Saturday, August 25, 2012

All About Infant Hearing Tests

The following article is written by a nurse, who happens to be a mother of three, one of whom has Down Syndrome. I have referred to this blog before and do so again because she has written a very descriptive article about infant hearing tests. She explains how they are done and what they test and describes some risk factors for hearing problems in infants, aside from Down Syndrome. I refer you to the article for the information.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Repost- curbing biting during breastfeeding 
I used these ideas back when I was breast feeding and had little trouble with biting, after the first time, of course. These simple ideas work and the pictures are cute. Check out this article if you are wondering about breastfeeding beyond teeth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

About Toys and Gender

This link refers to an article about gender neutral toy stores. Please read and take note of the conclusions that it is not the toy but how you, as parents, use the toy that impacts gender. Also note the sidebar regarding the effects of some material that are used in toys. The picture is from the article.

Friday, August 10, 2012


This week, my sister’s granddaughter celebrated her 3rd birthday in the hospital. The hospital sent some clowns to perform and gave her a birthday cake, but they also gave her parents the news that she has cancer. She is still being tested to determine the extent and type of her cancer and the treatment that will be used. Whatever it is, it will be a difficult year for Hannah and her parents and her whole family. Hannah’s family will become very familiar with the hospital environment and may start to feel strange away from it. They will spend time being depressed, then hopeful, then depressed again and not necessarily in unison.  Because they live in Canada, they will not have the burden of the medical bills that people from some countries would have but Hannah’s parents will have to spend much time away from work which will add to the stress. The rest of life goes on and the other bills still come in but cancer takes priority over all. Cancer is no longer the death sentence that it once was, though it is still a very difficult disease to get through. It is difficult to see your child so ill and to authorize treatments that will make them sick while making them better. Small children are not able to look at the outcome as a reason for the discomfort. Family and friends need to gather around and offer as much support, both physical and spiritual, as they can because it is needed.

Statistics on childhood cancer are hard to find for places outside the United States and Canada but it is said to vary little by region and to be about 1 to 2 children per 100,000 that will get cancer. Only 1 percent of all cancers are in children. Nonetheless, it is the 2nd greatest cause of death, after accidents, during childhood. There has been a steady increase in the survival rate and, now, over 80% of children diagnosed with any form of childhood cancer survive for more than 5 years. Most grow up to lead relatively normal lives. Childhood cancer is defined as cancer diagnosed before 15 years of age but over half of childhood cancers are diagnosed before 5 years of age.  Lymphoma is rare before 3 years of age but Wilm’s tumors are rare after 6. In children under 1 year of age, neuroblastoma is the most common type of cancer, though it is far less common in older children.

Childhood cancer and adult cancer are very different. Firstly, most types of adult cancer have a hard tumor, such as breast cancer, lung cancer or pancreatic cancer, but by far most childhood cancers do not.  The most common type of childhood cancer is leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, followed by lymphoma (which affects both children and adults), a cancer of the lymph system. The third most common type of childhood cancer is of the brain and nervous system and which does start with a tumor. Wilm’s tumors, which is a type of kidney cancer, is also seen in children and not in adults. Bone cancers are also more common in children and are seen more often in older children.

Another difference in childhood cancers is the causes. While they are not clearly understood, they are thought to be genetic, in the form of a mutation which is thought not to be inherited but to occur after conception. Environment plays a much smaller role in childhood cancers than it plays in adult cancers.  This is not to say that children are not affected by exposure to know carcinogens, such as dioxin and passive smoke, they are and you see increased incidence of cancers at all ages when there has been exposure. This is to say that most childhood cancers develop in the absence of such exposure.  Children with certain genetic disorders, such as Down Syndrome, Neurofibromatosis or Von Hipple syndrome, are at greater risk of developing cancer in childhood than is the general population. As a result, there seem to be few preventative measures that can be taken. Eating a high fiber, low junk food diet and avoiding known chemical carcinogens is useful for everyone, children included, but may not prevent childhood cancers.

Childhood cancers progress much faster than most adult forms. Symptoms of childhood cancers are very similar to symptoms of other childhood diseases and ones first thought does not go to cancer. For this reason, many cancers are not diagnosed immediately. In Hannah’s case, her main symptom was that her tummy started to swell. Her mother was first told that it was just her posture. When mom insisted that it was something else, she was told constipation (though there did not seem to be a problem in that area). After three weeks of persistent concern, the doctor did a sonogram and immediately sent her to the children’s oncology ward. The truth is that most times a swollen tummy is related to constipation.

Finally, Children are not adults. They are still growing themselves. Their systems respond differently to many things including cancer treatment. On the one hand, Children are more sensitive to Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy so do not need as much as adults do to have an effect. On the other hand, children are more sensitive to Chemotherapy and Radiation (yes, that is what I said above), so there are more “late effects”. In other words, children who have been treated for cancer may suffer other problems later in life, including being more susceptible to other cancers as adults. A child who has had cancer will need to follow their health closely all of their life but the chances are good that they will have a rest of their life.

for more information, the following articles were used to write this piece:
1.  Childhood Cancer Epidemiology
2.  Canadian Cancer Statistics, Cancer in Children
3.  American Cancer Society, Learn About Cancer
4. American Society of Clinical Oncology, Cancer in Children
5.  Medline Plus, Cancer Information
6.  Cancer Among Infants, a study.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

COLIC, please help.

Colic- even the word scares up traumatic visions in new mothers and from the memory of experienced mothers. Colic is not a pleasant experience for anyone.  Understanding what it is and what it isn’t may help you cope with it.   There are many reasons why babies cry and not all of them are clear but not all of them are colic. Colic crying tends to occur at around the same time of day and true colic is defined as a baby who cries for more than 3 hours, more than 3 days for more than 3 weeks. Of course, during the first hour or day or week of crying, when you do not have a diagnosis, that is of little comfort.  Colic is a short term, self limiting problem. It may start in the first few weeks and rarely last past the 5th month. This may be some comfort during the crying spells. Fully one-fourth of babies experience some degree of colic so you are not alone. Hopefully, that will help some, if you can remember that when the baby is crying.
All babies have fussy periods for many reasons but if it is short lived or a one-time thing, it is not colic. Also, intense pain crying can be a symptom of a problem so if it is accompanied by changes in babies eating or sleeping pattern or if your baby has experienced a fall or injury, even if it seemed minor, before the crying starts, you should contact your doctor. If the baby is healthy, fed and regular, you may get a diagnosis of colic.
The major symptom is crying, which does not seem to have any reason. The cry is high pitched and very intense and baby is very difficult to console.
The crying usually occurs at the same time every day, often in the early evening.  It is not helpful that this is a tense time in the house in general, with dinner preparation and everybody coming in from work and school.
It often occurs after a feeding and the baby will pass gas or have a bowel movement towards the end of the session, however treatment for gas or digestive disorders have not proven effective in stopping colic.
The baby will appear tense.  He may have tightly fisted hands, try to curl up and have a hard tight stomach.
Because of the pattern of crying and the connection to feeding and gas, it has long been thought that colic was a result of digestive problems, allergies or food triggers. Research does not bear this out. However, gas producing foods and over feeding may worsen the problem rather than help.
Tension in the house has been related to colic because the crying usually begins at a tense time in the house but again, that is not always the case. The crying increases the tension in the house and the increase in tension does increase the crying.
There may be a familial relationship. Babies whose parents had colic are slightly more likely to have colic as well.
Mother’s who smoke during pregnancy and after the baby is born are more likely to have colicky babies but, again, all colicky babies do not have mothers who smoke.
The latest research in the preliminary stages indicates that a type of bacteria, helicobactor pylori, may be responsible for colic. It is present in the stomach but apparently some baby’s immune systems are not strong enough to counteract it. These babies are the ones that demonstrate colic.
The truth is that the exact causes of colic are unknown.  I am sure that this doesn’t give you much comfort. Because there are no clear causes, there is not test for colic. What your doctor will do is rule out other causes of crying. If nothing is found, the doctor may tell you the baby has colic.
Colic generally occurs in healthy, big babies.  It leaves no permanent effects for the baby.  This should be some comfort. Colicky babies do well in all other areas of their lives.  Colic may start at 2 or 3 weeks of age and always decreases by 3 months and disappears by 5 months of age. Such a short time, that may give you some help.  Remember that strategies that help you cope with colic will be useful throughout your baby’s childhood. You can learn what comforts your baby and how to keep yourself calm in difficult situations. I know this is not as comforting as if the baby did not have colic but it is something.
The first and most important thing to do is not to take it personally. It has nothing to do with your parenting skills at all. This is very important because you need to keep your calm in a difficult time and if you are feeling that it is something you are doing that is difficult. (This is a good skill to learn now because it will be helpful when your child is two and contrary and a teenager and trying to establish independence. It will be easier to deal with if you do not take it personally.)
Secondly, avoid smoking and do not let anyone smoke near the baby. There are many reasons for this and colic is one.
Thirdly, you can try carrying your baby around in a wrap or pouch so the legs are flexed and pressure is off the belly.  Placing baby over your legs on his tummy and gently massaging his back may help relieve gas.
Fourth, each baby is different and your baby may respond to white noise (a solid humming sound such as the vacuum cleaner makes), soothing music, gentle massage of the tummy or back or feet (check reflexology techniques), or rocking movements. You will need to see if any of these have an effect on your baby. Some of the techniques in this and point three may work one time and not the next. Keep them in your bag of tricks. At the very least, it will give you a feeling that you are trying something.
Fifth, recent research with probiotics (such as in some yoghurts) is promising but not conclusive. It is suggested that probiotics help the developing  immune system to fight the H. Pylori bacteria mentioned above.
Babies of the age that is affected by colic should be exclusively taking breast milk or formula.  There has been no evidence that changing formula helps at all. It is recommended that breast feeding mothers avoid gas producing foods but this has also not proven to completely solve the problem. Gas release medications have NOT been shown to help and may have side effects so are best avoided.
Sixth, always remember that this will be over by a few months and you will have a healthy, happy baby after that. Try to enjoy the time of day when your baby is not crying and keep those memories in your mind during the crying episodes.
Seventh, do what it takes to keep you calm. If that is pacing or listening to music (ok smoking and drinking are out), do it. Share the experience with your partner (literally taking turns, not just talking about the issue) and find other parents of colicky babies and talk to them.
Finally, and most important, HIRE A BABYSITTER OR GET GRANDMA OVER and get out of the house for a break every three of four episodes (I would go for a pedicure).  I do not say this sarcastically. Tension in the parents has been associated with worsening colic episodes so it is important to take care of yourself.  If someone can relieve you for an episode here and there, you will be better able to handle the other times. Be sure your relief is fully aware of what the situation is and what you have found to help. I can hear the call right now “Hello, could babysit for about an hour and a half tonight at 4. Be aware that baby will probably start crying and won’t stop no matter what you do so you will have to give all your attention to her and maybe bring earplugs to lessen the sound!!” If it isn’t grandma, maybe a little hazard pay will help.
I hope that this is some help.
Rather than a picture of a crying baby, I thought this image might be calming
I hope it helps.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week. August1-7 2012  Happy World Breastfeeding Week.  I wish it were such a normal thing that a "week" was not needed but, as the article points out, only 32% of infants are breast fed until 6 months. Although breastfeeding is natural, it is not always easy so it is not always possible to continue until 6 months. It is especially difficult for mothers who need to have paid employment as most companies do not give much leave or are not willing to make convenient arrangements to encourage mothers to continue to breastfeed, such as being able to have your baby nearby and having breaks that coincide with feeding times.  Other women really cannot, for whatever reason, breastfeed but, aside from breastmilk, breastfeeding requires a mother to hold her baby close when she feeds and sets the baby in a position exactly right to look in mother's face. This is important for baby's security and social development. Those conditions can ALWAYS be duplicated when feeding with a bottle (although it could be father or grandma or grandpa instead of mother) and that will provide some of what babies get during breastfeeding. It is easier to prop the bottle and leave baby in the crib than to prop the breast but it should not be done. Happy feeding for your baby however you must do it.