Seattle Mama Doc

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 »

What You Should Know About Energy Drinks

I think of energy drinks as the new liquid accessory for many teens. Something to hold onto with nervous hands and something to spend money on when they’re really tired or need a “boost.” Teens report drinking them because of inadequate sleep, a need for energy, and wanting to mix them with alcohol. It’s big business to market energy drinks to those in high school or college and that big business is remarkably successful. More than a 1/3 of teens (39%) say they’ve had an energy drink in the last month and “jock identity” is associated positively with a frequency of energy drink consumption.

These drinks may really make you look cool…

College students may be even more compelled to drink them; one study found 50% of students had consumed at least one to four drinks in the last month. It’s hard to remember from our vantage point, adults aren’t really the target of energy drink advertising and sponsorships. Because of that paucity of advertising, only 15% of adults say they drink them.

Trouble is, there’s nothing really good for us in these energy drinks. We don’t ever need the caffeine, guaranine, ginseng, and sugar from these concoctions. Energy drinks can have 3-4 times the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee but you may never know it. The labels can be opaque and misleading. The labels aren’t regulated and the content of caffeine isn’t mandated. A can of soda can have no more than 65mg of caffeine while one energy drink (Wired X505) has 505mg. I think this should make you mad.

A recent summary came out in Pediatrics in Review to help guide teens (and their doctors) on what they need to know. But many of us are still catching up. These are not “health” drinks although some of the claims on the bottle and advertising may suggest so. Most parents would prefer their athlete drink water over energy drinks. Thing is, their athlete would do far better. Caffeine can make you anxious, have palpitations, elevate your blood pressure, cause digestive problems, and increase insomnia. The sugar in these drinks will likely just add weight, not great energy, to your athlete.

Things To Know About Energy Drinks

  • Energy drinks are not regulated by the FDA like soda is. The FDA is investigating health effects but there are no current mandates in place for manufacturers. A can of soda is limited to 65 mg of caffeine. Energy drinks don’t have those limits and often the bottles and cans don’t even list all ingredients that have stimulant-like effects. Popular energy drinks have anywhere from 150mg of caffeine per bottle to up to 505mg. For reference, a typical 6 oz cup of coffee has about 100mg caffeine. 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.

Something For Parents At The Park

Screen Shot 2013-02-16 at 5.37.00 PMThis is post from my friend, Anne Gantt. I love this concept and am inspired by the idea of parents pumping iron at the park. I’m hoping we can move this conversation forward. Please share ideas from your own neighborhoods in comments.

As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a ton of time at our neighborhood park while my 2 ½ and 4 year-old children zip down slides, scramble over the jungle gym, or chase each other in the woodchips. While they’re running around like little olympic athletes, I mostly just stand there doing nothing. A lot of nothing. Sound familiar?

That’s originally why I daydreamed about putting fitness equipment for adults in our park. I’d love to get a little exercise without having to resort to taking a turn on the monkey bars. The interesting thing is that installing adult fitness equipment will improve the park…for kids. This truly can be a win-win.

The park in question is here in Seattle– University Playground— it has a big grassy field, tennis courts, and beautiful new equipment for kids. It also has one of the very few public restrooms in the whole neighborhood–thus attracting a crowd. It sits in a tenuous location, one block from Interstate-5 and smack in the University District, which means the park sees a lot of illicit activity. Even worse, the illicit (I’m talking drug sales, etc) activity tends to happen in the section of the park right next to the playground.

Believe it or not, I’ve picked up more than a couple of used needles out of the woodchips myself.

Our park’s unsavory elements definitely scare some people off. I recently talked with a neighbor who refuses to take his 4-year old grandson to the park out of a concern for safety. This, even though their living room window looks right out onto the playground.

Something had to change. Urban dwelling can be better than this. Read full post »