PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Pediatrician Answers Parents’ Commonly Asked Questions

Posted on Jan 15, 2013

Newborn baby in father's handsDo you sometimes wish your baby had arrived with an instruction booklet? While parenthood can be one the most joyful experiences in life, the responsibilities and challenges can make a climb up Mount Everest seem like a walk in the park. Remember, though, first and foremost to trust your own intuition – that’s the real heart of good parenting. Sometimes this might be as simple as giving your child a hug.

In this blog post, pediatrician Kellen Glinder, M.D., answers some of the most common questions parents of children under five ask their doctor.

How do I know if my newborn is healthy?

Fortunately, there’s a straightforward and reassuring way to tell if your newborn is healthy – if she is gaining weight (about an ounce a day or more) then she is most probably in good health.

Are vaccines safe?

With so much media attention on vaccines, parents are often unsure whether vaccines are good for their child’s health. In the United States vaccines are very well studied, safe and strictly regulated by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When children are not vaccinated, the diseases we are protecting against reappear. For example, in 2011 in California there were more cases of measles than in the whole of the last decade and we’ve suffered the largest whooping cough epidemic since the 1950s. Vaccinations are the best thing you can do to protect your child against dangerous and life-threatening diseases.

How can I make sure my child has a healthy diet?

Keep this simple and clear division of responsibilities in mind: parents decide when meals happen and what the meals consist of, and children are responsible for if and how much they eat. When parents start trying to control the child’s domain, battles start. Here are a few tips for healthy family eating:

  • Set a good example! Your child wants to be like you so buy, prepare and eat healthy foods yourself and your child is more likely to do the same.
  • Eat together as a family to encourage healthy eating habits, socializing and bonding.
  • Stick to three meals and two snacks a day.
  • Don’t offer other foods until your child has finished what is on his or her plate.

What’s the best way to discipline my toddler?

There’s no one way to discipline but here are few proven strategies that can work:

  • Positive reinforcement: Let your child know quickly and often when he is using good behaviors.
  • Consequences: Your child will learn best when he learns for himself– as long as he is not in danger. If your child keeps dropping his cookies on purpose, don’t give him more. He’ll soon learn that this behavior doesn’t bring any reward. Or create a consequence by telling your child that if he does not pick up his toys, you will put them away for the rest of the day. Stay calm and be ready to follow through.
  • Withholding privileges: Let your child know that if she does not cooperate, she will have to give up something she likes. This should never be something she truly needs, such as food.
  • Time out: Explain to your child which two or three behaviors will warrant a time out. Choose a time out spot with no distractions as a place for him to pause and cool off. Set an appropriate time limit depending on his age and resume activity when he has completed his time out.
  • Active ignoring: Ignore bad behavior such as crying, screaming and whining to get your attention. As soon as your child changes her behavior appropriately, give her your full attention.
  • Be a good role model: Actions speak louder than words. Model good behavior for your child.

Know that there are five things you’ll never be able to make your child do on the spot – when you really want them to. Your child decides for herself when to speak, sleep, pee, poop and even if she is, in fact, going to eat that meal you’ve prepared!

How can I get my child to sleep through the night?

It’s natural to want to help our infants, older than 6 months, fall asleep but your child will become a better sleeper if you give her space to figure it out for herself. Infants wake up about every three hours during the night and if they know how to fall asleep by themselves, they will be able to get back to sleep each time without waking you for help and hence sleep through.

Think of all the things you do for your child to help her go to sleep, such as singing a song, reading a book, darkening the room and feeding. Then start reducing them one by one with the easiest one first.

Parents often seal the sleep deal with feeding. To help your child learn to fall asleep without relying on food and sucking, reverse the order of your bedtime routine. Start with feeding, then go through the rest of the routine.

When should I start potty training?

Each child will be ready to start using the toilet in their own time – when they are emotionally and physically ready. This can’t be forced. In fact, the more you insist, the less likely it’s going to happen. Instead of asking your child whether he needs to go to the bathroom – with a guaranteed response of “NO!” – change the environment and take the pressure off of him. Instead, go into the bathroom yourself and bring whatever activity he is engaged in with you. Your child will usually follow you. If he really needs to go, you’ve provided the setting and opportunity, and he’ll take advantage of that.

Kellen Glinder, M.D.

Kellen Glinder, M.D.

Kellen Glinder, M.D.,  is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center.