A Lullaby for Good Health

​​​Many times, we adults deprive ourselves of the one thing that can help refresh our bodies and minds overnight: sleep. And as adults, we sometimes make choices that cause our sleep patterns to get out of whack.

But do your children have a choice when it comes to the amount of sleep they get? It is our duty to help them adopt healthy sleep habits while they’re young so they can grow into happy, energetic, and healthy adults.

Healthy Sleep

Because their bodies are growing, children need more sleep than adults. An important part of a child’s healthy sleep is a steady bedtime routine. At the end of the day, both the body and mind need to wind down, relax, and prepare physically and mentally for sleep. A bedtime routine is the best way to make sure that there is enough time to make that transition.

The body’s natural cycles of sleeping and being awake are sometimes called circadian rhythms. These sleep patterns are regulated by light and dark. Children begin to develop a cycle around six weeks of age, and most have a regular pattern by three to six months.

Troubled Sleeping

What is keeping our children awake? Some of the most common include the following conditions and occurrences:

  • Insomnia occurs when a child complains of having trouble falling or staying asleep, or of waking up too early in the morning.
  • Nightmares occur late at night during REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep and awaken a child.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder that includes uncomfortable feelings in the legs, which cause an overwhelming urge to move.
  • Sleep terrors (also called night terrors) occur early in the night. A child may scream out and be distressed, although he is neither awake nor aware during a sleep terror. Sleep terrors may be caused by not getting enough sleep, an irregular sleep schedule, stress, or sleeping in a new environment.
  • Sleeptalking occurs when the child talks, laughs, or cries out in her sleep. As with sleep terrors, the child is unaware and has no memory of the incident the next day.
  • Sleepwalking is experienced by as many as 40 percent of children, usually between ages 3 and 7.
  • Snoring occurs when there is a partial blockage in the airway that causes the back of the throat to vibrate, creating the noise we all know. About 10 to 12 percent of normal children habitually snore.
  • Sleep apnea occurs when snoring is loud and the child is having trouble breathing. Symptoms include pauses in breathing during sleep caused by blocked airway passages, which can wake the child up repeatedly.

Lack of Sleep = Health Problems

Sleep deprivation in children has been linked with potentially serious health issues. These can include some of the most pressing illnesses facing American children today.

  • Anxiety and Depression: Insomnia can contribute to anxiety by raising levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Sleep problems can also make other symptoms of depression worse and are much more common than oversleeping in people with depression.
  • Obesity: About two-thirds of the children diagnosed with sleep apnea in our clinic are overweight or obese. Obese children tend to have more fat tissue around their neck, which puts more pressure on the airway and further block air from getting through to the lungs.
  • Diabetes: Research from the American Diabetes Association showed that inadequate sleep may prompt development of insulin resistance, a well-known risk factor for diabetes.
  • Immunity problems: Several nights of poor rest can hamper the production of interleukin-1, an important immune booster. A good night’s sleep helps your child’s body fight off illness and stay healthy.
  • ADHD: Children who often snore or have sleep problems are almost twice as likely to suffer from ADHD as those who sleep well. Other research has shown that children who don’t get enough sleep tend to have more problems concentrating during the day.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Talk to your pediatrician if you notice any of the following symptoms:
  • An infant who is extremely and consistently fussy
  • A child having problems breathing
  • A child who snores, especially if it’s loud
  • Unusual awakenings
  • Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, especially if you see daytime sleepiness or behavioral problems

Sleep Tips

Here are some important things you can do to help your child get enough sleep.

  • Set a regular bedtime for everyone each night and stick to it.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as giving your child a warm bath or reading her a story.
  • After one year of age, let your child pick a doll, blanket, stuffed animal, or other soft object as a bedtime companion.
  • Do not allow a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom.
  • Avoid giving children anything with caffeine within six hours of bedtime, and limit the amount of caffeine children consume.
  • Keep noise levels low, rooms dark, and indoor temperatures slightly cool.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if your child has symptoms of RLS. There are several options for treating this condition.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if your child is showing signs of sleep apnea. There are proven treatments for this condition, as well.

Source: Adapted from Healthy Children Magazine, Summer 2007. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatric

Managing School Holidays and Vacations

Not surprisingly, some single and working parents have grown to dread school vacations, legal holidays (like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Washington’s Birthday), and “teacher in-service days.” These are days when the child is out of school but parents usually have to be at work. To make matters worse, care givers whom you might rely on at other times of the year often ask for time off during holidays, and community activities like art classes and Scouting often are cancelled too.

The good side of these situations is that you know they are coming and can plan for them. To help in that process, get copies of your child’s school schedule as early as possible so you are aware of vacations several months in advance. Children’s vacation schedules often dictate family vacation plans. With sufficient advance notice, you may be able to block out your own vacation time to coincide with that of your youngster.

Few parents have as much vacation time available as do their children, so arrangements have to be made for child care and supervision within the frame work of the demands of the parents’ jobs. If your spouse has some flexibility in his or her work schedule, divide the home responsibilities so one of you takes time off during different parts of the children’s vacation. Some couples are able to work out a plan where Mom is home in the morning, and Dad replaces her in the afternoon; perhaps one or both can work flexible schedules (6 A.M. to 2 P.M.; 2:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M.) So that at least one parent is home at all times.

Fortunately, businesses are becoming more sensitive to the family needs of their employees. The federal Medical and Family Leave Act of 1993 is helpful to parents upon the birth or adoption of a child, or when a child is ill, but it does not have any provisions covering school holidays and vacations.

Sometimes neither you nor your spouse will be able to get off work. Or you will need a backup or alternative strategy for unexpected job demands or the sudden loss of a caretaker, both of which require some last-minute juggling of schedules. It is important that school-age children are always supervised, directly if possible and indirectly if not. Indirect supervision means providing a safe environment and a structured schedule of activities, including regular times to check in, even by phone, with a responsible adult. This latter option should be considered only for mature preteenagers and is never the preferred alternative.

When you can’t break away from the office, another option is to call upon extended family members to help. Some parents are able to work out a timetable with several families, where each assumes the caretaking responsibilities for all the children one day a week, or they trade hours of babysitting with each other. Some high school and college students, or after-school child care employees, are willing to work on holidays, perhaps coming to your home to assume the care of the children from several families. (Many high schools and colleges have job-placement offices to find employment for students on vacation; ask for and check references before hiring these young adults for child care.) You may also inquire about special holiday programs and camps that might be planned by local YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other com munity organizations. If none exist, gather some parents together and, as a group, urge local organizations or city leaders to provide holiday activities for children.

For some parents of school-age children, the best long-term solution is to work at home all the time, often in a small home-based business of their own. However, while this can be an ideal option, it is not available to everyone, and working at home poses problems of its own.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Sipping, Snacking and Tooth Decay


February is National Children’s Dental Health Month


Many parents across the country will issue a common refrain at dinnertime tonight: You’d better eat that, it’s good for you! There’s another old favorite in the parental arsenal of dietary admonitions: Don’t eat that, it’ll rot your teeth! Now more than ever, kids are faced with a bewildering array of food choices — from fresh produce to sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. What children eat and when they eat it may affect not only their general health but also their oral health.

Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. It’s clear that junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. For example, in the U.S., on average, individuals consume approximately 50 gallons of sugary beverages per year! Alarmingly, a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day. Common activities may contribute to the tendency toward tooth decay. These include grazing habitually on foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary drinks. Consuming too much sugar can also affect your overall health, such as becoming overweight/obese, or getting heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth.

Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids. Reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:

  • Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption. Children should make healthy beverage choices such water and low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits

Public Service Announcement, ©2020, American Dental Association

Finding Time to Be Active

See if this scenario sounds familiar — your child has come home from school with 2 hours of homework, including studying for a math test the following day. He also needs to start working on a science fair project. And don’t forget the clarinet lesson that’s on his calendar as well. There seems to be barely enough time to fit in dinner and a bath.

No wonder some kids feel that they just don’t have time for physical activity. Their schedules are filled to overflowing, and when they’re overbooked, it’s easy for physical activity to fall by the wayside.

As a parent, you need to intervene to make sure your child has time for all the things that are important. Whether he’s overweight, physical activity needs to be a priority.

Sit down with your child and structure his time after school so he can fit in everything that’s most essential. For example, in planning the following day, you might say something like, “You have a block of after-school time tomorrow. Maybe the time immediately after school isn’t the best time for homework, because it will take up the daylight hours you could be outside playing.Why don’t you think about choosing to play outdoors for 30 minutes or an hour after you get home? Then we’ll go to your clarinet lesson, and once you’ve eaten dinner and it’s dark outside, you can do your homework. The evening is the time when you used to watch TV anyway, so it’s a good time to get your homework done. And let’s think about rescheduling your clarinet lessons for the weekends.”

As a parent, you can help your child find the opportunities to be active. If you’re creative, the time will almost always be there.


Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Urgent Care: Is It Worth the No Wait?

​​​The best place for children to receive medical care is at a pediatrician’s office. But, sometimes kids don’t wait for office hours to get sick or injured.

So, what should you do for those times when your baby runs a high fever during the night or your young athlete hurts his wrist at a weekend practice? It happens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that in cases like these, you should never hesitate to call your pediatrician’s office first, even if you know the office is closed. Pediatricians are very accustomed to taking phone calls at all times—day and night—and can often deal with problems over the phone. You are not bothering your pediatrician by calling.

However, you may notice new facilities popping up in your neighborhood that advertise that they offer “urgent” care services often with no appointments necessary. Before going to one of these clinics, the AAP recommends that your first step be to call your pediatrician’s office—your child’s “medical home”—to discuss your child’s needs. If your pediatrician is unable to see you but believes your child should be examined, he or she will advise you on the most appropriate place for your child to receive care and how quickly your child should be seen.

TYPES OF URGENT CARE SERVICES:

  • Urgent care and nonemergency hospital-based acute care: These facilities handle medical issues that may not require a visit to the emergency room but still deserve attention. They are often open after-hours and on weekends. Keep in mind that the physicians and nurses who work at these centers may not have advanced training in pediatrics and may not be comfortable treating infants and young children. Urgent care facilities are generally considered a higher level of care than retail-based clinics.
  • Retail-based clinics (RBCs): These clinics are typically found inside supermarkets, pharmacies and retail superstores. While they may seem convenient, they generally provide a very limited number of health care services for adults and children. Nurse practitioners or physician assistants—often trained in family practice but with limited pediatric training—typically staff RBCs; there is usually not a physician on site.


WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS SEEN BY SOMEONE OTHER THAN HIS OR HER PEDIATRICIAN:

If your child is seen by someone other than his or her pediatrician—at one of the acute care services or clinics listed above—it is very important that you provide the clinic with accurate and complete medical information to receive the most appropriate care.

  • Bring information to the clinic about whether your child’s immunizations are up to date.
  • Let the provider know if your child has any allergies to medications and list the medications your child is currently using (including the last dose) and medicines taken in the past.
  • Don’t forget to mention any conditions such as asthma, diabetes, etc.
  • Request that information regarding the visit be sent to your pediatrician so he or she can maintain a complete picture of your child’s care. If the clinic does not offer this service, be sure to get copies of the services your child received and share this information with your pediatrician as soon as possible.

The management of acute care for children under age 2 requires special expertise.

Therefore, the AAP does not recommend RBCs, telehealth services outside of the medical home, and those acute care services without pediatric expertise for children younger than 2 years.


Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Music and Mood

Music’s beneficial effects on mental health have been known for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers from Plato to Confucius and the kings of Israel sang the praises of music and used it to help soothe stress. Military bands use music to build confidence and courage. Sporting events provide music to rouse enthusiasm. Schoolchildren use music to memorize their ABCs. Shopping malls play music to entice consumers and keep them in the store. Dentists play music to help calm nervous patients. Modern research supports conventional wisdom that music benefits mood and confidence.

Because of our unique experiences, we develop different musical tastes and preferences. Despite these differences, there are some common responses to music. Babies love lullabies. Maternal singing is particularly soothing, regardless of a mom’s formal musical talents or training. Certain kinds of music make almost everyone feel worse, even when someone says she enjoys it; in a study of 144 adults and teenagers who listened to 4 different kinds of music, grunge music led to significant increases in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue across the entire group, even in the teenagers who said they liked it. In another study, college students reported that pop, rock, oldies, and classical music helped them feel happier and more optimistic, friendly, relaxed, and calm.

Music, Attention, and Learning
Everyone who has learned their ABCs knows that it is easier to memorize a list if it is set to music. Scientific research supports common experience that pairing music with rhythm and pitch enhances learning and recall. Music helps children and adolescents with attention problems in several ways. First, it can be used as a reward for desired behavior. For example, for paying attention to homework for 10 minutes, a child can be rewarded with the opportunity to listen to music for 5 minutes. Second, it can be used to help enhance attention to “boring” academic tasks such as memorization, using songs, rhythms, and dance or movement to enhance the interest of the lists to be memorized. Instrumental baroque music is great for improving attention and reasoning. For students, playing background music is not distracting. Third, musical cues can be used to help organize activities – one kind of music for one activity (studying), another for a different activity (eating), and a third kind for heading to bed. Fourth, studies show that calming music can promote pro-social behavior and decrease impulsive behavior.

Music and Anxiety
Many people find familiar music comforting and calming. In fact, music is so effective in reducing anxiety, it is often used in dental, preoperative, and radiation therapy settings to help patients cope with their worries about procedures. Music helps decrease anxiety in the elderly, new mothers, and children too. Music’s ability to banish worries is illustrated in the Rogers and Hammerstein lyrics,

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid…
And every single time,
the happiness in the tune convinces me that I’m not afraid.”

Any kind of relaxing, calming music can contribute to calmer moods. Calming music can be combined with cognitive therapy to lower anxiety even more effectively than conventional therapy alone.

Some studies suggest that specially designed music, such as music that includes tones that intentionally induce binaural beats to put brain waves into relaxed delta or theta rhythms, can help improve symptoms in anxious patients even more than music without these tones; listening to this music without other distractions (not while driving, cooking, talking, or reading) promotes the best benefits.

Music and Moods
An analysis of 5 studies on music for depression concluded that music therapy is not only acceptable for depressed patients, but it actually helps improve their moods. Music has proven useful in helping patients with serious medical illnesses such as cancer, burns, and multiple sclerosis who are also depressed. If it can help in these situations, it may be able to help you and your loved ones experience more positive moods.

Music and Sleep
Many people listen to soothing music to help them fall asleep. This practice is supported by studies in a variety of settings. Just don’t try listening to lively dance music or rousing marches before you aim to fall asleep. Conversely, if you’re trying to wake up in the morning, go for the fast-tempo music rather than lullabies.

Music and Stress
Since ancient times, it has been known that certain kinds of music can help soothe away stress. Calming background music can significantly decrease irritability and promote calm in elderly nursing home patients with dementia. Music, widely chosen, lowers stress hormone levels. On the other hand, every parent of a teenager knows that certain kinds of music, particularly at high volumes, can induce stress. Knowing that certain kinds of music can alleviate stress is one thing; being mindful in choosing what kind of music to listen to is another. Choose your musical intake as carefully as you choose your food and friends.


Source: Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

How to Reinforce Your Child’s Learning

In addition to doing homework, your children should spend time reading not only with you, but also on their own. If a child finds pleasure in reading, it will be­come a lifelong habit.

Let Your Children See You Reading
If your children see you reading regularly, there is a good chance that they will follow your lead and sit down with a book themselves. Set aside some time to talk with them about what each of you is reading. If you have been regularly reading aloud to your children, by school age they’ll probably want to read aloud to you, too!

Talk About Your Day
Find time to talk with your children about your respective days—in­cluding what they did at school. Even on a night when you are particularly busy, you should still be able to find a time and place to talk. This gives your children a chance to re-teach you what they learned that day.

Encourage Art & Writing
It is great for children to write and/or draw without any ed­ucational purpose in mind other than to express themselves. For example, you can encourage your children to write original stories, cards, letters, and invitations to friends and relatives. Keep paper, pencils, crayons, markers, and tape in a convenient lo­cation so your children can sit down and use them easily. Research has shown that writing improves a child’s reading skills—and vice versa.

Plan One-on-One Time
Plan some activities that you can do with your child—such as an art project. Keep phone call interruptions and media use to a minimum during this special time. Make it a time you are spending with each other. Some children say they wish they could call their parents on the phone, because a phone call or mobile device always gets first priority. See Parents of Young Children: Put Down Your Smartphones.

Use Caution with “Educational” Apps
Even though tablets, computer games, and apps are advertised as “educational,” the truth is most of them have not been tested to show that children actually learn from them. They teach very basic skills, so don’t assume an “interactive” game will be a good learning experience. Children learn better through creative playtime—where their brain takes the lead, not the app or computer game.

More Suggestions for Parents

  • Put a map on the wall in your child’s bedroom and refer to it frequently. You might ask, “Where does Aunt Linda live?” or “Can you find the city where the President lives?” You can also use the map to talk about history, especially around a historical holiday.
  • Have a family calendar where you can teach your child to plan ahead and stay organized.
  • Take your children to your local library and get each of them a library card. Because they use the school li­brary frequently, most children almost instinctively feel at home when they go to the local library.
  • Find community activities that are pure fun. Despite their recre­ational nature, these activities can still be viewed as providing support for what is being taught in school. They will broaden your children’s experiences and give them something new to write about.
  • Try reinforcing your child’s health education at school by making healthy food choices when you shop. No mat­ter what is taught in the classroom and served in the school cafeteria, your children will be influenced more by watching your own food selections. Actively involving your children in the cooking process—reading recipes and measuring ingredients—can reinforce nutrition education.
  • Schedule some weekend or after-school activities that are appropriate for the entire family. Swimming, tennis, bicycle riding, and skiing are some of the sports that children can participate in for their entire lives—long after they have left school. Do not overlook walking as a perfect way for the family to enjoy physical activity together. Studies now show that the more children exercise, the better they focus!

Source: Council on Communications and Media (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

New Year Parenting Goals

Making your family better, stronger and more harmonious may not require a complete overhaul, but rather a few strategic tweaks. Instead of making the same-old lofty NYE resolutions to hit the gym and eat healthier, here are five concrete and tangible parenting goals to set for the year ahead.

  • Keep kids riding rear-facing as long as possible, up to the limits of their car seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 and most children up to age 4. If you are past the car-seat stage of parenting, congrats! If you’re still in the thick of it, check for any new car seat laws that may be going into effect in your state in the new year. Remind anyone who transports your child by car.
  • Take a CPR class and learn to use an AED. Cardiac arrest kills more than 7,000 children and more than 345,000 adults every year outside a hospital setting. Some of these deaths could be prevented by bystanders with training in basic life-saving skills or access to an AED machine. When a child is not breathing in a drowning emergency, for example, CPR should begin immediately. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a class near you.
  • Get everyone vaccinated for flu. The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself, your children, and other loved ones from the flu! Children, especially those in child care or school settings, are more likely to get sick with flu and spread it to others. Here are some prevention tips. As adults, we know to wash our hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or wiping noses. Help your little ones learn good hand hygiene habits in the new year.
  • Do better with digital. What are your kids watching on TV and online? Devote some time to researching age-appropriate media, and remember that screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Watch a show together. Play a video game together. Understand what they are doing and be a part of it.
  • Practice some self-care. When was the last time you had a check-up? Got proper rest? Once a baby is no longer a part of your body, it’s easy to forget that tight association between how you care for yourself and how you care for your child’s health. We also know depression and anxiety can happen to both moms and dads during and after pregnancy. If this is you, you are not alone. Help is near.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Winter Fun for Kids

The Connecticut Office of Tourism reports that “Connecticut winters are the stuff that childhood magic is made out of. But when the backyard sledding and a cup of cocoa just isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s time to venture out and about. Whether you want to hit the mountain, learn to skate, explore a museum, or go on an adventure, the Nutmeg State knows how to cure the Winter Blues.”

Their website ctvisit.com, with the help of mommypoppins.com, offers a variety of idea for you and your family to check out this holiday break. See:

55 Things to Do with Kids This Winter in Connecticut
Winter Fun Guide

Want to explore more? Click here now!