10 Tips to Help Keep Your Kids Safe on Halloween

dr. lori gore greenEvery October, children around the country buzz with excitement as they prepare dutifully for a holiday that caters to their imagination. On Halloween, children get to dress up as whomever they want, run around outside with their friends, and get rewarded for this with candy. On paper, Halloween sounds almost too good to be true. And while the spirit of Halloween is meant to be harmless and fun, there are certain things that parents should think about when it comes to trick-or-treating.

The age at which a child is allowed to go trick-or-treating with his or her friends unaccompanied by an adult depends entirely on the rules set forth by the parent(s) or guardian. Regardless of what that age is, there are certain rules that parents should establish with their children beforehand. 

  1. Talk about the route that your child is taking
  2. Make sure that your child is trick or treating in a group with other children. Make a point to know who these friends are and talk to their parents so that you are all on the same page. 
  3. Tell your child that he or she should not go into the homes of the residents that they are visiting unless you have explicitly agreed on it. 
  4. If your child has a cell phone, come up with certain times when your child will check in. 
  5. Come up with a clear curfew and meeting point if you will pick up your child.
  6. Have a code – an expression or word that your child can use (via text or when talking on the phone) if they want to come home. Find out where your child is and pick him or her up immediately. While it’s likely that it isn’t a true emergency, make sure that you evaluate the situation when you get there to ensure that the other children aren’t in any true danger. Try not to interrogate your child on the way home. Just make sure no one is hurt or in danger. After that give him or her some space and then talk about it a bit later. 
  7. Tell your child not to accept unwrapped goods.
  8. Have a candy system. While candy is one of the main draws of Halloween, kids can often go overboard if left to their own devices, so be very clear about how much/how often they are allowed to eat these treats. Additionally, consider finding ways that they can share the candy with others.
  9. Make sure that your child brushes and flosses her teeth longer than usual when she gets home. 
  10. Encourage your child to use good judgement and have fun!

For more great tips on halloween safety, see this article.

Choosing Books for Your Baby

dr. lori gore-greenAs I’ve discussed in the past, children receive all sorts of benefits from having their parents read to them. But what are the best books to read to babies? This is a question that many parents ask quite regularly. It’s fairly easy to find the most popular books for babies depending on their age, and luckily these books also co-inside with finding the “BEST” books to read to your child. However, the question of finding the best books for your child is somewhat subjective. What makes a book the best choice for your child? Does this mean the most well-written? Not necessarily.

Know Your Tone

Before your child starts to recognize words, it’s likely that he or she will respond to the tone of the person reading the story. That being said, one of the most important factors in selecting a book to read to your child, is that it engages the parent, and isn’t annoying to read. Well before your child can speak, he or she will pick up to nuances in your voice, so it’s important that you are able to read in a way that is soothing, not peeved at the idea of reading an inane story for the millionth time. So as long as you’re not reading something wildly inappropriate to your child, in those early stages it’s fine to read something that’s more relevant to your interests than your child’s.

The Strength of the Story? Or the Durability of the Book?

Another thing to keep in mind when selecting books for your baby is the actual durability. Though this won’t be too much of an issue in the earliest days, it will be a good habit to select books that can withstand being chewed, pulled and  thrown. As kids get older, books will not only provide stories, but will also serve as toys that your child may seemingly want to destroy. Never provide a child with a rare or delicate book as it will likely be completely destroyed in moments.

What is the Color and Texture of the Story?

Another quality that’s great for books for your child are those that include colorful illustrations, and storylines or topics that may be of particular interest. It’s also a great idea to include books in your child’s library  that are a bit more tactile (Think Pat the Bunny or the That’s Not My … series, once they are old enough). No matter what you pick, make sure that you choose texts that both you and your child can enjoy!

Additionally, I have included a list of some of the most popular books for children below.

 

The Power of Reading to Your Little One

Reading, Dr. Lori Gore-GreenIt’s no real surprise that reading to your child is important. From soothing your baby with the comforting sound of your voice, to encouraging your toddler’s comprehension of vocabulary, reading is critical to your child’s development. A recent study revealed one more reason that it’s important for parents to read to their children.

According to Jessica L. Montag, Michael N. Jones and Linda B. Smith of the Department of Psychological and brain Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington, the text found in children’s books contains a greater diversity of both words and linguistic contexts than what they would be exposed to outside of these books. Montag and her team examined 100 children’s picture books and compared that to child-directed conversations of comparable length. The findings of this study supports the theory that the text in children’s picture books are an important point of reference for vocabulary for young children. The study and findings also support the importance of reading to children as the critical link for children to receive these benefits.

During a recent interview, Montag confided that, “The guiding question for this work was, ‘What might the text of the books be providing that everyday speech is not for these children.’”

 

And the answer was overwhelming. The text in the most popular and highly recommended picture books contained about seventy percent more unique words as compared to those used in speech. The team selected their sample texts based on rankings from Amazon book lists, reading lists from teachers and librarians, as well as statistics pulled from the public library. While it’s important to remember that this number is not infallible – owing to the somewhat limited sample size. Perhaps if the book list and subject sample size were expanded the percentage would drop slightly. However, even if that percentage dropped, the point remains the same. A child’s linguistic skills have the potential to greatly improve when a picture book is read to him or her.

 

Montag believes that “…the real benefit of books is that they introduce new topics and new words that are generally outside the scope of a child’s day-to-day life.” She goes on to say that, “…books allow you to talk about more different things in more different contexts…It’s a lot of really fun play, with stories and with language.” This is in sharp contrast to the traditionally simple sentences that people often use when talking to children.

 

Whether it’s the vocabulary, use of complex sentences or diversity of linguistic contexts, the message is clear… Read to your children!

 

The Benefits of Nursing

mother and babyIn recent years, nursing – particularly at work or in public, has become a hot topic both in offices around the country and in the media. However, what is often lost in the discussion are the facts that reveal the benefits of feeding infants breast milk as opposed to formula. While formula is the ideal substitute if the mother is physically unable to provide breast milk for the child, if breast milk is an option, the National Institute of Health (among other government organizations) has proposed a set of guidelines that encourage this.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should be fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life. This means that during those first months, your infant is consuming nothing else other than breast milk, unless your doctor advises otherwise.

After these first six months, the AAP suggests that mothers continue breastfeeding their child while slowly introducing solids into the child’s diet.

Once the child reaches the one year mark, the mother can continue preparing breast milk if these is mutually desired by both mother and infant.

The World Health Organization similarly recommends that mothers provide their newborns exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life then slowly introduce complementary solid foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or more.

The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and doctors agree on the importance of breastfeeding your children for those first six months of life. However, after the first year, there remains discussion over when exactly is the appropriate cutoff time.

But what is it, exactly that makes breast milk so important?

In terms of the health of the  baby, the cells, antibodies and hormones from the mother contained in her breast milk protect the child from a number of illnesses. Additional research suggests that babies who are fed breast milk have a lower likelihood of: lower respiratory infections, ear infections, asthma, childhood leukemia, diarrhea and vomiting, SIDS, necrotizing enterocolitis, childhood obesity, eczema, and more.

In addition to these health benefits of the child, breastfeeding provides a form of emotional bonding for the mother and her child, as well as health benefits for the mother. Studies show that breastfeeding can have both short and long-term health benefits for the mother. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of some types of breast cancers and ovarian cancer. Estrogen levels are lower during lactation, and it is believed that this less estrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and (possibly breast tissue), the smaller the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous. Breastfeeding also leads to a lower risk type 2 diabetes for mothers. Another health benefit includes reducing the likelihood of developing osteoporosis later in life. Additionally, breastfeeding contributes to post-partum weight loss.

Although not every woman is physically able to breastfeed her child, it’s important to keep in mind the benefits of this practice for those women that are capable of this.

To learn more about women’s health visit my twitter page.

Misinformation and New Mothers

Dr. Lori Gore-GreenUS News and World Report recently reported on a new study  that finds that new mothers often fall victim to poor advice regarding how to care for their newborn child. This study, which was recently released in Pediatrics, surveyed over a thousand mothers to infants aged 2 to 6 months old. The researchers questioned the mothers about advice shared with them on a variety of topics related to all facets of childcare. Although many of these women received advice from doctors, a significant amount of this advice contradicted the guidelines set forth by the AAP. The study also revealed that family members were often full of contradictory advice – oftentimes due to the reliance that family members had on anecdotal experience as opposed to medical training.

News from the Media

The study found that although less than half of the women identified the media as a source for advice for most topics, breast-feeding was the outlier. Of the women surveyed, seventy percent admitted that they got advice from the media on this topic. Researchers found that much of this advice did not match official recommendations.

 

The study’s lead author, Dr. Staci Eisenberg stated that,

“In order for parents to make informed decisions about their baby’s health and safety, it is important that they get information, and that the information is accurate.”

Dr. Eisenberg, a pediatrician from Boston Medical Center went on saying,

“We know from prior studies that advice matters,” and that the likelihood of parents following the suggestions of professional increases only when they, “receive appropriate advice from multiple sources, such as family and physicians.”

How to Position Your Child While Sleeping : Pervasive Myths

Another important area of note is the advice that new mothers receive on how to position their little ones while sleeping. According to this study, new mothers seem to be receiving a wide range of theories on how to position their babies from a number of different sources. The study found that almost 29 percent of these mothers got incorrect information regarding where babies ought to sleep, and 26 percent of the advice on sleeping positions was also false.

 Do Your Homework

While some of the information gleaned from the study may not seem all that surprising, some points may. With all of the (mis)information out there, it’s imperative that parents find a physician with whom they are comfortable and that they never fear seeking a second opinion by another authoritative source. Most importantly, this study reveals the necessity of truly considering the validity of your source in these matters. To learn more about this study, please see the original report that appeared in U.S. News and World Report .

 

Are Screens Hurting Your Baby?

dr lori gore green dentonIt’s undeniable that emerging technologies are changing virtually all facets of how we live. And childrearing is certainly included in theses sweeping changes. Parents are currently faced with a myriad of options when it comes to arming themselves with as much information about their children through using various tech gadgets to aid them in tending to their children. (See my earlier article on micro tech here). Overwhelmingly these advancements in changing technologies are solving all sorts of problems and opening up opportunities and possibilities across many fields that were unimaginable just one or two decades ago. However, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the many ways in which certain uses of technologies effect children. For example, what does screen time do to our babies?

With the introduction of so many screened devices into our adult lives in such a relatively short amount of time, there haven’t been any significant longitudinal studies to better understand the effects of screen time on the development of children. In addition to being unaware of what the long-term effects may or may not be for babies, we also don’t know what factors might mitigate potential negative side effects.

As with all kinds of thorough research, time is a factor, and unfortunately these screened devices have not been widely available for very long. However, there are certain things that are known currently through research from the past, that can be extended to this arena when thinking about best practices and safety guidelines as they pertain to parenting and childrearing.

Screens are problematic in childhood development-especially for babies and toddlers when they displace interactions with people. In the first year of life, some of the most important interactions are those of the “serve and return” variety. Essentially a baby makes a noise, a parent responds in kind back, and it goes from there. Here a baby is learning the concept of a conversation, imitating sounds and observing that different facial expressions signify different things. This process can be extended to a number of other scenarios, and the practice requires repetition.

Although certain apps are interactive and educational, the American Academy of Pediatrics still suggests that children under the age of 2 not be exposed to screen-devices as the effects are not yet known.

While an interactive app may ultimately be more significant as a positive step in the development of a child than a distracted parent, we just do not have enough information to fully assess the effects of these devices. What we do know, is that the more meaningful and attentive interactions that a baby shares with other people, the better.

 

Micro Technology : The Wireless Baby

dr lori gore greenAs new technologies continue to flood the market at an increasingly rapid rate, consumers are faced with the chance to make decisions about what devices they want to include in their homes and those that they can skip. But what does this mean when it comes to technology for your baby?

I wrote earlier on the studies performed on advanced monitoring technology like those found in bluetooth onesies and sleep apnea monitors. These high tech devices monitor a child’s breathing habits, vitals and more. However, in most professional opinions, these devices do not guarantee the prevention of SIDS or necessarily contribute in any significant way to the overall well-being of the infant. These devices cannot replace the attention of a parent to a child. And a parent should not rely on these sorts of technologies as any sort of substitution for actively attending to their child. Instead, these devices should be considered aids in the rewarding and exhausting job of being a parent. While I do not condone the effectiveness or safety of the products listed below, it is interesting to see what kinds of wearable devices and advanced monitoring systems are currently available to assist in the process of child rearing.

Connected Wearables

Dr. Lori Gore - GreenMimo is the most well-known brand to incorporate wearable technologies into infant care. The mimo kimono houses the “turtle”, this is a bluetooth device encased in a plastic turtle covering. This device collects information regarding your baby’s breathing, body position, activity while sleeping as well as monitors the infant’s skin temperature. This information is sent to the “lily pad” which streams data and live audio to the cloud. This information then streams your information to your connected device. This intensive monitoring of vital signs allows you to gain insight into how your child is sleeping.

 

Dr. Lori Gore GreenThe Owlet is another wearable device that provides constant monitoring of a small child. This device is enclosed in the owlet smart sock, and monitors the heart rate and oxygen levels of the infant. Unlike the Mimo kimono, the owlet alerts you only if your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels are outside the norm. Alerts are sent to both your base station and your phone. The device utilizes hospital grade technology of pulse oximetry while monitoring a child. Again, this is not meant to replace the careful attention of a parent, but instead to aid in the monitoring process.

dr lori gore greenIn the same vein as both owlet and mimo is MonBaby. This is an award-winning baby monitor that snaps onto any article of a child’s clothing. MonBaby monitors breathing movements, body position (on the back or on the stomach), fall detection, proximity removal, but you get to choose which alerts you will receive.

 

Video Monitors

Dr. Lori Gore-GreenWhile baby monitors are nothing new, the form that they have taken as of late is much more advanced than the sound monitors of old that were essentially 1 way walkie talkies. Companies from Sony to Samsung to Motorola are getting in on the chance to provide top-notch monitoring for parents of infants. One of the most advanced connected products in the way of video monitoring devices is the Drop Cam. This system includes a camera to be placed in the infant’s room. The picture quality of the lens is unbeatable, and the wide angle lens surveys a larger area of the room than most baby video monitoring systems. The cloud connected camera then alerts you to noises and movements via an app on your phone, freeing you up from traditional video monitors.

 

In this world of ever changing technologies, it’s worthwhile to at least be aware of your tech choices as a parent, whether you choose to incorporate them into your child’s life or not. It’s also important to remember that nothing replaces a parent’s undivided attention and that these new technologies intended to assist the job of the parent… not replace it. Whether you are considering a new wearable, an advanced video monitor, or a self-warming bottle, remember that none of these can or should replace your attention.