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Birth Defects Prevention Month

In 1998, the FDA started fortifying grain and cereal products with folic acid in order to reduce birth defects, more specifically, neural tube defects (NTDs). While this was an important step in fighting birth defects, it is not enough to protect all women and their potential children.

Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin. Everyone needs it to stay healthy, especially women hoping to become pregnant or currently pregnant. Consuming 400 mcg of folic acid daily has been shown to reduce the risk of NTDs in developing babies by up to 70%. And, because nearly 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, it’s important to take folic acid every day.

Folic acid helps build DNA. Our body uses it for cell growth and reproduction, fundamental building block processing and genetic material production. Folic acid is water soluble, so it passes through your body very quickly. Taking folic acid every day ensures that you always have it in your system when your body needs it.

Coats and Carseats

It’s getting colder, and naturally, we want to protect our children from the elements. But, when traveling by car, this may be more dangerous than we realize.

Putting your child in a bulky coat and then loading them into their car seat could lead to the harness being too loose in the case of a crash and render it ineffective.  Instead, strap them in and place the coat backwards with their arms going through the arm holes – having the coat act as a blanket. Or, keep a blanket in the car and place it over him or her for warmth.

Aspirin and Reye's Syndrome

Reye's syndrome is a disease seen primarily in children affecting the liver and brain. While its cause is not known, it has been associated with children taking aspirin containing medications during a viral illness, primarily influenza (flu) or varicella (chicken pox).

Typically the progression of illness begins with a child demonstrating symptoms of influenza or varicella such as fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, stomach pain, muscle aches and rash. The child will recover from this illness and usually within 1 week will develop a sudden onset of vomiting. Subsequently the child will demonstrate changes in mental status beginning with sleepiness, irritability, confusion and possibly progressing to loss of consciousness and convulsions.

Thirty percent of children who contract this disease will die, usually from the swelling of the brain; however, the survival rate improves the earlier treatment is started. Treatment is primarily supportive and usually occurs in an intensive care unit. Usually glucose is given through an IV to prevent low blood sugars, blood products are given to prevent problems with blood clotting and medications are given to prevent or reduce brain swelling.

Again, while the cause of Reye's Syndrome is not definitively known, in 1982 the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on the use of aspirin and Reye's Syndrome. Since that time, the use of aspirin has greatly decreased in children. Concurrently, the incidents of Reye's syndrome has decreased from 555 cases in 1980 to 2 or less cases per year in 1997. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using aspirin containing medications in children less than 19-years-old except in a few very specific medical conditions. As a result pediatricians recommend the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen rather than aspirin in the treatment of fever. If you would like more information the following websites may be helpful:

Starting Your Baby on Solid Foods

Most babies are ready to begin solid foods around 4-6 months of age. If you are breastfeeding the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends deferring the initiation of solid foods until 6 months of age. Signs that your baby is ready for solid foods include:

  • Your baby has good head control and can hold his head up
  • Your baby shows interest in what you are eating
  • Your baby has doubled her birth weight
  • Your baby is able to take food from a spoon without immediately pushing it out with his tongue. Babies are born with a tongue thrust reflex that is helpful for taking a bottle or breastfeeding but can interfere with taking solids foods. Somewhere between 4 and 6 months babies begin to lose this reflex.

For your baby’s first feeding pick a time of day when you have some time to work with the baby. I encourage my patients to offer solids before breast or bottle feeding so they are more hungry and interested. If the baby seems frustrated or turns his head away take a break and try offering solids again in a week. Try to incorporate their meal times into the family meal times.

The order in which you start foods doesn’t really matter. Initially the recommendation was to offer vegetables before fruit so that your infant develops a taste for vegetables before offering sweet foods; however, research hasn’t really supported this. If you are exclusively breastfeeding the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you offer food that contains meat in order to provide more iron and zinc. For the first few months foods should be pureed to decrease the risk of choking. If you decide to start with a baby cereal, mix it with breast milk or formula and make it more liquid. Gradually add less liquid as your baby gets used to taking food from a spoon. I would recommend a cereal that is both iron and zinc fortified. Wait a few days prior to starting each new food. If your baby develops a rash, vomiting, or diarrhea stop using that food until you can discuss with your baby’s doctor.

Starting solids foods should be a fun and exciting time for you and your baby so try to sit back, relax, and enjoy it.


Homemade vs. Jarred Baby Foods

Is it better for your baby to make your own baby food at home or buy the jarred baby food at the supermarket? This is a question that most parents wrestle with. As with most things, opinions vary and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Advantages of making your own baby foods include:

Is it better for your baby to make your own baby food at home or buy the jarred baby food at the supermarket? This is a question that most parents wrestle with. As with most things, opinions vary and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Advantages of making your own baby foods include:

  • You can provide more varieties of food for your baby. You do not have to rely on the grocery stores for the varieties and flavors they offer.
  • It may be less expensive because you can simply puree foods that you are already making. For example , if you are serving peas to your older children at dinner,  you can simply puree some of them to offer to your baby.
  • Some parents feel more confident that they know exactly what is going into their baby’s food.

Disadvantages of making your own food include:

  • It is more time consuming to prepare your baby’s food than to buy it from the store.
  • Most homemade foods require refrigeration or freezing and you may not have enough storage space.
  • It may be more convenient to have the prepackaged serving amounts versus having to estimate how much your baby will eat and thawing that amount ahead of time.
  • Some foods such as spinach, beets, green beans, squash, and carrots are high in nitrates which can cause an unusual but life threatening type of anemia in young infants. Prepackaged baby foods will not contain these nitrates.

Ultimately, neither decision is wrong or right. Each parent should consider the advantages and disadvantages and make the decision that is best for their family. When in doubt, parents should consult their child's pediatrician for guidance.

Resources for Parents
Healthy Children
Momtastic's Wholesome Baby Food

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