Currently browsing infant growth and development posts

How to Plan Activities That Keep Babies & Toddlers On The Move

Ways to get your baby moving

  • Lay your baby down on their back so they can kick their legs.
  • Pulling, pushing, grasping and playing with other people are great ways to practise different kinds of movements.
  • Once your baby has started crawling, let them crawl around the floor, but make sure it’s safe first – see our crawling safety checklist.
  • Playing outdoors helps your baby learn about their surroundings.
  • You can take your baby swimming from a very young age – there’s no need to wait until they’ve been vaccinated.

See Start4Life for more activity tips for babies.

Why tummy time is important

Tummy time helps to build the muscles your baby needs for sitting and crawling. You can start doing tummy time from birth by lying your baby on your chest – but only do this when you’re wide awake and unlikely to fall asleep.

Little and often is best to begin with. Gradually increase the amount of time you do this day by day. Then, when your baby is ready, try doing tummy time on the floor. If your baby has difficulty lifting their head, you can roll up a towel and put it under their armpits. Put some toys nearby for them to reach out to.

Only do tummy time when your baby is awake and alert, and you’re there to keep an eye on them.

Baby bouncers, walkers and seats

It’s important that your baby doesn’t spend too much time in:

  • baby walkers or bouncers – these encourage babies to stand on their tiptoes and can delay walking if your baby uses them a lot
  • baby carriers and seats – long periods in reclining carriers or seats, or seats that prop your baby in a sitting position, can delay your baby’s ability to sit up on their own

If you do use a baby walker, bouncer or seat, it’s best to use them for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

Physical activity for toddlers

Once your child is walking, they should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (three hours) a day, spread throughout the day.

  • Let your toddler walk with you rather than always using the buggy.
  • Toddlers and young children love going to the park, where they can climb and swing or just run around.
  • Toys your child can pick up and move around will help improve their co-ordination and develop the muscles in their arms and hands.
  • Involve your toddler in household tasks like unpacking shopping, tidying or sorting washing.
  • Teach your child songs with actions and encourage them to dance to music.

Watching TV or using a tablet for long periods – or being strapped into a buggy, car seat or highchair – isn’t good for young children.

If you need to make a long car journey, consider taking a break and getting your child out of their seat for a bit.

See physical activity guidelines for children under five.

Enjoy being active together

It’s good to join in with your child’s active play when you can. Have fun showing them how to do new things like running and hopping. Being active together shows your child that activity is enjoyable.

You’re a role model for your child so stay active yourself and try to meet the physical activity guidelines for adults.

There may be activities for parents and children at your local leisure centre or Sure Start Children’s Centre.

Activity for young children with a disability

All babies and young children need to be active, including children with a long-term condition or disability, unless their health professionals give you different advice.

Just like other children, they will enjoy being active and it will help their development. You may need to adapt some activities to suit your child.

Scope has ideas for games all children can play, and the Contact a Family advice service** offers information on caring for a disabled child (in the UK).

Coping with a very active toddler

It can be exhausting keeping up with a toddler who is always on the go. It may help if you:

  • keep to a daily routine – routine can help if your child is restless or difficult; it can also help you stay calm and cope with the strain
  • dedicate time to your child – make sure there are times each day when you give them your full attention
  • avoid difficult situations – for example, keep shopping trips short
  • try to go out every day – go to a park, playground or other safe, open space where your child can run around and use up energy
  • set small goals – help your child to sit still and concentrate for a very short time, perhaps on a book or new toy, then gradually build it up

Does my child have attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

At times you may wonder if your non-stop toddler has ADHD. But only about 2% of children in the UK have ADHD**. It’s more likely that your child is just a healthy, energetic toddler.

If you’re worried about how active your child is, talk to your health visitor (*nurse specialist/midwife) or GP (*physician).

Learn more about ADHD or visit ADDISS: National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service.

Editor’s Note:

* Clarification Provided for our U.S. Readers

** US Reference Information:

  • The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that 5 percent of American children have ADHD. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the number at more than double that. The CDC says that 11 percent of American children, ages 4 to 17, had the attention disorder as of 2011.
  • UNICEF-USA is a charity that helps to protect US children and support children with disabilities

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk

>



My Twins are Behind in Talking…How Can I Help?

On average, twins are about six months behind single babies in their language development.

Twins may be slower to pick up speech and language skills because:

  • twins tend to receive less attention in shorter bursts than single babies
  • parents often speak to one twin while looking at the other, but children need eye contact to help their language development
  • twins tend to spend more time with each other, so they pick up each other’s speech rather than that of adults and older children around them
  • twins have less time to practise speech as they compete to get themselves heard
  • sometimes one twin may answer for the other

Don’t worry if your twins seem to be slow to speak. Just try to make sure they have plenty of time to talk and express themselves.

Talking to twin babies

Nappy changes can be a good opportunity to give twins one-on-one attention. You could bathe each baby separately to give you time to chat with them individually.

You can also:

  • turn off the TV and radio for at least 30 minutes each day, so your babies can listen to the noises around them with no distractions
  • listen to your babies and respond to them as they experiment with different sounds
  • try to play and read books with your babies individually; make time to talk to your babies individually each day, using their name and making eye contact
  • encourage older siblings, friends and family to talk to your babies one to one

Read more about how to encourage language skills in children.

Twins & Multiple Births Association (Tamba) has information about twins and language. Tamba also has a free (in the UK) telephone helpline. Twinline** is open every day from 10am to 1pm and 7pm to 10pm on 0800 138 0509.

Talk to your GP (*doctor) or health visitor if you’re concerned about your children’s language skills.

Editor’s Note:

* Clarification Provided for our U.S. Readers

** Resources Outside the UK:

  • Multiples of America: US non-profit providing information, research studies and clubs throughout the U.S. for multiple birth families (and families-to-be)

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk

>


What Are The Benefits Of A Well Child Exam?

When you child is acting sick or unusual you are right on top of that and many times that ends in a visit to his/her Pediatrician. Your mind is put at ease (usually), your child may or may not be given medication for the problem, you go home feeling much better about your responsibilities as a parent, and within a short period of time your child is feeling better. But what about all the well child/baby exams that are scheduled for regular intervals: are they really that important? After all they are inconvenient, cost you money and often times you leave your Pediatricians office with information that you knew all the time; your child is healthy.

But what if you were not capable of determining the status of your child’s health; not out of lack of trying or intelligence, but a lack of familiarity with the normal course of things that should take place in your child’s development and growth. In other words, how do you know what you don’t know? Always a difficult question to answer about any issue. In this case there is someone readily available who has had many years of training in order to identify the abnormal among the myriad of normal processes going on at the same time in your child. Not only that but he/she has had the opportunity through many years of practice and observation as a Pediatrician to help identify the subtle factors that many might miss leading one to feel there is a problem there. He/she can then explain in everyday language what the issue is and what can be done about it.

Your Pediatrician is the best source of information about your child and how he/she fits into or out of “normal”. Let’s take, for instance, a major reason for well- baby/child exams, growth and development. You can immediately notice symptoms of a cold with runny nose, cough sneezing and possible some fever, but what do you look for to tell you there is slow down in development or growth? By the time you (as a parent) will notice such subtle issues, these might have been going on for some time, and the first reaction in parents to seeing these is to deny their existence- “not in my child”. This can result in weeks or months of delay in recognition and treatment. Sure you can read everything you come across about childhood growth and development and sure you will begin to pick up the most obvious factors but nothing substitutes for the knowledge your Doctor already has. Not only able to pick up these issues early but to possibly set your mind at ease about things you have noticed and worried about that are really insignificant. He will also keep an exact record of growth in your child to include height, weight, and head circumference (in babies) in order to spot early issues.

There are psychological and behavioral abnormalities that can be seen early in life that can begin to formulate a plan of action as your child grows older and bigger. An observation of family/, and child/physician interaction, can become very important to the trained eye as to “normal” vs out of the range of normal of a child.

Then there is the entire issue of protecting your child from injury and disease through the one on one counseling taking place in the office and the very important use of vaccines as directed by knowledgeable organizations such as American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC in Atlanta. All the vaccines recommended have been tested and retested over a matter of many years before being released for use in children.

As you can seed there are a huge variety of reasons why your child should not miss his/her regular well-child/baby exams, so try to stick with the schedule that is advised by your Pediatrician

Why Your Newborn Should Have a Blood Screening Test

Every baby is offered newborn blood spot screening, also known as the heel prick test, ideally when they’re 5 days old.

Newborn blood spot screening involves taking a blood sample to find out if your baby has one of 9 rare but serious health conditions.

Most babies won’t have any of these conditions but, for the few who do, the benefits of screening are enormous.

Early treatment can improve their health, and prevent severe disability or even death.

What does the blood spot test involve?

When your baby is 5 days old, a health professional will prick their heel and collect 4 drops of blood on a special card.

You can ease any distress for your baby by cuddling and feeding them, and making sure they’re warm and comfortable.

Occasionally, the sample may need to be taken when your baby is 6, 7 or 8 days old.

Sometimes a second blood spot sample is needed. The reason for this will be explained to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your baby.

The test doesn’t carry any known risks for your baby.

Which conditions is the blood spot test for?

The blood spot test screens for the following 9 rare but serious conditions.

If you, your partner or a family member already has one of these conditions (or a family history of it), tell your health professional straight away.

Sickle cell disease

About 1 in 2,000 babies born in the UK** has sickle cell disease. This is a serious inherited blood disease.

Sickle cell disease affects haemoglobin, the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

Babies who have this condition will need specialist care throughout their lives.

People with sickle cell disease can have attacks of severe pain and get serious, life-threatening infections. They’re usually anaemic because their blood cells have difficulty carrying oxygen.

The blood spot screening test means that babies with sickle cell disease can receive early treatment to help them live healthier lives. This may include vaccinations and antibiotics to prevent serious illnesses.

Pregnant women are also routinely tested for sickle cell disease early in pregnancy.

Read more about sickle cell disease, or download leaflets for parents whose child has sickle cell disease.

Cystic fibrosis

About 1 in 2,500 babies born in the UK** has cystic fibrosis. This inherited condition affects the digestion and lungs.

Babies with cystic fibrosis may not gain weight well and are prone to chest infections.

Babies with the condition can be treated early with a high-energy diet, medicines and physiotherapy.

Although children with cystic fibrosis may still become very ill, early treatment can help them live longer, healthier lives.

Read more about cystic fibrosis, or download a leaflet for parents whose baby has suspected cystic fibrosis.

Congenital hypothyroidism

About 1 in 3,000 babies born in the UK** has congenital hypothyroidism. Babies with congenital hypothyroidism don’t have enough of the hormone thyroxine.

Without thyroxine, babies don’t grow properly and can develop learning disabilities.

Babies who have the condition can be treated early with thyroxine tablets, and this allows them to develop normally.

See more information about congenital hypothyroidism (CHT).

Inherited metabolic diseases

It’s important to let your health professional know if you have a family history of a metabolic disease (a disease that affects your metabolism).

Babies are screened for 6 inherited metabolic diseases. These are:

About 1 in 10,000 babies born in the UK** has PKU or MCADD. The other conditions are rarer, occurring in 1 in 100,000 to 150,000 babies.

Without treatment, babies with inherited metabolic diseases can become suddenly and seriously ill. The diseases all have different symptoms.

Depending on which one affects your baby, the condition may be life threatening or cause severe developmental problems.

They can all be treated with a carefully managed diet and, in some cases, medicines as well.

Does my baby have to have the blood spot test?

It’s not compulsory, but it’s recommended because it could save your baby’s life.

You can choose to have screening for sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis or congenital hypothyroidism individually, but you can only choose to have screening for all 6 inherited metabolic diseases or none at all.

If you don’t want your baby to be screened for any of these conditions, discuss it with your midwife.

You should be given information about the blood spot test and the diseases it screens for in advance so you can make an informed decision for your baby.

If you change your mind, babies can be screened up to the age of 12 months for all the conditions except cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis can only be screened for up to 8 weeks of age.

If you have any concerns about the tests, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP.

When will we get the results?

You should receive the results either by letter or from a health professional by the time your baby is 6 to 8 weeks old.

The results should be recorded in your baby’s personal child health record (red book)(*health records). It’s important to keep this safe and take it with you to all your baby’s appointments.

If you haven’t received your baby’s results, speak to your health visitor or GP(*physician).

You’ll be contacted sooner if your baby screens positive. This means they’re more likely to have one of the conditions tested for.

You’ll be contacted:

  • the day the result is available, or the next working day, if your baby is thought to have congenital hypothyroidism (CHT) – you’ll be given an appointment to see a specialist
  • before your baby’s 4 weeks old if they’re thought to have cystic fibrosis
  • before your baby’s 6 weeks old if they’re thought to have sickle cell disease

Screening for cystic fibrosis finds some babies who may be genetic carriers of the condition. These babies may need further testing.

Screening for sickle cell disease also finds babies who are carriers of this or other red blood cell diseases.

Carriers are healthy, although they can experience problems in situations where their bodies aren’t getting much oxygen – for example, if they’re having an anaesthetic.

Parents of babies who are found to be carriers should be told by the time they’re 6 to 8 weeks old.

Read more about what being a carrier means.

What do the results mean?

Most babies will have a normal result, which means it’s unlikely that they have any of the conditions.

A small number of babies will screen positive for one of the conditions. This doesn’t mean they have the condition, but they’re more likely to have it. They’ll be referred to a specialist for more tests.

It’s important to know that screening isn’t 100% certain. A baby with a negative screening result may later turn out to have the disease screened for. This is known as a false negative.

Babies with a positive result sometimes turn out not to have the disease – what’s known as a false positive.

Occasionally, other medical conditions are picked up by blood spot test screening. For example, babies with beta thalassaemia major, a serious blood disease, will usually be detected. These babies also need to be referred for early treatment.

More information

Editor’s Notes:

*Clarification provided for our US readers

** Resources outside the U.K.

  • For the individual state test conditions and screening programs in the US visit here.
  • For more information on newborn blood screening visit the CDC bulletin here.

 

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





Video: Should I Worry About my Child’s Walking Issues?

Ruth, a health visitor (*specialized nurse) discusses parental concerns about childhood walking issues, when you should contact your GP (*physician) and the normal stages of learning to walk.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

What is the normal way children start to walk?

  • Children begin to walk with their feet turned out.
  • Children begin by waddling.
  • It is also common for children to have bow legs, knocked knees, and to sometimes walk with their feet turned in.

What are the main issues that concern parents?

  • Bowed legs ‘
  • Tiptoe walking
  • Flat feet
  • Knocked Knees

How worried should parents be if their children exhibit any of the above issues?

  • Most walking issues resolve themselves simply.
  • If there is concern, contact the child’s GP (*physician).
  • Two years of age is a good time to ask about potential walking issues.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

 

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





How to Provide Care for Ill or Premature Babies

Neonatal care in hospital

Special care is sometimes provided on the ordinary postnatal ward and sometimes in a specialist newborn (neonatal) area. Having a baby in neonatal care is naturally worrying for parents and every effort should be made to ensure that you receive the information, communication and support that you need. Not all hospitals provide specialist neonatal services, so it may be necessary to transfer your baby to another hospital.

Why babies need special care

Babies can be admitted to neonatal services for a number of reasons:

  • they are born early – one baby in 13 (8 out of 100) is born early, and babies born before 34 weeks may need extra help with breathing, feeding and keeping warm
  • they are very small and have a low birthweight
  • they have an infection
  • their mother has diabetes
  • the delivery was very difficult or they have jaundice
  • they are waiting for, or recovering from, complex surgery

Contact with your baby

The environment of the unit may seem strange and confusing, especially if your baby is in an incubator or on a breathing machine. There may also be tubes and wires attached to their face and body. Ask the nurse to explain what everything is for and to show you how you can be involved in your baby’s care. Once your baby is stable, you will be able to hold him or her. The nurses will show you how to do this and your baby will benefit greatly from physical contact with you.

Feeding

To begin with, your baby may be too small or too sick to feed themselves. You may be asked to express some of your breast milk, which can be given to your baby through a tube. A fine tube is passed through his or her nose or mouth into the stomach. This won’t hurt them.

Breast milk has particular benefits, especially for sick or premature babies, as it is enriched with proteins (notably antibodies), fats and minerals. If your baby is unable to have your breast milk to begin with, it can be frozen and given to them when they are ready.

When you go home, you can express milk for the nurses to give while you are away. There is no need to worry about the quantity or quality of your milk. Some mothers find that providing breast milk makes them feel that they are doing something positive for their baby.

Find out about expressing your breast milk.

Incubators

Babies who are very small are nursed in incubators rather than cots, to keep them warm. You can still have a lot of contact with your baby. Some incubators have open tops, but if your baby’s incubator doesn’t you can put your hands through the holes in the side of the incubator to stroke and touch your baby.

When your baby is stable, the nurses will be able to help you take your baby out of the incubator and show you how to have skin-to-skin contact. You should carefully wash and thoroughly dry your hands before touching your baby. You can talk to your baby as well – this can help both of you.

The charity Bliss has information explaining the equipment on a neonatal unit.

Newborn babies with jaundice

Jaundice in newborn babies is common because their livers are immature. Severely jaundiced babies may be treated with phototherapy (light therapy). The baby is undressed and put under a very bright light, usually with a soft mask over their eyes. The special light helps to break down the chemical that causes jaundice. It may be possible for your baby to have phototherapy by your bed so that you don’t have to be separated.

This treatment may continue for several days, with breaks for feeds, before the jaundice clears up. In some cases, if the jaundice gets worse, an exchange transfusion of blood may be needed (some of your baby’s blood will be removed and replaced with blood from a donor). This is not common. Some babies have jaundice because of liver disease and need different treatment. A blood test that checks for liver disease is done before phototherapy is started.

Find out more about treatment for newborn jaundice.

Babies with jaundice after two weeks

Many babies are jaundiced for up to two weeks following birth. Jaundice can last up to three weeks in premature babies. It is more common in breastfed babies and does no harm. It is not a reason to stop breastfeeding.

It is important to see your doctor if your baby is still jaundiced after two weeks. You should see the doctor within a day or two. This is particularly important if your baby’s poo is chalky white. A blood test will distinguish between “breast milk jaundice”, which will go away by itself, or jaundice that may need urgent treatment.

Babies with disabilities

If your baby is disabled in some way, you will be coping with a lot of different feelings. You will also need to cope with the feelings of others, such as the baby’s father, your relations and friends as they come to terms with the fact that your baby has a disability.

More than anything else at this time, you will need to talk to people about how you feel, as well as about your baby’s health and future.

Your GP* (doctor), a neonatologist (doctor for newborn babies), paediatrician (children’s doctor) or your health visitor can all help you. You can also contact the hospital Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)** or your social services department for information about local organisations that may be able to help. You can contact your social services department in the UK through your local authority (in the UK)**.

The organisations listed here can offer help and advice – many are self-help groups run by parents**:

Talking to other parents with similar experiences can often be the most effective help.

Worries and explanations

Hospital staff should explain what kind of treatment your baby is being given and why. If they don’t, ask them. It’s important that you understand what is happening so that you can work together to make sure that your baby gets the best possible care. Some treatments require your consent to go ahead and the doctors will discuss this with you.

It is natural to feel anxious if your baby needs special care. Talk over any fears or worries with the hospital staff. Hospitals often have their own counselling or support services, and a number of charities run support and advice services.

The consultant neonatologist or paediatrician should arrange to see you, but you can also ask for an appointment at any time if you wish. The hospital social worker may be able to help with practical issues such as travel costs or help with looking after children.

Read more information on serious conditions and special needs in children.

The charity Bliss has information and support for parents of babies being cared for in a neonatal unit. You can find out more at:

healthtalk.org has video interviews and articles on women talking about their experiences of having a baby in special care.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States

  • US Hospitals typically offer similar Patient Liaison services – ask for Patient Relations or Patient Representatives
  • Social Services in the United States can provide information to help with costs and treatments
  • Children with Disabilities: UNICEF
  • Genetic Alliance is the US affiliate of Genetic Alliance UK
  • Note: several of the UK based organizations listed above like Bliss, Group B Strep Support, etc. have extensive websites offering detailed information that will be of assistance to parents worldwide.





Next Page »