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Introducing solids to your infant

As your baby grows, you’ve probably started wondering when and how to start feeding your infant solid foods. Here are some general tips to consider:

Is there a safe age to start feeding solid foods to my infant?

Yes, most infants this is between four and six months of age.

Why is there a ‘safe’ age to start feeding solids?

There are a few reasons why this age is safest. The first reason is because prior to four months of age, an infant is not developmentally ready to safely eat from a spoon.

To be able to swallow solids safely, an infant needs good head control; to be able to sit well with support; and to have lost the “extrusion reflex” (the reflex which enables newborns to tightly latch and suck from a nipple, but makes them shove a spoon out of their mouth).

The second reason an infant should be fed solids between four and six months is something many families are not aware of: it is also a strategy to prevent common food allergies. This is one of the strongest reasons I passionately advocate for infants to be exposed to as many foods as possible during this crucial three-month window.

Starting solids and preventing food allergies:

In the past, healthcare providers have advised parents to avoid potential allergens such as peanuts, eggs, and milk. New evidence is now showing that this practice might have played a role in the increased incidence of childhood food allergies in the U.S

Why might this occur? The ...

Flu vaccine for children

A lot of parents have questions about the flu vaccine and many parents refuse the vaccine as they feel it does not very effective. Some parents are concerned about vaccines in general and refuse vaccinating their child as they don’t want to administer “another vaccine” to their child. The best way to prevent getting flu is by vaccination.

What is flu (Influenza)?

Flu (influenza) is not just a common cold or a stomach virus as most people think. Influenza usually occurs during the winter in our region although it can occur all year around in other parts of the world. It can be a serious respiratory illness that can lead to complications especially in children and older adults. Symptoms are generally similar to any other common cold infections and can vary from fever, runny nose, nose congestion, cough, body aches and headaches. The body aches and headaches are mostly reported by older children and adults. Children may not be able to explain their symptoms and may just be fussy.

Most children get over the flu without any complications. In some children and adults, however, it can lead to serious complications including pneumonia.

How to prevent the flu:

Influenza is ...

What is umbilical cord blood banking?

Umbilical cord blood banking is a procedure where your OB takes some of the blood (and now tissue) from the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby is born and the cord has been cut. You may never have thought about what we do with that stuff.

What happens to your baby's umbilical cord?

In the past, it has usually been discarded as medical waste, although some women want to take it home with them. Over the last two decades medical advances have been developed in which the cells from that blood can be used to treat several diseases. The cells have unique characteristics that allow them to change into a multitude of different cell types (called pluripotent cells.) The idea is that some children and adults with certain genetic abnormalities or certain cancers can benefit from these cells. The cells can be grown to replenish the normal cells or treat abnormal cells.

The options for umbilical cord banking are divided primarily into what’s called public and private cord blood banking.

Private cord banking

Private cord banking is just what it sounds like: we collect the blood at the time of your delivery and you send it to a business that processes it and stores it for you. The cost of this varies currently from somewhere between $2000 and $3000 for initial processing and from about $120 and $300 per year to store it. In this case, you are storing the cells for yourself and your family.

Public cord banking

Alternatively, public cord banking is something anyone who delivers at certain hospitals has the opportunity to do. There is a public cord blood system that has been growing since 1990 that is similar to the blood bank and is used for individuals who need the blood due to illness or injury.

At Swedish, all patients can donate cord blood to the Puget Sound Blood Center. The cord blood collected for this bank is available to all individuals based on need. The cord blood collected is not specifically available to the individual who donated it. We are happy to collect blood from all families, but are finding increased needs in patients who are ethnic minorities or a mixed race couple. The cord blood also can be directed to Fred Hutchinson Research Center for ongoing research regarding current and future treatments.

Isn't cord blood banking controversial?

There are ...

Hernias: why are some watched while others are repaired?

The most common thing that I see as a pediatric surgeon is a child with a lump that is thought to be a hernia. A hernia is a bulging of tissue through an opening in the muscle layers that isn’t normally present. In children, these openings are usually the result of a developmental process that just didn’t quite reach completion. Some hernias need surgery emergently, while others are observed for years with the expectation that they will close on their own.

Here are some pointers to help understand this wide range of approaches to hernias:

Location is very important in considering how aggressive to be with hernias. Belly button (umbilical) hernias are...

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:

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