How do I tell if a toy is safe?
In Australia all toys should be safe as there are regulations governing toy safety. There are strict requirements for size, shape and strength of toys for children under three years of age. We do however give children things to play with that are not “toys” and what is safe changes with age.
Ensure you have removed plastic wrapping completely before you give a child a toy to play with, check it has no removable parts such as eyes, buttons and ribbons. Check there are no button batteries or small magnets - these can be swallowed or inhaled and can be deadly. They are never safe.
Keep older sibling’s toys away from younger children. All children will be curious and you need to assume they will eat or swallow anything. A good toy is light, colourful with multiple textures and not too small, remember anything will be put in the mouth.
Play is very important, it allows a child to experiment with the environment, achieve boundaries, encourage problem solving and positive social interactions when done with others. Ensure they are supervised and check toys regularly. It is also useful to teach children early how to put them away!
My baby was premature - what do I need to look out for?
Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are premature. This means that they are doing some of their development and growth outside the womb. This period of development needs to occur in a steps and clinicians will “correct“ your babies age to account for this prematurity. We don’t expect them to have caught up on this period of development and growth until they are at least 18 months old. They should however have their immunisations from their birth age. The corrected age is their birth age minus the weeks or months they were born prematurely.
Your baby will sleep more when you are discharged and then have a period of wakefulness around their term corrected age. It will take them a longer time to sleep for longer periods at night. It is important they sleep on their backs to reduce their risk of SIDS, this is even if they had long periods of time in the special care or intensive care unit sleeping on their stomachs. Some babies will require iron supplementation as they will have missed supplementing their iron stores in the last part of the pregnancy. Your baby may be enrolled in a follow up clinic to monitor their development, particularly if they are born very prematurely.
What is a picky eater?
Twenty percent of parents state their child is a picky eater. It is a normal part of development which peaks at two to four years of age. Most children are growing well during this stage and will stop this behaviour by themselves. This is a time when children are becoming more independent and are more mobile so don’t like sitting still to eat. Toddlers will graze over the day, taking regular small amounts of food, they will eat at family meals but also need frequent nutritious snacks throughout the day. They also want to feed themselves, so expect a mess.
It is important to understand that your food preferences will also affect children’s food likes. Most children need to be exposed to foods up to 10 times before they enjoy them. It is important you continue to have a wide range of healthy foods you are exposing them to and even if they do not initially like them, continue to offer them. It is also important to look at your own body language and ensure you are having positive responses to foods if you want your children to enjoy them.
Don't force your child to eat and don’t bribe or bargain with food, as this will just reinforce a power struggle which is normal behaviour in toddlers and will improve with time. You need to remember to promote healthy eating for the longer lifetime, not just today’s battle.
My baby has a crooked head - what do I do?
Babies have a number of soft plates of bone in their skull to enable growth of their head as the brain gets larger. If they have repeated pressures applied to one side of the head these skull plates can become misshapen or flattened and this is called positional plagiocephaly. It is common, it is not painful and has no long term consequences. It is usually due to babies sleeping on one side more than the other and is more common in firstborns and premature babies. Occasionally it can be due to torticollis or a tightening of the neck muscles limiting head positioning.
It is important to put your baby on his back to sleep as it has been proven to prevent SIDS, but alternate which end of the cot he sleeps to encourage sleeping on both sides of his head. Ensure your baby has tummy time and alternate which side you carry your baby and make sure she is not spending large amounts of time in car seats, carriers or on her back when awake.
It is rare that other more invasive treatments will be required as this flattening will resolve in 1-2 years. Prevention of further flattening is the most important treatment. Helmet therapy is controversial and is expensive, inconvenient and the evidence of its effectiveness is limited.
What is a normal poo?
Babies poo or stools changes dramatically as they age. At birth babies have a dark green liquorice stool called meconium. The stools then change according to the type of feeds they are receiving. Breast fed babies have a wide variation in frequency and consistency of stools as the frequency and look will vary with the mother’s diet. They can have a stool every nappy change or every three weeks (it will be a big one) and as long as it is soft this is not constipation. If they are frothy it may be the baby is getting too much fore milk, ensure you alternate breasts for feeding.
Formula fed babies have less variable changes to their stools (as the diet is less variable). They have firmer less frequent stools and are more likely to become constipated.
Once solids have commenced, the stools again can vary in consistency and colour. Sometimes formed foods may pass down the intestinal tract. This is normal.
Diarrhoea is when the stools are large in volume, loose and watery. It is usually associated with viral infections and is self limiting, but babies may become dehydrated if it persists for more than two days or is of high volume.
Constipation is when the stools are hard, pebble like and difficult to pass. They may be due to reduced fluid intake, if it persists you should see your GP.