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Parentelligence Blog

'parenting' Parentelligence posts

Constipation during infancy

As a pediatric surgeon with a special interest in intestinal issues, I am often contacted by worried parents regarding their baby's infrequent bowel movements. This can be caused by a variety of
problems such as blockages of the intestines or abnormal intestinal function (including a condition called Hirschsprung's disease); but most frequently babies are just efficiently absorbing and thus not needing to poop very often. This is especially true for breastfed babies. So, how can a parent tell the difference?

I would offer the following "red flags" as issues that may indicate a problem needing further medical evaluation:

Vomiting in the newborn: when is spit-up something to worry about?

I have never met a baby that didn't on occasion spit-up. Many perfectly healthy babies can even spit-up quite a bit. Reflux is often the label given to babies who vomit, and this rarely amounts to a significant problem.

However, there are a few things that a parent should watch out for:

The most important thing is the color of what a baby is throwing up. Dark yellow and especially green vomit is never normal in a baby and demands immediate medical evaluation as this could represent a dangerous twisting of the intestines (midgut volvulus), which is linked to abnormally positioned intestines (intestinal malrotation).

Another consideration is quantity. If a baby is throwing up...

How to avoid and care for cuts

It happens so quickly. You’re innocently chopping up vegetables for dinner when you find yourself on the receiving end of a cut — ouch! “Cuts are very common,” says Steven Rittenberg, M.D., who specializes in Internal Medicine at the Swedish Issaquah Primary Care Clinic. “However, there are some practical ways to prevent them, and some specific steps for treating them that can save you a trip to the doctor.”

Avoiding The “Ouch!”

Preventing cuts in the home is largely common sense, but life gets busy and we get careless, so here are a few reminders:

  • Keep knives sharp. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, a sharp knife slides more easily through an item avoiding a slip that may cut something you didn’t intend to cut, like your finger.
  • Pay attention. Resist the temptation to become distracted while using a knife.
  • Cut away from, not toward, yourself.
  • Don’t hold food that you are cutting; use a cutting board.
  • Don’t leave knives in dangerous places — loose in a drawer, in the sink, on the counter or facing up in the dishwasher — especially if you have children.
  • When handing someone a knife or sharp scissors, hold the flat part of the knife blade or closed blades of the scissors so they can grasp the handle.
  • Don’t pick up broken glass; sweep or vacuum it up thoroughly.

Treating It Right

When a cut does occur, the proper treatment will help to avoid infection or other complications:

The Practice Argument

 Practice, practice, practice...all kids are involved in something they have to practice. They all practice spelling and math equations. They might practice their soccer drills, or their cello. The old saying “practice makes perfect” is true.

So, did you know that arguing with your kids is also practice? Practice for what? What possible good could come from arguing? Just like any other skill, when you argue with your kids you’re developing their ability to stand up for themselves. This is crucial in standing up to peer pressure and bullies.

No one person is right 100% of the time, including parents, but parents often don’t want to admit when they’re wrong. When our kids make mistakes, and we tell them 'it’s okay, everyone makes mistakes' and yet, some parents refuse to admit when they make mistakes. Is it a matter of pride, or do we believe that if we admit we made a mistake that it will appear as though we’re weak?

Preventing Pertussis

We currently have a pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic occurring in Washington State. Infants under 6 months of age are particularly vulnerable but anyone, even if you are fully vaccinated, could potentially contract the disease and spread it.

(Is it really an epidemic? Yes: an epidemic (of a disease) affects many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.)

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, pertussis is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States (CDC).

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

The early signs for pertussis are ...

Look Before You Lock

 Why is it so dangerous to leave a child alone in a car?  Because of biology, anatomy, thermodynamics.

Let’s talk a little about Infant and Child Anatomy:

  • Infants and children do not temperature regulate well. They have too much surface area for their body mass, meaning they lose heat too quickly because they don’t have enough mass to contain the heat.
  • Because they lose heat quickly, they generate it faster, 3 to 5 times faster than adults. For example, when you’re holding a baby for a while and then hand them off to someone else, you feel chilled. This is because the baby was generating so much heat that our temperature drops. (We are the best thermo-regulators that a baby can have.)

Next, let’s set the stage and look at what happens in a car:

Are You Ready?

When we imagine having children, we have these images of ‘having a baby’. The sweet bundle all swaddled, snuggling, and sleeping peacefully in their crib whilst we gaze lovingly, and then we quietly tip-toe out of the nursery and off to our own bed.

Then reality hits. Babies cry. Diapers explode. Breasts leak. Exhaustion hits. And just when we think we’re getting the hang of it, they grow. Their abilities change. Their needs change. Their brains develop. That sweet baby turns into a defiant toddler, that turns into a messy child, who then turns into a smelly teenager (it’s just the hormones, it’ll pass).

We give our lives over to our children. Every thing we do, every decision we make, we take them into account. There is a fantastic quote by Sophia Loren, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. A mother always has to think twice: once of herself and once for her child.”

Now, we could debate parenting styles but the more important point is how do you know if you’re ready to potentially live your life for that little baby? How do you know, before you have a baby?

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