Q My newborn baby is fussy almost all of the time. He is rarely awake and not crying. Could I be doing something wrong or is this a normal stage?
A Newborn fussiness is very common and causes much angst and worry for parents and caretakers. I always tell parents that fussiness peaks around 6 weeks of life and that the average newborn can cry up to 2-3 hours a day, which is totally normal. If newborns cry most days every day, they may actually have a diagnosis we call colic. Colic can be caused by quite a few things and there are other things I like to rule out before I make that diagnosis and come up with a plan. It is usually a long and complex visit with the pediatrician. If your newborn is truly that fussy, you should make an appointment with your pediatrician right away.
Q My three-year-old son is having trouble making the transition to bedtime. He will get in bed and loves to listen to me read before I turn off the light, but when I leave, he always pops up and says he wants me to stay. If I won't, he cries, sometimes uncontrollably. Any advice would be helpful.
A Sleep issues are one of the most common problems we see from infancy all the way through adolescence. Three-year-olds are one of the toughest ages in that they are too young to sleep train in the crib but also a little young to understand reasoning at this point. I usually first suggest grace if it seems like just a phase. That being said, you don't want to spend the next seven years laying with him while he falls asleep. First thing to do would be all of the sleep hygiene stuff you may already do: no late snacks, nothing sugary before bed, no television before bed, etc. You may want to try something like a bath and a sleepy time tea. Then I usually say, "one book and then time for sleep." Be firm and clear. A night light might help so that it isn't completely dark. It might be worthwhile to start a reward system so that if he is able to lay down and go to sleep so many nights a week, he gets some type of prize. He also may be a little young for this but sometimes I recommended a "sleep pass." This is a little certificate or something that you make so that if he has a really rough night he can use it without losing his reward. Ultimately, I tell parents that this age can be really tough and maybe he just needs reassurance for a little while before he gets back into a good routine. Another final option is putting him in a room to share if he has a sibling. This isn't always an option but worked for my second child. He just needed the reassurance of someone else in the room. Good luck!!
Q My neighbor's daughter has the chicken pox. Should I expose my own children to her or should we get the vaccine? What is recommended?
A This is a very common question in pediatrics. Before there was a chicken pox vaccine, parents would usually attempt to expose children to the virus because it was safer to have it at a younger age, and families with multiple kids preferred to get it done at once (have everyone sick at the same time). These were classically called chicken pox parties. Now that there is a vaccine, pediatricians recommend this over the "wild type" virus. The main reason is that the vaccine is actually safer in that kids don't get a really terrible illness that has potential complications, some life threatening. These include pneumonia and a brain infection called encephalitis. Also, if they get the vaccine they are much less likely to develop shingles as an adult, which is terribly painful and also has potential complications. And remember that just because chicken pox was a disease everyone used to get, doesn't mean it's benign. Most kids develop very high fevers and have painful lesions all over their body, which may result in scarring. The vaccine has proven to be so safe that I always recommended it over exposure to someone with chicken pox.
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