Category Archives: Health and Hygiene

TV time for babies and toddlers

watching childrens tv on a laptopTelevision is a big part of most of our lives, add to this the time spent on your phone, tablet and laptop and we are probably looking at back-lit screens for entertainment purposes for a longer period of time than any generation before us. Research has shown British children have regular access to an average five screens at home by the age of ten. But how much time should your baby or toddler be in front of the TV? Or watching nursery rhymes on your iPad? Or playing games on your phone? TV has been blamed for contributing towards childhood obesity, aggression and even ADHD. So, in a world where we are surrounded by shiny objects emitting bright lights that amuse and entertain, how can we get the balance right for our children? Or is there a balance at all?

How much TV time is acceptable for a baby?

In 1998 the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) advised every child under the age of two should watch no television at all, and children aged two and older should watch no more than 2 hours a day maximum. This includes time spent on video games and iPads etc. The AAP report said TV deterred children from interacting with their parents (or vice versa), and interaction is crucial to vocabulary development. So no tv for you and no tv for baby.

What? No TV for 2 years?

Baby sat infront of tvFirst of all, lets not forget children have been around a lot longer than television sets and have always been able to keep themselves entertained. At the same time, we can’t ignore the fact parents are busier than ever before, life can be hectic and sometimes the tv can be a life/sanity saver. My advice would be, don’t feel guilty about using the TV, just be sensible about. 5 minutes of TV for a baby and gradually increasing this as she grows will do your child no harm, the fear for paediatricians is parents using the TV as a babysitter or having it constantly on in the background disrupting free play and distracting your child. Sitting with your child, talking about the programme and commentating on what is happening is a sure fire way to turn your baby/toddlers TV time into something a little more productive. Once the tv is off again it may inspire you to create some imaginary play based on what you have watched together or sing songs you have heard. Most program’s aimed at young children often have their own catchy songs or incorporate popular rhymes into the program. Having your television on in the background is a distraction for you both and will ultimately result in your child thinking this is normal (which doesn’t bode well for later in life) and may be the cause or a contributing factor of a language delay. Babies need to differentiate between various sounds and tones as part of their language and speech development and the background noise of a television is more than capable of hampering this. Keep telly watching time short. A few minutes at a time is quite enough stimulation for a baby, this can increase slightly for toddlers but you should still watch the majority of programmes together.

What about my baby’s older siblings?

It can be an extremely difficult balancing act with two young children at home, in terms of getting the balance right with tv time my advice would be:

Trust yourself, if you feel your toddler is watching too much TV then he/she probably is.

One thing you can try is to allow your child to watch recorded programmes or DVDs – this way you can control when the program starts. You can then watch it together once baby is having a nap – it gives you some much needed one to one time and prevents too much passive/ background TV viewing for your baby.

What is the harm in TV viewing or having it on in the background?

Parents who watch their own programmes during the day or who leave the television on in the background aren’t doing their children any favours at all – your baby’s brain develops rapidly and in a unique way; between the age of birth to three, neural pathways are constantly being created which are essential to your child’s development, a child sitting in front of the TV or constantly being distracted by the TV will not be given as many opportunities to create and reinstate these neural pathways which could lead to concentration problems later in life. The more a television is on, the less opportunity there is for conversation or the more likely it is that conversations will be unfinished or unproductive. The bottom line is, turn your TV off if no one is watching it.

Why watch it with my child?

Surely it’s a time to do the laundry? Or clean the kitchen right? Wrong! Academic success is linked not only to how much TV viewing time your child has but also how the TV is viewed. A child who watches a moderate amount of television with a parent will score better academically than a child who watches the same amount on his/her own. It also sets a much better example if you watch it together. Why not watch the TV together then do the laundry together afterwards?

In a study of more than 2,000 children, by D A Christakis of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, it was found that for every hour watched at age one and age three, children had just under a ten percent higher chance of developing attention problems that could be diagnosed as ADHD by age 7. A toddler watching three hours of television daily had nearly a 30 percent higher chance of having attention problems at school.

Top tips for sensible TV time

  • Lead by example: Don’t watch your programs whilst you are with your child, or if you do make sure it is once in a blue moon.
  • Setting limits from day one : It is much easier to gradually increase viewing time as your baby grows than try to reign it in once you have realised it has gone too far.
  • Pick your viewing carefully: Watch age appropriate programs that offer some form of educational material.
  • Watch it together: Discuss the programme, refer back to it at a later date, create drawings and play it out together, don’t let your child be a passive viewer!
  • Don’t have on in the background: it will distract you and distract your child and may harm your child’s speech, concentration and your relationship with each other.
  • Use the pause and skip button : Pause it to discuss what is going on, skip it if you need/ want it to end soon (particularly if your child has been ‘sucked in’).
  • No TV in the bedroom: Your child should not have a tv in the bedroom and you should never watch tv at dinner time.
  • Trust your instinct: If you think your child may be having too much TV time, you are probably right. Try reducing it gradually and making it more productive.
  • Plenty of play time: Unstructured’ free play time is much more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media however educational it claims to be.
  • Everything in moderation: This is the key. Just as it is for junk food. Be honest with yourself and do the best you can for your baby’s developing brain.

If you are interested in further reading, you may find this study by D A Christakis of Seattle Children’s Research Institute interesting in which mice were overstimulated to simulate the effect of infants watching television.

Your comments are very much appreciated. Do you agree with me? Do you have any thing to add?

Cradle cap – What you need to know

If you are worried that your baby may have cradle cap, you do not need to worry. It is not anything you are doing that has caused it, it usually clears up on its own, it isn’t contagious, it doesn’t usually cause your baby any discomfort and has no serious long term affects. Please read on for more details:

What is cradle cap?

The medical term for cradle cap is seborrhoeic dermatitis. It is usually found on the scalp of your baby’s head but can also appear on her face, ears, neck and the folds in her skin. It is recognisable by greasy yellow patches on the scalp, red skin on the affected area, scales and flakes and/or yellow crusts on the scalp. It is an extremely common condition and doesn’t usually cause any discomfort.
Does my baby have cradle cap?
If large, greasy, yellow or brown scales are visible on her scalp, then it is likely to be cradle cap. The scales will eventually start to flake which may cause the affected skin to appear red, this could result in some hair loss.

What causes cradle cap?

It is not known exactly what the causes are; however, it is thought that it may be linked to overactive sebaceous glands. Overactive sebaceous glands are present when babies retain some of their mothers’ hormones for several weeks after birth. Sebaceous glands are glands in the skin that produce an oily substance called sebum. The excess sebum that is produced causes old skin cells to stick to the scalp instead of falling off as they would do normally. Research also suggests that babies who get cradle cap often have family members who suffer from asthma or eczema. It is not caused by lack of care or poor hygiene and does not mean you are doing something wrong or not caring for your baby properly.

Is it contagious?

Cradle cap is not contagious and as long as it isn’t causing your baby any discomfort, you can carry on as normal.

Does it have any long term affects?

It is most likely to appear when your baby is under 2 months and tends to last only a few months or so. It usually clears up by the age of 2 but in some cases may last a lot longer. There is a small possibility that a baby who has suffered from cradle cap may also suffer from dandruff when they are older as this is also a form of seborrhoic dermatitis.

How can it be treated?

There is no specific treatment for cradle cap. It usually clears up in its own time. You may want to massage some baby oil, olive oil or petroleum jelly into her scalp before bed, this will help to loosen the crusts of skin. In the morning you can brush her hair with a soft baby brush or a cloth and gently remove any loose flakes of skin. You will then need to wash your baby’s hair again. It is important not to pick at the scales as this could result in your baby getting an infection. Cradle cap treatment shampoos are available from most pharmacies without a prescription; ideally you should take your baby with you to the pharmacist so they can recommend a treatment shampoo that is suitable for both the seriousness of her condition and her age. It is also helpful to get a professional opinion on whether you need to see a GP or not.

Do I need to see a GP?

You should contact your GP about your baby’s cradle cap if any of the following apply:

  • You have been treating your baby’s cradle cap as stated above and there are no signs of improvement.
  • It is causing your baby discomfort such as itching or swelling.
  • It is not limited to your baby’s scalp and is on your baby’s face or body.


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A beginners guide to baby poo

The look, texture and smell of your baby’s poo will differ depending upon your baby’s age and how he/she is being fed.

What should my baby’s poo look like?

A newborns poo is made up of something called meconium. Meconium is a thick, sticky greenish-black substance. It is made up of amniotic fluid, mucus, lanugo (the fine hairs that cover the baby’s body), bile and cells that have been shed from the skin and the intestinal tract.

  • After approximately 4-5 days your baby’s poo will change to a yellow or mustard colour.
  • Breastfed babies poo is runny and doesn’t smell where as formula fed infants poo is firmer, a darker brown and smellier.
  • Some formula milk can turn your baby’s poo more of a dark green. This is completely normal.
  • If you change from breast feeding to bottle feeding, your baby’s poo will change too.
  • How often should my baby poo?

    It is completely normal for a baby to poo at around every feed time just as it is normal to go a few days without any bowel movement. There really is no hard and fast rule. As long as your baby’s poos are soft, there is no need for you to worry about constipation. The same can be said if your little one seems to be struggling, or even in pain when he poos, as long as the poo is soft, this is a good sign that he is not constipated.

    If your baby is under 8 weeks old and hasn’t had any bowel movement for 2-3 days, you should discuss this with your midwife, health visitor or GP. If your baby isn’t following the same weigh centile as logged in your baby’s red book (ie gaining weight too slowly) then you should make contact with one of the above mentioned medical professionals as soon as possible; your baby should be gaining weight and having both wet and dirty nappies.

    What if my baby’s poo changes colour or the texture is different?

    Poo will and can vary from day to day or week to week. You should contact your GP if you notice that your baby’s poo has become very watery or harder, particularly if blood is present, if it is extremely smelly or if it is a pale colour as this may be a sign of jaundice. If you are worried for any reason about your newborns poo or have any other health concerns you should always speak to your health visitor or GP.

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    Bathing a newborn

    Bathing a newborn baby for the first time is something all parents feel a little nervous about. This step by step guide to is here to help.

    You will need 2 clean dry towels, a baby bath tub, a baby bath thermometer, a mild baby shampoo if you wish and the usual baby changing equipment.

    Bathing a newborn – step by step

  • Safety should always be your priority and you should not allow yourself to become distracted at any time.
  • Ensure the room is warm and that there are no draughts.
  • Rinse out the bath tub and fill it with warm (but not hot) water.
  • If you are not using a mixer tap to fill the bath then you should always pour the cold water in first. Once you have mixed in the hot water, swish it about to avoid any hot spots.
  • Check the temperature of the water by dipping your elbow into it or by pouring some water over your wrist. You may also want to use a baby bath thermometer.
  • Place a clean towel near the bath to use later.
  • Now it is time to prepare your baby for bath time.
  • You will firstly need to top and tail your new born in the usual way, once you have cleaned her bottom, leave her naked, wrap her in a dry towel and take her to the room where you are going to bathe her.
  • If you you are going to wash her hair, you should do so before she is in the bath. You can choose to use plain water or a mild baby shampoo.
  • Hair should be rinsed over the baby bath if needed and dry carefully and thoroughly.
  • Position your baby in your arms in a way that you will comfortably be able to hold her in the baby bath. Your strongest arm should be around the back of her neck, supporting her head and your hand should be under the armpit that is furthest from you so that you can support her weight.
  • Lower your newborn slowly and gently into the baby bath keeping her head clear of the water at all times.
  • Use your spare hand to gently trickle water over your little ones body.
  • Be enthusiastic; talk and smile continuously.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  • Carefully lift your her out of the bath, be aware that baby’s skin may be very slippery. Wrap in a clean towel and gently pat her dry, pay special attention to the creases of her skin.
  • Now is a good time to massage your newborn, particularly if it is bed time.
  • Give your baby big cuddles to keep warm and yourself a big pat on the back for bathing your newborn baby for the first time!
  • Baby wearing sun hat

    Sun safety for kids

    Child in lavender fields wearing sun protection

    The sun should not be feared but, like anything that can cause us harm, should be respected. It is a great big ball of hot gases at the centre of our solar system, without it there would be no life and the planets would simply float away into outer space.

    Sun exposure is our primary source of vitamin D so it is important that we all have a safe amount of sun exposure – vitamin D helps us to better absorb calcium which in turn makes for stronger bones. It doesn’t take too much time at all to get the required amount of sun exposure, about 10 to 15 minutes for most people but always less than the time it takes you to start going red, however, too much unprotected sun exposure can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression and of course skin cancer; you need to protect yourself and you need to protect your children.

    How to keep kids safe in the sun

    • Avoid the hottest period – The suns rays are at their hottest between the hours of 11am and 3pm. Ideally, you should keep children out of the sun during these hours.
    • Keep young baby’s out of the sun completely – Infants should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether, sun screen does not protect infants from the suns harmful rays.
    • Find some shade, or make some shade – If you are out for the whole day, try to find a good spot of shade (under a tree etc) but also be prepared for these good spots to be taken and have a pop up UV tent or a good sized parasol with you to create your own shade.
    • Don’t seek shade too late – If you and your kids are in the shade, you will not get sun burnt. Do not wait until your children are looking red before you insist on them playing in the shade.
    • Cover your kids up – Clothing that covers your kids skin will help protect against UV rays, UV swimsuits are great, as are shorts that cover knees and t shirts (rather than straps).
    • Make sure your children wear hats – Ideally you want a hat that protects not only your kids scalp but also his neck, ears and face.
    • Sunglasses – Too much exposure to uv rays can lead to cataracts later in life. Do your best to get your child to wear sunglasses and make sure they offer as close to 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays – wrap around glasses offer the best protection.
    • Never forget the sunscreen – Use SPF 50 sunscreen with a minimum rating of 4 stars. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside and be sure to re-apply every couple of hours, even more so if your kids have been playing in water.
    • Don’t rely on one protection method – Try to incorporate as many of the above points as possible – a child in the shade, wearing sunscreen, sensible clothing and a hat is very well protected. Enjoy the sun but respect it, do as much as you can to protect your kids from the suns harmful rays.

    How to apply sunscreen

    • Apply sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before going outside
    • Be liberal and do not rub it in too harshly, remember it is there to form a barrier, not to be absorbed.
    • Ensure you have applied it to your childs neck, shoulders, ears, nose, lips, behind the knees and tops and bottoms of feet (if exposed).
    • Reapply every 2 hours or so
    • Reapply more often if your child has become sweaty, has used a towel or has been playing in water.
    • Short daily periods of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months (April to October) are enough for most people to make enough vitamin D. Evidence suggests that the most effective time of day for vitamin D production is between 11am and 3pm. If your child is outside without sunscreen, ensure it is for no longer than around 10-15 minutes.

    6 Facts about sun safety

    • Protecting your children from the sun not only prevents sunburn, it massively reduces the risk of skin cancer later in life.
    • The use of sunscreen does not result in an increased time of safe sun exposure.
    • Some sunscreens come off when your child’s skin has been in contact with water, is sweating or has used a towel.
    • Even when it is cloudy, up to 50 percent of the suns harmful ultraviolet rays can still reach us.
    • 50% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs in childhood.
    • A slight breeze or kids playing in water can cool the surface temperature of your childs skin so you may not notice that they are burning until it is too late.

    What if my child gets sunburnt?

    Picture of first degree sunburm

    If your baby has been sunburnt you will need to consult a doctor as soon as you can, if your child has been sunburnt you should see your doctor if it looks very red, is particularly painful or if it blisters and/or a rash is present. If you are unsure about whether or not you need to see your doctor, you should at the very least go to your local pharmacy with your child and show them the sunburn. They may be able to recommend a soothing, aftersun lotion that is suitable for your childs age. If you are unable to get to the doctors or the pharmacy until the following day, you can cool the sunburnt area with tepid water (around 23-25 degrees celsius), this should be applied for 30 to 60 minutes but you need to ensure that your child doesn’t get too cold.

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