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Top Baby (0-12 months) Questions

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Health & Safety
Q: How can SIDS be prevented?
Q: Can I prevent autism? How do I know if my baby has it?
Q: What is cradle cap?
Q: Can I give my child medicine to help him sleep on a plane?

Eating & Sleeping
Q: How long can I refrigerate and/or freeze breast milk?

Q: How much sleep does my child need?
Q: Are plastic bottles safe for my baby?

Q: How can SIDS be prevented?

A: Sudden infant death syndrome--the term used when a baby dies unexpectedly, with no explanation--is rare, but it's still the leading cause of death among infants one month to one year of age. Though tons of research has been done, no one has been able to determine exactly why SIDS occurs, and there are no identifiable warning signs or symptoms. No wonder it's so scary!

The pediatrician says:
"There's a strong correlation between SIDS and sleep position. Since 1992, when the National Institutes of Health initiated the 'Back to Sleep' campaign (which advocates putting babies on their backs or sides to sleep, even for naps), incidences of SIDS have dropped 40 percent in the United States. An annoying side effect of having babies sleep on their backs is that their heads kind of flatten out; you can avoid that by alternating which side of the crib you place your baby's head on each night, and by practicing 'tummy time' when the baby is awake and supervised."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

More Steps You Can Take
"As parents, the best we can do is to control what we can and not become too paralyzed by the 'what ifs,'" Dr. O'Keeffe says. To further minimize the risk of SIDS, she recommends the following:

  • Get good prenatal care (prematurity has been linked to SIDS).
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes during pregnancy.
  • Protect your baby from secondhand smoke, which has been found to increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Avoid overheating your baby with extra clothes and blankets.
  • Have your baby sleep on a very firm mattress.

Also, Dr. O'Keeffe notes that anything that boosts your baby's overall health will reduce his or her SIDS risk. So:

  • Breast-feed your baby.
  • Get regular well-baby visits and immunizations.

Momlogic Moms say:
Julie, Mom of two, says that stuffed animals and comforters can overheat your baby and pose a suffocation risk. Keep them out of the crib.

Other Moms say:

  • Be especially vigilant when your baby is between two and four months old--that's when most SIDS deaths happen.
  • Don't have any loose bedding in the crib; just put a fitted sheet on the crib mattress.
  • Keep the baby's room at a temperature that's comfortable for you. If you're not too hot, chances are your baby won't be, either.

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Q: Can I prevent autism? How do I know if my baby has it?

A: Autism--a developmental disorder that impairs a child's ability to interact socially--is genetic, so there's no known way to prevent or cure it. But many of the symptoms can be improved with therapy, so the earlier it's diagnosed, the better. (FYI, boys are four times more likely to have it than girls.)

The pediatrician says:
"The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with some screening guidelines that are really helpful and focus on language and communication. Worried parents should talk to their pediatricians as early as they have concerns."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

According to Dr. O'Keeffe, early signs that an infant or toddler may have autism include:

  • Not turning when the parent says the baby's name.
  • Not turning to look when the parent points and says, "Look at that."
  • Not pointing themselves to show parents an interesting object or event.
  • Lack of back-and-forth babbling.
  • Smiling late.
  • Failure to make eye contact with people.

For more information, check out these links:

Momlogic Moms say:
"I was worried my son had autism after he got his MMR vaccine at 18 months," says Debbie, Mom of three. "He just didn't have the same 'spark' in his eyes and wasn't hitting his milestones as frequently. We saw a specialist and luckily were able to get some early intervention. No one knows your child like you do. Be on the lookout for warning signs, and if you suspect something is wrong, see your pediatrician. If your pediatrician brushes off your concerns, see someone else."

Other Moms say:

  • Trust your instincts.
  • Separate the MMR shot, just to be safe.
  • Consider participating in a clinical trial. Even if it doesn't help your child, the information gleaned may help other kids in the future. Go to http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/search/term=%22Autism%22 for more information.
  • Many autistic kids get a lot better as they age, so don't despair!

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Q: What is cradle cap?
A: It sounds like something adorable that your grandma might knit but unfortunately, the reality is far from cute.

The doctor says:
"Cradle cap is a condition called 'seborrhea,' which is similar to dandruff. It usually goes away on its own by the time baby is six months old. Initial treatment includes gentle shampooing every day with a soft washcloth and baby shampoo or dandruff shampoo. Applying mineral oil to the scalp can soften the crusty stuff and help you remove it. If the area is large or doesn't respond to treatment, see your doctor about it."
--Dr. Rachel Franklin, Mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

Momlogic Moms say:
"My daughter had this forever," says Julie, Mom of two. "It's a gross scaly substance all over the child's head--a really hard crust. I was told that the only thing that removes it is baby oil."

Other Moms say:

  • It's really yucky.
  • Use cradle cap oil and comb the heck out of the baby's hair.
  • Babies even get it in their eyebrows!

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Q: Can I give my child medicine to help him sleep on a plane?

A: Is there anything worse than being seated next to a screaming kid on a six-hour flight? Yes: Being that kid's mom--and enduring the stink-eye glares of other passengers. Where's that drink cart when you need it?

The doctor says:
"For the longest time, we docs made off-the-cuff suggestions for tricks to try--including giving children diphenhydramine (sold as Benadryl) and other medicines (and even herbs) known to cause drowsiness. Can't do it anymore: The FDA has made strong recommendations that we try to avoid using medicines for any child under 6 months old, and to use these medicines with extreme caution for children under 2 years old. They were never tested in babies, and there have been some reports of serious harm done to little ones by these drugs."
--Dr. Rachel Franklin, Mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

What do to instead:
Dr. Franklin recommends feeding the baby on the plane just before and during take-off and landing (even you breast-feeding moms!). "It helps keep their ears from clogging up (which is what usually causes the screaming), and prepares them for an in-flight nap," she says.

Momlogic Moms say:
Go ahead and try Benadryl--but do a test run before you travel.
"My friend once gave her daughter Benadryl before a flight," says Julie, Mom of two. "Instead of making the little girl sleepy, it had the opposite effect: At 2 a.m., she was standing in her plane seat on a redeye screaming, 'Wake up, everybody!' Total nightmare!"

Other Moms say:

  • Try a half-dose first--your child may not require the full amount.
  • Whether or not you choose to medicate your child, bring lots of toys and snacks (a.k.a. "distractions") for the flight.

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Eating & Sleeping

Q: How long can I refrigerate and/or freeze breast milk?

A: If your child is old enough to drive, you've kept it too long.

The dietician says:
"Within four hours of pumping breast milk, refrigerate or freeze it ASAP. It's fine for up to eight days when kept between 32 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen breast milk can last between three and six months, depending on freezer temperature."
--Debi Silber, RD, Whole Health Coach and the author of "The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six Part Plan So EVERY Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best"

Momlogic Moms say:
"Once the baby touches the nipple, he or she has got to finish the milk in the bottle within two hours," says Rachel, Mom of three. "So don't ever pour in too much. Breast milk is golden!"

Other Moms say:

  • Don't overfill the bottle.
  • If there's any doubt as to whether or not the milk is still good, taste it yourself before giving it to your baby.
  • Get a big freezer. "Right before I went back to work with my second child, my freezer was overflowing with breast milk," says Kim, mom of 2. "I was very tempted to get a backup generator for that freezer, because if the power would have gone out, I think I would have absolutely died!"

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Q: How much sleep does my child need?

A: Quick answer: Not as much as you wish she needed (especially between midnight and 6 a.m.)!

The sleep expert says:
"Children's sleep needs vary considerably between birth and age 4 months--it just depends on the baby. For children between 4 and 8 months of age, the average nighttime need is 11 to 12 hours; they also need three to four hours of sleep in the daytime, made up in three naps per day. Children between 8 and 12 months of age still need 11 to 12 hours at night, but they don't require quite as much sleep in the daytime--just two to three hours, typically made up in two naps."
--Jill Spivack, MSW, is a psychotherapist and co-founder of Sleepy Planet, where she provides pediatric sleep consultations, leads general parenting groups for first and second time mothers.

Momlogic Moms say:
"Every baby is different, but they all need a lot of sleep," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "If your baby shows signs that she's tired--if she's cranky or keeps rubbing her face--put her down. There's no such thing as a baby who 'just doesn't need a lot of sleep.' But in the beginning there will be no set pattern, so just let your baby be your guide."

Other Moms say:

  • Follow your baby's cues.
  • Start "sleep training" when your baby is 4 months old. "It changed our lives," says Julie, mom of two. "Our son went from going to bed at 10 or 11 to going to bed at 7 sharp! My husband and I had our lives back, and our son was so much happier because he was getting enough rest."
  • Never wake a sleeping baby if you can possibly help it.
  • Remember: Sleep whenever your baby sleeps.

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Q: Are plastic bottles safe for my baby?

A: Clear plastic bottles contain a chemical compound called bisphenol-A, otherwise known as BPA. Rumor has it that BPA could cause health problems ranging from brain and behavioral disorders to cancer--but the FDA says it's safe. What to do?

The doctor says:
"There's currently little scientific data and lots of consumer concern regarding BPA in baby bottles. BPA is found in many plastic products, including the water bottles from which many of us drink. The FDA has said they believe the compound as it appears in bottles is safe, but they are looking into it further. Meanwhile, the risk of infection from poor sterilization, broken glass bottles and/or of choking on brittle, broken nipples is much greater than the risk of BPAs as we currently understand them."
-- Dr. Rachel Franklin, mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

To lower your child's exposure to BPA's:
Dr. Franklin recommends the following tactics:

  • Breastfeed if you can. "It's the safest and best method for feeding a baby," she says.
  • If it's not possible to breastfeed, use whatever bottles you can afford and wash them by hand in warm, soapy water. (Dishwashers use high heat, which can cause plastic to break down, releasing BPAs.)
  • Choose opaque plastic bottles, which don't contain BPAs--they're the safest option.

Momlogic Moms say
"I am panicked about the BPAs in plastic," says Claudia, Mom of two. "I have heard so many conflicting reports, I don't know who to believe! For now, I am sticking with BPA-free bottles. If it turns out that BPAs are indeed bad for babies, I would feel horrible knowing that I didn't take every precaution I could."

Other Moms say:

  • Formula cans contain BPAs too; if BPAs are a concern (and you're not breastfeeding), choose a brand that's packaged in glass or cardboard.
  • Plastic breaks down over time, so the older the bottle--i.e., the more it's been washed, microwaved and/or sterilized--the more likely it is that BPAs could leach into the liquid.
  • Don't sweat it. "I used Dr. Brown bottles, which do contain BPAs," says one Mom.

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