7 Happiness Tips for New Parents

I will be expecting my first child in a few short weeks.  I am of course beyond excited to meet my baby!  But, as the due date is approaching, I have fears that have been popping up, too.  Will I be a good parent?   Will I be able to breastfeed?  Did I get the right car seat?  Do I have enough clothes?  Do I need a wipe warmer?  And, the list goes on and on…  Yes, I am a pediatrician, so I do know a thing or two about caring for babies, but there are a lot of things you do not learn in medical school.  I did not get any training on how to be a parent (does anyone?).  So, I can fully empathize with expecting parents!

Throughout the course of my pregnancy I have gotten a lot of advice.  I appreciate experienced families sharing with me tidbits about being a parent.  I find those that have already gone through being “new parents” are a great resource.  I will also say that it can be difficult at times to sift through all the advice in books, blogs, and even from friends and family.  I came across this short little piece that shares a few tips to being a happy parent, written by a pediatrician.  Most seem like common sense.  I am sure that at some point when I am sleep deprived and doing a 3 AM feeding, I will want to remind myself of these tips.   I feel some of the advice may also still hold true for seasoned parents.  I hope you find them helpful!  We all want to be good parents.

  1. Trust Yourself.

Some new parents get emotional whiplash flipping between feeling like you’ve got the job nailed…and feeling like a rookie.  But, you know what?  You are the newest, shiniest link in an unbroken chain of successful parents that stretches back to the beginning of time!   Things may actually get much stickier later on (fears, unfair friends, teen traumas, etc.).   But, for now, you will be a total success if you just keep to the basics:  love, touch, singing, milk and patience.

  1. Be Kind…to Yourself.

If you’re like many new parents, you’ve barely ever maybe even touched a newborn – before you had your own – yet you think you should automatically be a baby care pro.  Please, ask that “judge” in your head to take a hike.  Be as supportive to yourself as you would be to your best friend or significant other.  That’s a sure path to great satisfaction and happiness.

  1. Accept All the Help you Can Get.

Never before in history have moms and dads been expected to care for their newborns…all alone.  When parents are working, you may even be more pressed.  So don’t hesitate to ask or pay for help if you are able.  Lean on family and friends for support and most people genuinely want to help.  Who doesn’t love babies?  You’ll get more sleep and enjoy your beautiful growing family more fully

  1. Be Flexible.

You will naturally find that some parenting philosophies will make more sense than others.  It is great to have ideas and plans, but our children are here to challenge all of our preconceived expectations.  Stay flexible, especially when things aren’t going as planned (as that will happen!).  You may be surprised how “just rolling with it” can keep your mood going.

  1. Keep Your Sense of Humor Handy.

Remember, perfection is only found in the dictionary.  So, forget dignity, forget organization, be gentle with yourself, and laugh, laugh, laugh!  Laughter raises your spirits and lowers your stress!

  1. Take Care of Each Other. And Do Some Fun Stuff!

Caring for your baby is only half your job; the other is giving your significant other some TLC.

New AAP Policy on Fruit Juice

The American Academy of Pediatrics will soon publish new guidelines on fruit juice intake for infants and children in the June issue of Pediatrics. The AAP released a policy statement originally in 2001 (and revised in 2006) that recommended no juice for infants less than 6 months of age, 4-6 ounces daily for children ages 1-6 and 8-12 ounces for children 7  years and older. However, with the rise in childhood obesity and dental caries, these amounts will be decreased considerably.

The new recommendations are:

– Infants under age 1 should not have any juice in their diet unless needed in the management of constipation.
– Toddlers between age 1-3 should be limited to 4 ounces of juice daily.
– Children ages 4-6 should be limited to 4-6 ounces of juice daily.
– Children ages 7-18 should be limited to 8 ounces of juice daily.

The new policy also stresses the importance of whole fresh fruit in children’s diets since whole fruits add much-needed fiber to combat constipation. Toddlers should also not be given juice in bottles or cups that can be carried around all day as this promotes dental caries. Fruit juice should not be given at bedtime or used to calm an upset child. Although some fruits juices may contain vitamin C, calcium and Vitamin D, there is minimal nutritional value to fruit juice in a child’s diet. Juice lacks fiber and protein that are critical for the optimal growth in children. Water and low-fat or non-fat cow’s milk are more than sufficient as
fluid sources for children after weaning from breastmilk or formula.

More information

Tick Tock, Ticks!

It’s tick time. Summertime is the time of the year to enjoy the outdoors. It’s also the time when the habitats of children and ticks overlap. Whether you enjoy hiking or camping in the Great Smoky Mountains like my kids and I do or playing in the backyard with your kids and pets, you may be exposed to ticks. Ticks can transmit disease and depending where you live or visit in the USA, different diseases can be spread by tick bites.

Here in the Appalachian Mountains, the most common is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever transmitted by the dog tick, which is about 1/2 inch in size. Over towards Nashville and the Cumberland Plateau, Ehrlichiosis is more commonly spread by a variety of ticks. In the Northeast and Upper Midwest, Lyme disease is the most commonly transmitted tick borne disease. It’s spread by the small tick called Ixodes scapularis which is about the size of a pinhead. All over the Southeast, there is a newer illness called STARI which is the Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness spread by the Lone Star tick – also about ½ inch in size.

                                                                              Once a tick is attached and feeds on you for at least 72 hours, the little buggers can transmit these diseases. Most symptoms that you will encounter are fever, headache, nausea, muscle or joint pain and rash.  Think of it as summertime flu symptoms. Most symptoms start anywhere from 2 to 14 days after the bite.

How can you help prevent tick bites? Be aware of the areas where ticks live. Most ticks prefer dense woods with thick growth of shrubs and small trees as well as along the edges of woods where the woods abut lawns. Ticks require humidity to survive, and drier areas usually are less infested. When outdoors your child should wear long-sleeved shirts tucked into his or her pants. The pants should be tucked into socks or boots. Use an insect repellent containing permethrin on clothing to repel ticks and other insects but don’t apply this to skin. DEET containing products from 5-30% helps prevent both ticks and mosquito but don’t use it on babies under 2 months of age. During a hike or camping, do tick checks using a buddy system every 4 hours. After a full day do a bare skin check and shower to remove any ticks that are not firmly attached.

Tick bites are painless and don’t itch.  Favorite hiding places for ticks are in the hair, so check the scalp, neck, armpit and groin. To remove a tick, get a tweezer and apply pressure right behind the head and lift straight up after it releases. If any part of the tick is still there, scrape it off and then wash with soap and water. Also check your pets, especially dogs for ticks daily. You can save the tick for inspection later by keeping it in a glass jar.  More on tick removal from the AAP.

Remember, if you develop any of these symptoms such as fever, rash or headache after a tick bite, please call your pediatrician’s office. How to treat tick bites.

 

The Science of Rudeness

Pediatricians, like most folks, are human. We can have our feelings hurt just like anyone else. At KPA, our staff, including doctors, nurses and ancillary team members, are reminded at every opportunity to be kind and courteous to our patients and their parents. We also realize that parents are frequently frightened and anxious about their child’s illness. The following link is to a paper written by Perri Klass, MD,  that lends credence to the notion that you win with honey, not vinegar. So we urge you discuss any disagreements, communication problems, staff rudeness, etc. in a gentle spirit. We, like you, respond much better to niceness than to vitriol. And, if you accept the science, your child’s care will be better as well. The science of rudeness…

Camp, Nature’s Way of Feeding Mosquitos

It’s that time of year when parents start to make plans for the summer.  Summer is such an important time for families to be together, to take special trips, and for children to recharge from the busy school year. Summer is also a great time to try out new activities at a summer camp. Summer camps offer a valuable opportunity for learning that can’t be done in a classroom setting and can benefit your child for the rest of the year.

I spent summers as a child going to Girl Scout camp and have many happy memories of learning to swim in a lake, canoeing, backpacking and singing around the campfire.  I wanted my children to have that experience as well and they both attended day and overnight camps. Honestly, I can say they didn’t love every camp experience! My daughter didn’t like any one day camp because “the counselors were mean” and when I pressed her for details she said “They never smiled!” My son attended scout camp where he had an awful time, hated the food, the cabins and experienced bullying. Needless to say they didn’t return to those camps! However, we did find a wonderful traditional camp in the mountains of North Carolina that they both loved and looked forward to all year long. They returned every summer and when they got home we used the expression “camp sick” to describe how much they missed it! This summer will be my teenage son’s last to attend as a camper and when I asked him what camp has meant to him, he had difficulty putting it into words.  There is a “camp magic” of treasured traditions, activities and an experience that seems to exist in a separate space and time. I think I can say for him that those are the things that he looks forward to and what makes camp so special.  Most of the year he is connected to his cell phone and computer.  At camp, it is a time of digital detox-no cellphone, computer or TV.  It is a time to interact face to face and live in community.  He has made friends that live in other cities and countries and he looks forward to seeing them each summer. He also looks forward to seeing the counselors each year and looks up to them as role models.

Camp gives children a chance to connect with nature and try new activities that they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience, and build self-confidence.  It is a safe place to take risks, face challenges and build their self-esteem in a safe, supervised and supportive environment.  It is a place to have the freedom to be yourself and have a sense of belonging in a community.  It is a chance to develop resilience and independence.  Camp gives children a chance to develop the skills that will enable them to live on their own as adults. It is a place to develop their “emotional intelligence,” an ability to manage emotions and work together with others cooperatively.  Camp is good for parents too!  In this day and age of “helicopter parents” it’s hard for some parents to allow their children to be away for an extended time.  A good part of parenting is finding the balance between protecting your child, keeping them safe and providing opportunities for growth.  Successful parenting is a process of preparing your child for adulthood and a good camp can teach those skills. Parents might find that letting go just a little bit helps to strengthen their relationship. If your child is comfortable spending the night away from you with friends and family, they might be ready for overnight camp as young as seven years of age.  Many overnight camps have shorter sessions for the youngest campers. My children attended a camp where siblings could attend at the same time but the girls and boys camps were separate.  My son who wasn’t as outgoing as his sister and felt ready for camp after visiting several years in a row when we dropped off his sister and he saw how much she enjoyed it. He felt better being away overnight since she was there at the same time.  Now nine years later he is happy to go for a month long session.

There are about 5,000 summer camps in the U.S.  How do you choose the right one?  There are traditional camps, specialty camps- like sports, special needs, religious, day and overnight camps.  Here are a few ideas specifically when considering an overnight camp.

1. Involve your child in the decision making process, consider their interests, look at websites, watch camp videos, and visit open houses if available.

2. Look at the camp’s history, how long has it been in operation? Do former campers send their children there? How experienced are the camp directors? Try to speak directly with the directors to learn about the camp. Ask for references.

3. What is the camp’s philosophy? Is it structured? Is the camp to have fun or foster growth? Does it share your family values?

4. Look at the camp counselors, how many are former campers? How many return each year? What does the director look for in their hiring? How extensive are they interviewed, are background checks done? How are they trained in safety? What is the average age of counselors? What is the ratio of campers to counselors?

5. What is a typical day’s schedule? Does the camper have choice in their schedule? How long are the sessions? What is a typical menu? What are the sleeping arrangements, bathrooms/showers?

6. What is the cost? Are there scholarships available?

7. Is the camp accredited by the American Camping Association? ACA membership verifies that the camp complies with up to 300 individual standards

For more information contact the American Camping Association

The doctors of KPA hope you all have a wonderful summer!  Don’t forget to schedule that camp physical!

(My son and daughter and camp)

 

Advice on Lawnmower Safety

Well, it’s only the first week in April, and my grass has been mowed three times already due to the warm weather and abundance of rain this year. Lawn mowing is such a mundane and routine task that we seldom stop to think about what we are doing, unless it’s to think about how hot it is, how thirsty we are, how our muscles are aching and how much longer until the job is done. What we are probably NOT thinking about is the degree of danger we are subjecting ourselves to, as well as our family members and neighbors and pets, if they are outside while the mowing is taking place. Several years ago, one of my daughters was mowing her grass and found a hidden rock with the lawnmower blade. The rock was hurled across the yard and through the back window of her car, shattering the glass. Fortunately, there were no children, pets, or neighbors nearby, so no injuries occurred. This is a good reminder about the power and danger of a lawnmower. If you stop and think about it, you’re operating a machine with five or six horsepower (or more) turning a heavy steel blade at 3000 RPM that is just inches away from your feet and legs (and hands and fingers if you dare). Is it any wonder people get hurt? And it’s not just a few people, it’s thousands every year. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 9,300 young people (age 20 or under) are injured every year by lawnmowers, and one-third of these injuries are in children under the age of 12 years. The injuries range from lacerations, broken bones, amputations and a multitude of injuries suffered as a result of projectiles thrown from lawnmowers.

Lawnmowers have been a source of concern for safety advocates. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics established guidelines for safe lawn mowing…

In spite of these suggestions, the incidence of lawnmower injuries has not declined in the years 2004 to 2013.  Follow this link to read an interesting update on lawn mower safety,..

The Farm

When I sought advice for this blog post I was encouraged to write about something I love. Coincidentally, the next day I headed nine hours north on route 81 to the place I love most, my childhood home. Recently, my mom needed help after surgery. I packed my husband and 3 kids in the car and headed to our 100 acre family farm in Northern Virginia. When I pulled into the long dirt and gravel driveway, where I learned to ride a bike nearly 30 years ago, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. I’m home.

Simple pleasures abound on the farm. Every morning we traipse down to the barn to feed the cattle and chickens with my dad. My girls proudly collect eggs in my father’s hat and share their henbit with the hens (chickens love to eat the purple weed). Breakfast is coffee on the front porch overlooking the farm while munching on toast with homemade bread, grape jelly made from our grapes, and deep yellow scrambled eggs from my father’s hens. My daughters pick daffodils and henbit in the yard to make bouquets for Grandma. Later, they fly kites and jump between large round bales of hay in the front field. Every afternoon the girls’ child – sized fishing poles are bowed in half from weighty bass or blue gill hooked in the farm pond.

I’d rather be on the farm than anywhere. I love this place. It reminds me that simple pleasures are the best. It’s good for my soul. The little girl with the ruby red slippers had it right, there’s no place like home.

Image result for henbit

Henbit

Little League Elbow and Swimmer’s Shoulder and Runner’s Knee, Oh My!

As my children have started to enjoy playing more sports, I realize how competitive sports have become at an earlier age. This is a nationwide trend that is causing those of us in the pediatric world to see more overuse injuries than ever before. What is an overuse injury? An overuse injury is damage to a bone, muscle, ligament or tendon due to repetitive stress without allowing time for the body to heal. Attached is a link from the AAP that gives insight into how best to protect our kids. As always, if you have questions or concerns about overuse injuries, please call you pediatrician’s office.

For more information

 

And Away We Go!

The warmer than average “winter” weather has reminded me that Spring Break is rapidly approaching. Many of us will be taking that time off to rest, to recharge our batteries, and to spend valuable time with our families and loved ones. And many of us will pack our bags, load our cars, and head to our chosen vacation spots.  If you are traveling over Spring Break, or anytime this year, I hope that you arrive at your vacation spot safely. To help you and your family stay safe while traveling, I have posted some practical travel safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

TRAVEL TIPS

Traveling with children can be a delight and a challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following tips for safe and stress-free family travel.

Traveling by Airplane

  • Allow your family extra time to get through security – especially when traveling with younger children.
  • Have children wear shoes and outer layers of clothing that are easy to take off for security screening. Children younger than 12 years are not required to remove their shoes for routine screening.
  • Strollers can be brought through airport security and gate-checked to make travel with small children easier.
  • ​Talk with your children about the security screening process before coming to the airport. Let them know that bags (backpack, dolls, etc.) must be put in the X‑ray machine and will come out the other end and be returned to them.
  • Discuss the fact that it’s against the law to make threats such as; “I have a bomb in my bag.” Threats made jokingly (even by a child) can delay the entire family and could result in fines.
  • Arrange to have a car safety seat at your destination or bring your own along. Airlines will typically allow families to bring a child’s car safety seat as an extra luggage item with no additional luggage expense. Check the airline’s Web site ahead of time so you know their policy before you arrive at the airport
  • When traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child. Children who weigh more than 40lbs can use the aircraft seat belt. The car safety seat should have a label noting that it is FAA-approved. Belt-positioning booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, but they can be checked as luggage (usually without baggage fees) for use in rental cars and taxis.
  • Although the FAA allows children under age 2 to be held on an adult’s lap, the AAP recommends that families explore options to ensure that each child has her own seat. If it is not feasible to purchase a ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats where your child could ride buckled in her car safety seat.
  • Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.
  • In order to decrease ear pain during descent, encourage your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can try chewing gum or drinking liquids with a straw.
  • Wash hands frequently, and consider bringing hand-washing gel and disinfectant wipes to prevent illnesses during travel.
  • Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms.
  • Consult your pediatrician if flying within 2 weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.

International Travel 

  • If traveling internationally, check with your doctor to see if your child might need additional vaccines or preventive medications, and make sure your child is up-to-date on routine vaccinations. Bring mosquito protection in countries where mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria are present.
  • In order to reduce jet lag, adjust your child’s sleep schedule 2-3 days before departure. After arrival, children should be encouraged to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to promote adjustment.
  • Stay within arm’s reach of children while swimming, as pools may not have safe, modern drain systems and both pools and beaches may lack lifeguards.
  • Ensure that your child wears a life jacket when on smaller boats, and set an example by wearing your life jacket.
  • Conditions at hotels and other lodging may not be as safe as those in the U.S. Carefully inspect for exposed wiring, pest poisons, paint chips, or inadequate stairway or balcony railings.
  • When traveling, be aware that cribs or play yards provided by hotels may not meet current safety standards. If you have any doubt about the safety of the crib or play yard, ask for a replacement or consider other options. (Also applies to travel in the U.S.)

Traveling by Car 

  • Road travel can be extremely hazardous in developing countries. Make sure each passenger is buckled and that children use the appropriate car safety seat. Let your driver know you are not in a hurry, ask that there be no cell phone use, and emphasize that you will reward safe driving.
  • Always use a car safety seat for infants and young children. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. Once your child has outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit, she should ride in a forward-facing car safety seat. Updated recommendations on safe travel can be found on the AAP parenting web site: www.healthychildren.org/carseatguide.
  • Most rental car companies can arrange for a car safety seat if you are unable to bring yours along. However, they may have a limited selection of seats. Check that the seat they provide is appropriate for the size and age of your child, that it appears to be in good condition, and that the instruction manual is provided before accepting it.
  • A child who has outgrown her car safety seat with a harness (she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat) should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age).
  • All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
  • Never place a rear-facing car safety seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an airbag.
  • Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt, even in a taxi.
  • Children often become restless or irritable when on a long road trip. Keep them occupied by pointing out interesting sights along the way and by bringing soft, lightweight toys and favorite music for a sing-along.
  • Plan to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours.
  • Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute. Temperatures inside the car can reach deadly levels in minutes, and the child can die of heat stroke.
  • In addition to a travelers’ health kit (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/other/travelers-health-kit.htm), parents should carry safe water and snacks, child-safe hand wipes, diaper rash ointment, and a water- and insect-proof ground sheet for safe play outside.

Sources:

AAP policy statement: Child Passenger Safety

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/788.full​​

AAP technical report: Child Passenger Safety http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/e1050.full​​

Federal Aviation Administration http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/

Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/travel/children_gen_info.htm

AAP: Car Safety Seats, A Guide for Families

http://www.healthychildren.org/carseatguide

BOO to the Flu!

Well, it’s here, no doubt about it. The dreaded FLU! All around Knoxville and surrounding counties, schools are closing due to illness in both the students and the teachers. Here is a little information on the facts of the flu…

  • Influenza (“the flu”) is a VIRAL illness.
  • Symptoms may include: fever, cough, headache and or body aches, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, redness and watering of the eyes, and occasional vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • Influenza IS NOT “ the stomach bug” … although many kids’ first sign is vomiting.
  • The flu can be contagious for up to 1 – 2 DAYS BEFORE SYMPTOMS START and for several days after the onset of symptoms.
  • Prevention from the flu includes receiving a yearly flu vaccine, hand washing and avoiding contact when possible with those infected with the flu.
  • The flu is spread from person to person thru contact with respiratory secretions. It can also be spread by coming in contact with those secretions on objects.
  • There is a test to determine if you have the flu. This test is done thru a nasal swab and usually can be done in the outpatient office within 10 minutes. A flu test is not always required as a doctor may determine the diagnosis by physical exam.
  • Most people with the flu have a mild self-limited, uncomplicated disease. Treatment would include rest, lots of fluids and tylenol or ibuprofen for fever or aches.
  • Certain groups of people may be at risk for more serious complications. This group includes those that have a weakened immune system, have chronic lung disease, those that have diabetes, possibly those with a neurological problems, and the very young.
  • Some children with the flu may be prescribed an antiviral called tamiflu. It does NOT treat the flu and is not required . It may shorten the duration of symptoms. It should be started within 48 hours of the onset of the illness.
  • We typically do not give “prevention” from the flu thru tamiflu unless the child is in at “at risk” population.
  • If your child has the flu and has: worsening fever or pain, lethargy, unable to keep fluids down or if you have any concern, please call your pediatrician for further evaluation.