November 29, 2016


The Basics


Stool is made up of broken-down food, bacteria, cells that shed from the intestines, and bile. Bile is a waste product that is excreted from your liver; it dumps into your intestines and accounts for the majority of poop's color. At birth, babies' intestines are sterile, but in a matter of weeks their intestines (and poop) are full of a huge variety of healthy, diverse bacteria. Exclusively breastfed infants ingest different proteins every day, depending on what Mom eats, which causes color variations. And while formula-fed infants will get the same food daily, their variations in bacteria can also alter the color of BMs. So poop on Monday may look really different from poop on Tuesday.


Baby and toddler poop can be as thick as peanut butter or mushier, like cottage cheese or yogurt. Breast-milk poop usually looks like fancy mustard: yellow, seedy, or curdy. Formula poop tends to resemble beat-up flan or pudding. If your child, regardless of her age, passes anything that looks like cat poop (loglike) or rabbit poop (a pebble), she's probably constipated. Rule of, um, thumb: If the poop can roll, it's too hard.


How often your baby or toddler poops isn't all that important, but it seems to be a big deal to new parents. After about 6 months of age, more than four BMs a day are too many, and less than one a week for a breastfed infant or less than one a day for children over age 2 is too few. That's because we want poop to move through gradually and steadily. If it moves too quickly, the body absorbs less food and nutrition. If it moves too slowly, it can cause constipation. Yet what the poop looks like matters more than how often you see it.


The scent is most often a reflection of how long the poop was in the intestines -- the longer it sits in bacteria, the more it'll smell. However, some babies with very sour- or foul-smelling poop may have an intolerance or allergy. In general, breastfed baby poop doesn't stink at all, while that from formula-fed infants is just lightly odorous. Those early poopy diapers really shouldn't clear the room. However, once you add baby food, and then various protein sources, it's another story. If you think your baby's BMs are exceptionally smelly, talk with your pediatrician.

Poop Problems: When to Call the Doctor

    -If it's white (a sign your baby isn't producing enough bile), black (which signals blood digested from the stomach or small intestine), or contains streaks of red (it could mean blood from the colon or rectum)
    -If your child screams out in pain or bleeds while pooping
    -If you see mucus, which can be a sign of an infection or intolerance
    -If your child's stool changes dramatically after you introduce a new food; this may signal an allergy
    -If your child's poop is still a very runny consistency by age 1 (if your child has diarrhea -- watery stools more than five times a day -- mention this to your doc too)

3 Things That Can Alter Your Child's BMs


If your child takes them, he may experience diarrhea, gassiness, stomach upset, or more frequent poops. So use antibiotics for your child only when you have to. Have your child eat yogurt with active cultures every day while on an antibiotic (it'll have a seal that says "Live & Active Cultures"). Or ask your pediatrician about giving your child probiotics daily while taking an antibiotic. Research shows that probiotics can shorten bouts of diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics.


Children with a stomach virus often vomit for about 24 hours, but they may need up to two weeks for their stools to get back to normal. When a virus sets up camp in the intestines, it takes time for the good bacteria to re-populate and allow your child's stools to get back to the way they were.


Being on the road can make it tricky to stay hydrated, leading to harder BMs. When you're drinking water from new places, the normal bacteria living in the gut can change and may also lead to runnier stools. Try to eat culture-rich yogurt daily and use probiotics the week before you travel.

November 15, 2016


Heart disease is not a major cause of death among children and teenagers, but it is one of the largest causes of death among adults.

Certain factors play important roles in a person's chances of developing heart disease. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors can be changed, treated, or modified, and some cannot.

Many risk factors can be controlled early in life, lowering the risk of heart disease later in life. Other risk factors are passed down through family members (they are hereditary) or are the result of another illness or disease.

Prevention is the best way to avoid a heart problem later in life. Controlling as many of the following risk factors as possible, starting in childhood, will help reduce your child's risk of developing heart disease as an adult.

    -High blood pressure
    -High cholesterol
    -Physical inactivity

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a serious condition in childhood and often goes undetected because it causes no symptoms. Make sure that your child's blood pressure is checked at his or her yearly check-up.

What causes high blood pressure in children?

High blood pressure (hypertension) in children is not a congenital heart disease, but it can have a hereditary link. For that reason, children born into families with a history of high blood pressure need to have their blood pressure watched with special care.

Most cases of high blood pressure in children are the result of another disease, like heart or kidney disease. This is called secondary hypertension.

How is blood pressure measured?

The doctor will measure your child's blood pressure using a device called a sphygmomanometer.

Blood pressure readings measure the two parts of blood pressure: systolic and diastolic pressures.

-Systolic pressure is the force of blood flow through an artery when the heart beats.
-Diastolic pressure is the force of blood flow within blood vessels when the heart rests between beats.

The doctor will look at your child's age, sex, and height to determine the specific systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Doctors use this method because it lets them look at different levels of growth to determine blood pressure. It also lets them get the most accurate classification of blood pressure according to your child's body size.

How is high blood pressure in children treated?

In most cases, lifestyle changes will help children control their high blood pressure.

    Help your child maintain a healthy body weight. Children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure than those who are not.
    -Increase their physical activity.
    -Limit how much salt they eat.
    -Warn them about the dangers of cigarette smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the blood vessels to narrow, making it even harder for blood to flow through the vessels.

*If a program of diet and exercise does not lower your child's blood pressure, medicines may be prescribed.


Less than 15% of children have high cholesterol levels, but studies have shown that fatty plaque buildup begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. This disease process is called atherosclerosis. In time, atherosclerosis leads to heart disease, which causes death.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance called a lipid that is found in all body cells. The liver makes all of the cholesterol your body needs to form cell membranes and to make certain hormones. Extra cholesterol enters the body when you eat foods that come from animals, like meats, eggs, and dairy products and from foods high in saturated fats.

Cholesterol travels to cells through the bloodstream in special carriers called lipoproteins. Two of the most important lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Doctors look at how LDL, HDL, and fats called triglycerides relate to each other and to your total cholesterol level.

What causes high cholesterol in children and teenagers?

In some cases, high cholesterol runs in families. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia. About 1% to 2% of children have this condition, and they should have their cholesterol levels checked before they are 5 years old.

Other risk factors for high cholesterol include obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking.

How is high cholesterol prevented or treated?

To reduce the risk of fatty buildup in the arteries, your child should

    -Get plenty of exercise. Encourage them to exercise 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.
    -Eat foods low in cholesterol and fat. Have your child eat more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. (Note: You should not restrict how much fat children eat if they are younger than two years old. Infants need fat for growth and development. After the age of two, children should start to eat fewer calories from fat.)
    -Know the dangers of cigarette smoking.
    -Learn to control weight to avoid the risks associated with obesity.
    -Control their diabetes, high blood pressure, or other conditions that contribute to heart disease.

Children who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol will need to at least follow a special program of diet and exercise. If 1 year of diet and exercise therapy does not lower their cholesterol, statins or other cholesterol-lowering medicines may be prescribed.


More than 90,000 people die each year from heart diseases caused by smoking. Among young people who would otherwise have a very low risk of heart disease, cigarette smoking may cause as many as 75 percent of the cases of heart disease. And, the longer a person smokes, the higher the risk of heart disease.

How does smoking affect the heart?

Better known for increasing your risk of lung cancer, cigarette and tobacco smoking also increase the risk of heart disease and peripheral vascular disease (disease in the vessels that supply blood to the arms and legs).

According to a Surgeon, most teens who smoke are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels and puts an added strain on the heart. Even when teens want to quit smoking, the nicotine addiction makes it very hard, and they go through the same withdrawal symptoms that adults do.

Although nicotine is the main active agent in cigarette smoke, other chemicals and compounds like tar and carbon monoxide are also harmful to the heart. Research has shown that smoking increases heart rate, tightens major arteries, and can create irregularities in the timing of heartbeats, all of which make the heart work harder. Chemicals in cigarette and tobacco smoke lead to the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, possibly by injuring the vessel walls. These chemicals also affect cholesterol and levels of fibrinogen, which is a blood-clotting material. This increases the risk of a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack.

How can I discourage my child from smoking?

    -Talk to them about the bad effects of smoking, such as yellow teeth, bad breath, smelly clothes, and shortness of breath. If your child likes to play sports, tell him or her how smoking can damage the lungs and reduce the supply of oxygen that the muscles need to work properly.
    -Talk openly with your child about the dangers of smoking.
    -Compliment teens who do not smoke.
    -Be a role model for your child. If you smoke, quit. And do not allow others to smoke in your home.


Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Our bodies are made up of water, fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Obesity means that you have too much body fat.

For some people, the cause of obesity is quite simple: they are eating more calories than they are burning during exercise and daily life. Other causes of obesity may include genetics, aging, gender, lifestyle, and illness.

Obesity in children is dangerous because researchers believe that the fat cells we gain as children stay with us as adults. Obese children may have 5 times more fat cells than children of normal weight. Dieting in adulthood will decrease the fat-cell size but not the actual number of fat cells.

How can I manage or treat my child's obesity?

If you think your child is obese, take him or her to a doctor to make sure the obesity is not because of a medical problem. If there is no illness or condition causing the obesity, the doctor will probably suggest some lifestyle changes to help your child lose weight.

    -Control portions (the amount of food they eat) and have them eat fewer calories.
    -Do not use food as a reward for good behavior or good grades.
    -Limit their snacking and be aware of the snack foods they are eating.
    -Know what your child eats at school.
    -Eat meals as a family so it is easier to know what and how much your child is eating.
    -Increase their physical activity and find fun exercise activities you can do as a family.
    -Limit the amount of time your child spends watching TV and playing on the computer.

Childhood obesity is hard to manage because often, once a healthy body weight is achieved, the child will go back to their old habits. Your child's doctor can usually help you with a diet and exercise plan that includes reasonable weight loss goals, lifestyle changes, and family support and involvement.

Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. People who do not exercise have an increased risk of heart disease. Physical inactivity also increases the risk of developing other heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

Active children usually grow up to be active adults. Aside from preventing heart disease risk factors later in life, regular exercise will:

    -Help control weight. Because obese children are more likely to be obese adults, preventing or treating obesity in childhood may reduce the risk of adult obesity. In turn, this may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases.
    -Strengthen bones. Regular exercise leads to better bone development and will lower the risk of thin or brittle bones (osteoporosis) in adulthood.
    -Increase self-esteem and self-confidence. Exercise can make your child feel better physically and mentally.
    -Improve cardiovascular health. Exercise lowers blood pressure, increases the amount of HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood, and reduces stress levels.

How do I know if my child is getting enough exercise?

If you think that your child is not getting enough exercise, ask yourself these questions:

    -How much time per week does your child spend doing sedentary activities like watching TV or playing video games? These are called sedentary activities, because there is little or no physical activity involved.
    -How much time per week does your child spend doing recreational activities like bike riding, rollerblading, snowboarding, or water skiing? Does your child like to bike or walk to where they are going?
    -How much time per week does your child spend doing aerobic activities like running track, going to dance class, or playing soccer or basketball? Aerobic activity uses the body's large muscle groups and helps condition the heart and lungs.

Children who enjoy a mix of recreational and aerobic activities are probably getting enough exercise. If you are worried about physical inactivity, take an "activity inventory" to your child's doctor, and he or she can suggest activities to suit your child's age, size, and abilities. If your child has a medical condition that limits physical activity, be sure to talk to the doctor about safe activities for your child.

How can I help my child increase their activity level?

If your child is physically inactive, the first thing you can do is limit the amount of time spent watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the Internet. Look into organized sports, lessons, or clubs that suit your child's interests. Most importantly, spend time with your child, and create family outings that involve some type of physical activity (e.g., biking, walking, hiking).

Exercise is important for all children, even those who do not like sports, have little coordination, or have a disability. By focusing on active "play" instead of exercise, children will most likely change their exercise behaviors and increase their physical activity on their own.

November 3, 2016


What makes babies happy may surprise you. Happiness isn't something you give babies – it's something you teach them.

Over-indulged children — whether showered with toys or shielded from emotional discomfort — are more likely to grow into teenagers who are bored, cynical, and joyless.

The best predictors of happiness are internal, not external. It is important to help kids develop a set of inner tools they can rely on throughout life.

The good news is you don't have to be an expert in child psychology to impart the inner strength and wisdom it takes to weather life's ups and downs. With patience and flexibility, any parent can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of happiness.

As your child matures from a newborn to a more interactive baby by the age of 6 months, he'll become a master at showing you when something makes him content or upset. His face lights up in a heart-melting smile when you enter the room, or he wails when someone takes away his favorite toy. And you've probably noticed that he flips between smiling and crying faster than you can pop a pacifier in his mouth.

A baby is so mercurial in his emotions because his cerebral cortex, which controls automatic responses, is barely turned on yet. As the cerebral cortex develops over the coming years, your child will be able to better control his behavior and moods.

If it seems your baby spends more time wailing than giggling, that's because babies actually experience distress earlier than happiness. Crying and distressed facial expressions are there for a reason. They serve as an SOS to motivate the caregiver to fix whatever's wrong.

But if your baby is crying, how do you know if he's in pain, hungry, or just bored? "A sensitive mother can pick up on different kinds of cries and facial expressions" The eyebrows, the mouth, and vocalizations are all signaling systems for the baby."

For example, a baby in physical distress will cry with the corners of his mouth turned down and his eyebrows arched in the middle. With anger, your baby's face becomes flushed, his eyebrows turn down, his jaw clenches, and he lets out a roar.

Most parents recognize that a fearful, easily upset baby isn't a happy camper, but many parents don't recognize that anger is simply excessive distress. "If there's a loud noise or bright light, the child will show signs of distress. If that noise or light continues to increase, the feeling turns to anger."

Your baby probably has his own ways of showing you when he's not content. Some babies may cry, while others become clingy. As you get to know your own child's temperament, you'll become better at learning the signs that something's not right in his world.

Have fun with your baby

Although a colorful crib mobile and her first taste of applesauce may bring a smile to your baby's face, what makes your baby happiest is much simpler: you. And that's the first key to creating a happy child.

"Connect with your baby, play with her. If you're having fun with your baby, she's having fun. If you create what I call a 'connected childhood,' that is by far the best step to guarantee your child will be happy."

Play creates joy, but play is also how your child develops skills essential to future happiness. As she gets older, play allows her to discover what she loves to do — build villages with blocks, make "potions" out of kitchen ingredients, paint elaborate watercolors — all of which may point her toward interests she'll have for a lifetime.

Help your baby master new skills

Happy people are often those who have mastered a skill. For example, when your baby figures out how to get the spoon into his mouth or takes those first shaky steps by himself, he learns from his mistakes, he learns persistence and discipline, and then he experiences the joy of succeeding due to his own efforts.

He also reaps the reward of gaining recognition from others for his accomplishment. Most important, he discovers he has some control over his life: If he tries, he can do it. This feeling of control through mastery is an important factor in determining adult happiness.

Children, like adults, need to follow their own interests, or there'll be no joy in their successes.

Cultivate your baby's healthy habits

Lots of sleep, cleanliness, exercise, and a healthy diet are important to everyone's well-being, especially children's. Giving your baby plenty of space to release her energy, whether that means kicking her legs in the air, crawling toward a beloved ball, or going back and forth — over and over — in the infant swing at the park, will help put her in a good mood. And pay attention to your baby's need for structure: While some babies are very easygoing, most thrive and feel more settled with a set schedule.

You might also want to pay attention to any connection between your baby's mood and particular foods. Some parents find that while sugar can give their child an energy boost, it can also lead to fussiness.

Food allergies and sensitivities may also play a role in your child's behavior and mood. If you're nursing, you may find that your baby becomes fussy after you eat certain foods. Talk to your child's doctor if you suspect that your baby's formula or diet is linked to signs of distress.

Let your baby figure it out

In the first six months of a baby's life, it's important for parents to respond to their infant's needs. "You can't spoil a baby," But after about six months, if you run over at every little hiccup, you're taking away an important learning opportunity. it's good to let babies cry a little as long as you're giving them lots of positive affection and attention the rest of the time.

But, you say, I'm supposed to be creating a happy child! Shouldn't I swoop down and make everything better? A psychologist sees this as a big mistake many loving, well-meaning parents make.

"Parents try to make it better for their children all the time, to make them happy all the time. That's not realistic. Don't always jump in and try to fix it," "Children need to learn to tolerate some distress, some unhappiness. Let them struggle, figure out things on their own, because it allows them to learn how to cope."

In your baby's first year, he's learning so many things: to sit up, crawl, grasp objects, walk, and talk. Each accomplishment brings him confidence and satisfaction in his achievement. So don't hurry to pick up the rattle he just dropped or the teddy bear he's struggling to reach: Give him some time and encouragement to pick it up himself.

Allowing children a range of experiences, even the difficult or frustrating ones, helps build the reservoir of inner strength that leads to happiness. Whether a child's 7 months old and trying to crawl or 7 years old and struggling with subtraction, he'll get better at dealing with adversity simply by grappling with it successfully again and again.

Allow your baby to be sad or mad

When your baby gets older, you can encourage her to label her feelings and express them verbally. Even before she can talk, you can show her pictures of faces and ask her which one is feeling the same way she is.

Young children pick up very quickly on words such as "happy" or "angry." When they put words to their emotions, it's easier for them to recognize and regulate their feelings.

However, you shouldn't overreact to your child's negative feelings. "It's normal for kids to become oversensitive or clingy or nervous at times because of something in their environment, but it's not unhappiness."

You'll find this is especially important as your child grows. When your child pouts in a corner during a birthday party, your natural reaction may be to push her to join in the fun. But it's important to allow her to be unhappy.

Some parents worry any time their children suffer a little rejection, they don't get invited to the birthday party, or they cry because they didn't get what they wanted."

Children need to know that it's okay to be unhappy sometimes — it's simply part of life. And if you try to squelch any unhappiness, you may send the message that it's wrong to feel upset. Let your child experience her feelings, including sadness.

Teach your baby to share and care

Research shows that people who have meaning in their lives feel less depressed. As your baby matures, she can be taught — even in small ways — how satisfying it is to help others.

Even as early as 10 months, you can teach your child the satisfaction of give and take. If you give her a bite of banana, let her do the same by feeding you a piece. If you brush her hair, give her a chance to brush yours. Show her how happy her generosity made you feel.

These small moments can nourish a sensibility toward sharing and caring for others. As your baby grows into a toddler, simple household chores, such as putting her dirty clothes in the hamper or setting the table, can help a young child feel that she's making a contribution.

Be a role model to your baby

Research shows that you can pass on your temperament to your child — not necessarily through your genes — but through your own behavior and childrearing style.

For better or worse, children pick up on their parents' moods. Even young babies imitate their parents' emotional style, which activates specific neural pathways in the brain.

In other words, when you smile, your baby smiles and his brain becomes "wired" for smiling. Similarly, if you have a colicky baby who cries for hours, the best thing for you to do is to stay calm, because babies pick up on their caregivers' stress.