Keeping with this month’s theme of children’s health, I’ve been thinking about the 10 things you need to know to optimize your child’s health.
- Breast vs bottle. Fed is best. Breastfeeding is great, unless you don’t make enough milk. Formula provides the essential nutrition that growing babies need. Fed is best.
- Baby vitamin drops. Breastfed infants need vitamin drops. Vitamin D drops are fine from 2 weeks to 4 months, but at 4 months switch to Poly-vi-sol with Iron or the better-tasting Nova Ferrum Multivitamin with Iron. Don’t mix the vitamins with a bottle of fluid, as the infant may refuse the bottle. Just squirt the vitamins into an empty nipple and your baby will suck it down.
- Dental care is essential. The first dental visit should be to a pediatric dentist at 12 months. Don’t let your baby sleep with a bottle of milk. It will cause baby bottle decay. Brush those little teeth twice daily with an infant toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice.
- Well visits keep kids healthy. Infants get well checks at months 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30 and 36, then yearly. Measurements are taken, development is reviewed, and vaccines are updated. Well visits catch many issues before they become serious. Schedule your child’s yearly physical. When you call ask for a “check up” or a “well visit.” These are different appointments from the “sick visit.”
- Vaccines are safe and save lives. Diseases are deadly. Keep your child up to date.
- Flu shot. Yearly flu vaccines prevent influenza. Flu shots don’t make you sick, but may have mild side effects such as fever, redness, and soreness. Influenza (the flu) can lead to pneumonia and can cause death. Get your child’s flu shot early in the fall each year.
- Childhood obesity. A third of the nation’s children are overweight, and a third of those are obese. Know your child’s BMI percentage. 5th to 85th percent is normal. Above 85th percent is overweight and above 95th percent is obese. Remember 9-5-2-1-0 to prevent obesity. 9-10 hours of sleep each night. 5 fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Less than 2 hours of screen time (TV, computer, phone) daily. 1 hour of hard physical exercise daily. 0 sweetened drinks (soda, juice, Gatorade).
- Depression and anxiety are real in children. Be aware if your child has a change in behavior or mood. Seek out care. (Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255).
- Safety first. Seat belts in cars. Face car seats backwards for infants until they outgrow the car seat. Do not text and drive. Do not drink and drive. Never shake a baby. Bike helmets when riding anything with wheels. Apply sunscreen on your child and reapply every 2 hours or more often if swimming or sweating. Be vigil around water.
- Be their example. Kids don’t need the most expensive toys or the best clothes. Kids need you, their parents. They need you to spend time with them. They need you to read to them, to eat with them, and to show them how to live. You are their example. Kids learn what they live. Give them a healthy example.
Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm is a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Norfolk, as well as an Assistant Professor at ODU. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on Amazon. Read more at RaisingTodaysChild.com. Follow her at www.facebook.com/RaisingTodaysChild and www.twitter.com/Rzn2dayschild.