In a low moment, I explained to my 3 year-old that he was acting like an animal. I got progressively more and more embarrassed and progressively more and more frustrated. It was one of those moments we never expect and have a hard time forgetting. The forgiving, that comes easy. Have you read the book, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? That helps, too.
Same thing happened this weekend. I missed a meeting when I got stuck in a tornado-like tantrum and spent a big part of the weekend trying to optimize days to support my son to avoid tantrums. When it comes to tantrums, we all know we’re supposed to calm down, but it’s difficult to say the least. Our children find all of our hidden buttons and can escalate rapidly. You can’t avoid every tantrum, but some ideas to help you survive them more gracefully:
8 Tips To Survive A Tantrum
Giving your child enough attention and “catch them being good.” Provide specific praise in successful moments. However, don’t feel that if one child tantrums more than another that you aren’t providing enough attention. Personality is infused in behaviors, including tantrums.
During a tantrum give your child control over little things (offer small, directed choices with options rather than Yes/No questions). Read full post »
I’ve written about sunscreen before (Protecting Children From The Sun, 10 Tips on Tanning, & the video on Protecting Infants included below). More important and than any granular, scientific detail about a sunscreen ingredient, UVA/UVB radiation, or it’s vehicle– a spray or a lotion or an ointment–is how you use it. The best sunscreen is the one that is used early and often on children. No sunscreen is waterproof and no sunscreen is play proof. For infants and toddlers, I’ve found the best trick for easy application is to put it on while they are strapped into the car seat on your way to the beach! There’s no controversy that it’s best to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure and repeat the application head to toe every 1-2 hours during active play/swim.
Don’t be fooled– sunscreens marketed for children may not provide any increased safety or protection. You’ll see and hear conflicting reports on ingredient safety, particularly as differing groups discuss concerns about chemical ingredients versus physical/mineral ingredients. Trouble is, groups now warn about the physical/mineral ingredients (previously felt to be the safest) due to their particle size. And although the FDA warns against using spray sunscreen with children (concerns about inhalation of the fumes) most families love the convenience. Here’s a comprehensive, current review on ingredients & safety.
Good thing is, most everyone agrees that the ingredients in sunscreen are less risky than any significant sun exposure or burn in childhood.
The video above explains the need for broad spectrum protection. You’ll need to look for a sunscreen that has 2 or 3 ingredients to cover all the range of UVA and UVB rays that damage our skin. Here’s the American Academy of Dermatology’s tips.
A Little Science About UVA/UVB Light & Sunscreen:
UVA radiation causes Aging and deeper skin damage. To protect against the entire spectrum of UVA rays, you’ll likely need two ingredients in the sunscreen–most commonly you will see oxybenzone or avobenzone coupled with another (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, for example) to cover the entire UVA spectrum of light. Although some people report concerns about oxybenzone’s irritation to sensitive skin, recent research finds when it’s only at typical 1-6% concentrations, skin reactions are unlikely. If using a sunscreen for the first time, apply a small patch of sunscreen to your child’s leg as a test before using it elsewhere. UVA radiation is constant throughout the year, regardless of season or heat index. Read full post »
New research helps clarify ways we can reduce risks for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexplained Death in infancy. A recent Pediatrics study found that the convergence of risks (see diagram below & listen to video) for infants is meaningful–reducing number of risks may reduce SIDS deaths. Avoiding multiple and simultaneous SIDS risks may help– especially for babies who are vulnerable due to family history, genetics, prematurity or prenatal exposures. Further, research published the same month in The American Journal of Public Health (April 2012) confirms that sleep environment hazards (co-sleeping, soft sleeping surfaces, shared sleep surfaces with people or animals) contribute to SIDS. 70% of infants who died from SIDS were sleeping in a surface not intended for infant sleep (adult bed, couch, chair) and 64% of infants who died were sharing a sleep surface, with half sharing with an adult. We can decrease SIDS risk by controlling our baby’s environment, knowing their vulnerabilities, and sharing what we know. Put babies on their backs without soft bedding (bumpers/pillows/blankets) in their own crib until 1 year of age.
Pediatricians, nurse practioners, and family doctors start screening your baby or toddler for signs of developmental or communication challenges like autism from the very first visit. As a pediatrician, how your baby responds to you (and to me) during the various visits during infancy and toddlerhood guide me in their screening. In the office I get to observe how a baby giggles, how they look to their parents for reassurance, how they try to regain their mom’s attention during our conversation, how they point or wave, how they respond to their name, and even how and why they cry when I’m around. Those observations in combination with family history, health exams, and parental perspectives remain extremely valuable for me in helping identify children at risk for autism.
However, more formalized screening is recommended at both the 18 month and 24 month well child check. In most offices, clinicians use the M-CHAT, a 23-point questionare parents fill out. Often, I have to help parents answer one question in particular, (“Does your child make unusual finger movements by their face”) but other than that, most families find it easy to fill out. Using this standardized screening, pediatricians can pick up children at risk for autism and will be prompted to start conversations about language delay, concerns about behavior, or possible next steps for a toddler at risk with additional genetic, neurologic, or developmental testing.
It’s important to note that screening isn’t diagnosing. If your child has a positive screen for autism, it doesn’t mean they will be diagnosed on the spectrum. And further, if your child screens normally but you continue to worry about autism, don’t be shy. Read full post »
Many parents worry about their child’s development at one point in time. With each of my boys, I had worries about their communication and thought their language delays or behaviors signaled something serious. That might just be the “worrier” in me, but it might just be the “mom” in me, too. Competitive parenting makes us all a little nuts…
Here’s a few signs that your child is developing great communication skills on time. However, if at any time you worry that your child isn’t expressing joy, communicating thoughts, or reflecting an understanding of your language, visual cues, and behavior talk with your child’s doctor. If you don’t feel heard or continue to worry, schedule another visit. If you still worry, contact another doctor for a second opinion. Instincts serve us very well when it comes to parenthood. Further, find some peace of mind if your child is doing many of the behaviors listed below!
Reassuring Developmental Milestones For Infants & Children
Responds to her name between 9-12 months of age.
Smiles by 2 months, laughs and giggle around 4-5 months, expresses great joy to your humor around 6 months.
Plays and thinks peek-a-boo is funny around 9 months of age.
Makes eye contact with people during infancy.
Tries to say words you say between 12 and 18 months of age.
Your toddler uses 5 words by 18 months of age.
Copies your gestures like pointing, clapping, or waving.
Imitates you — ie pretends to stir a bowl of pancake mix when you give them a spoon and bowl or pretends to talk on the phone with a play cell phone.
Shakes head “no.”
Waves “bye-bye” by 15 months of age.
Points to show you something interesting or points to get your attention by 18 months of age.
Flying with toddlers is far more difficult than flying with an infant in my opinion. It’s the need to get up, run the aisles, move around, have another snack, read a different book, take an abbreviated nap, go pee, and that minute-attention span that makes it not only exhausting but nerve-racking for most of us. Although the challenge is real, success comes with having a good plan, allowing extra time, and packing the right snacks, toys, and books to keep your toddler occupied. That 3,000 mile flight at 30,000 feet can be a ton of fun! The above tip came from a friend years ago. Prepare for the worst and expect the best when flying with toddlers–hopefully this blue tape idea sticks. (ha)
Now dealing with tantrums while up in the air is another challenge in and of itself. Many of us heard about the toddler kicked off an airplane, and have also heard about the opinion for commercial airline children-free flights. Although I wholeheartedly disagree that we should segregate flights by age, I do think these stories in the news media elevate our anxiety for flying with our children. Don’t let it. You’re always the best one to support and help your child on the ground or up in the air. Don’t let the public shake that truth. My tips for dealing with tantrums at 35,000 feet aren’t very different from those on the ground: provide consistency, provide distraction, and provide comfort. But more, set yourself up for success by clearing the tension with passengers sitting next to you ahead of time. Acknowledge the challenge. I’ve found it not only decreases my own anxiety, it allows for a much better reception when things don’t go as planned. Click to read full post for my additional 1-minute video explanation and a few ideas. What are yours? Read full post »
I think it’s okay to fly with your newborn baby straight away. After 1 week of age the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) says it’s okay, as does the AAP, but always recommends a separate seat for your infant whenever possible.
The biggest risk flying with a healthy newborn is exposure to infection. So, like any decision in life, you have to weigh the risks and benefits of a decision. Because we take fever very seriously in babies under 3 months of age, we want to avoid infections when possible. Take precautions, wash your hands frequently, and wipe down seat backs, tray tables, and seatbelts on board.
All that being said, I flew with O when he was just 6 weeks old. It was important for us to travel to see family in California for the holidays. I took precautions, loaded up on hand sanitzer, and backed extra diapers. It was a wonderful Christmas…
18 month-olds are extremely determined, constantly challenging, tenacious, adorable, witty, and ever-aware. By 18 months, most babies have really figured out how to get and hold a parent’s attention! As they explore their widening world, an 18 month-old’s curiosity leads while their judgment lags well behind. Providing your child with a safe and consistent environment is paramount. Development in all areas (gross motor, personal and social, fine motor, etc) is highly variable but the video reviews typical milestones your baby’s clinician will review around 18 months of age.
What Should My Baby Do At 18 Months?
In general by 18 months, your toddler will be very curious. They will be demanding. They will be communicating wants and needs through words, motions, and imitations. They will be pointing out objects in the sky. They will be calling you by a name just as they run the opposite way…
“Mr No” – I found this extensive list of milestones and observations both very entertaining and educational
What Parents Can Do For 18 Month-Olds:
Give your 18 month-old their space. As they crave more and more autonomy, provide them times for a bit of freedom.
Let your child mimic you. Give them toys or safe objects you use in the house so that they can pretend to be an adult.
Let them help. Start finding daily or weekly “chores” for your 18 month-old (ie bringing napkins to the table or moving stuffed animals to a bin). They’ll love their role!
Offer puzzles, matching, and sorting games.
Read to your 18 month-old every single day. Point out objects in the book. Ask your toddler to tell you the names of animals or toys in the book. Get them involved. And get ready to read the same book over and over and over again!
Keep rules to a minimum. Rather, define “right” from “wrong” for your child and remember to praise your 18 month-old for doing things right. Catch them when they are being good!
Parents, pediatricians, and nurses have been using growth charts since the late 1970’s to track growth in their infants and children. The charts were revised back in the year 2000 as the data for the first charts (from a small study in Ohio) that didn’t accurately reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of our communities.
The hallmark of a well child check is the review of a child’s growth. Growth can be a reflection of a child’s overall health, nutrition, and/or tolerance of possible underlying medical conditions. So understanding what your doctor or nurse practitioner says about your child’s growth should be a priority.
Watch the video to learn more about interpreting growth charts.
If your doc doesn’t have a computer in the room, ask to see the chart (on paper) or on a computer in their office. It will not only inform you, I suspect it will delight you to see what your child has done since the last time they have been seen.
The human body really is a fine-tuned machine and growth is simply astounding if you really stop to think of it.
If you have a challenge understanding how your child is growing or how the growth chart is presented, demand clarification. It’s okay if you don’t understand the presentation of facts on these grids; have confidence to speak up and ask for the doctor or nurse practitioner to explain it.
Pacifiers, a love affair worth having? It’s up to you, of course. Pacifiers are hotly debated among some parents, some pediatricians, some lactation consultants, and some dentists. I say some, as I believe not all clinicians have strong impressions/judgments. That’s because pacifiers don’t cause excessive harm. Yet most parents agree on one thing: they all have an opinion about what to do with one. Some hate them, others adore them. Just like babies. Silicon pacifiers can be all the rage, or none of it…
At our house, we had a love affair with a pacifier. Twice. Without even trying. And it all happened by accident.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recommend using a pacifier at night to decrease the risk of SIDS, if your infant doesn’t like one, you certainly DON’T need to force it upon your content baby. Don’t over-think or over-value the pacifier, either.
With F (our first born), I waited, held off, and withheld the pacifier hoping to improve my changes of successful breastfeeding. We had a few sleepless weeks (with the fussing and crying normal for a newborn) until a couple weeks of age when we realize it really was the “plug” he was looking for. F’s crankiness improved, and we had another tool to help support him when holding, rocking, feeding, changing diapers, or swaddling didn’t soothe him entirely. The pacifier was just something he loved.
With O (our second), I didn’t get the choice. While in the NICU, the nurses used the pacifier to “quiet” him down. I asked that they didn’t, but when I returned to feed him, there it was again, in his mouth. And he was in love. So we continued to use it and I didn’t take it from him. As I’ve written before, I loved to see him enjoy and indulge with that pacifier. I mean, he really craved and adored the time he got with it (mostly during sleep or in the car). Weaning him from it was harder on me, it turns out. And I faltered a couple of weeks after the wean during a moment of weakness…
We used pacifiers in our homes until both the boys were just under 2 years of age. And like I said, it really was a love a affair.
The reason is simple, babies soothe by sucking and pacifiers are a perfect tool. My advice on pacifiers: follow your instincts. You’ll be able to find studies both that support use and studies that dissuade use to back up either decision. So don’t over-think this. And stop beating yourself up for using one if you are…
Mama Doc’s Cliff Notes On Pacifiers:
These are things you already know: Wash the pacifier regularly (dishwasher safe are easiest) in warm soapy water, get rid of old pacifiers that show cracking or damage, and use a one-piece silicone design if possible. Don’t dip the pacifier in anything (ie sugar water, honey, etc) ever. And never tie the pacifier around your baby/toddler’s neck.
As your child grows, the pacifier should, too. Don’t let toddlers have infant sized pacifiers due to choking risk. Smaller pacifiers may rest more on their front teeth as well and cause more malocclusion or “bucking” of teeth. Get the correct size pacifier if your older toddler or preschooler still uses one.
When your child approaches 6 months of age, consider weaning. If neither of you are interested in breaking up with pacifier, try again at 2 years of age. By 3 years, get it out of the house or the love affair will cause a most terrible break-up.
Seattle Children’s provides healthcare for the special needs of children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex (gender), sexual orientation or disability. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho.