Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eating Disorders in Children

I have to apologize for not blogging all week!  I was bogged down doing last minute CEU's (continuing education credits) for my counseling license and was staying up late studying and taking online exams.  Normally I go to seminars and workshops in person, but after having a baby, not very realistic for me now!

One of the online workshops I studied this past week was on childhood eating disorders.  I've worked with clients with eating disorders in the past, have studied eating disorders in graduate school, and have gone to workshops on the topic.  But this week, the workshop I studied had some scary statistics about eating disorders.  Unfortunately, the prevalence of them has increased since I graduated school 10 years ago, including increased childhood obesity.


Eating disorders are very complicated and are also very, very scary. The various types consist of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and obesity.

Did you know that bulimia was virtually unheard of prior to the 1970's??  It makes you wonder if culture and the media really have an affect on young girls and boys. And by the way, while most of us think that eating disorders affect mostly girls, we are seeing more and more boys having these disorders too!

In children, anorexia can start at age 9 but typically affects teens aged 15-19. (Anorexia is when one restricts eating or binges and purges and can not maintain proper body weight). Bulimia (when one binges and purges) usually does not affect children (thank goodness) and is often seen more in older teenagers. But it is definitely increasing and affecting younger people. For more info, click here.

There are a lot of theories about causes for anorexia and bulimia, (genetic, family dynamics, culture, etc.) but as a parent it scares me and I know I want to set a good example, especially having a daughter.

I am now VERY aware of the comments I make at home such as "I feel fat" or "I can't wear this outfit, I look too big in it" etc. And talking about dieting.  I am going to nip these comments in the bud in front of my daughter and really foster a healthy body image.

And what about obesity?

The scariest statistic in regards to eating disorders is with childhood obesity.  Check out these alarming statistics:

-16 % of children aged 6-9 are overweight or obese! That's 9 million children in the U.S.

-The number of obese children has tripled since 1980

-Illinois is the only state with a requirement for daily physical education in schools. WHAT? I can't believe that one. I feel like writing my local congressman about this and helping to lobby on this issue.  Children don't have PE anymore?

-And all of these issues regarding obesity in children have caused health problems so much that hospital bills for related obesity diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular, high blood pressure) has tripled since 1990!

Some of the theories as to the reason childhood obesity has increased are:

-More fast food meals that are cheaper and faster for families

-Families do not sit down and have dinner together anymore

-Children spend more time in front of the TV and video games (lack of exercise)

-Parents are worried about abductions and no longer allow children to play outdoors, walk to school or ride their bicycles

So what can we do?

Some of the things I am going to do to foster a healthy environment for my child is to increase her self esteem, teach healthy eating habits, encourage normal exercise and regular meal times (eating together as a family), and teach her not to make fun of others who are obese or underweight.

My workshop said that the highest risk factor for eating disorders in young girls is when a child has a mother, sister or friend who diets! Makes you really think.

And I hate to say it, but in regards to preventing obese children, I think parents are mostly to blame for the young children who are already obese.  Young children do not do the grocery shopping, they don't buy the fast food.  Who stocks the pantries with junk food? The parents do.

Children need good role models from us.  We need to teach our children good eating habits, healthy exercising and normal body images.

What are your thoughts??
Monday, July 25, 2011

Better sleep?

Parents had the most success with their children's sleep when they responded appropriately to their children's cues. (Credit: iStockphoto/Nathan Schepker)

I came across an article on sleep the other day. Yeah, I know, I talk about sleep all the time since my child still does not sleep through the night, but that's a whole other issue.  This article sparked my interest because it discussed how being an emotionally receptive parent can help reduce sleep disruptions and help infants and toddlers sleep better.

The study was done at Penn State by researchers called the Project SIESTA study.  I found myself completely relating to what the researchers said, especially: "Bed time can be a very emotional time. It heralds the longest separation of the day for most infants." Researcher Douglas Teti, professor of human development and family studies found that, "It struck me that going to sleep, and sleeping well, is much easier for some young children than others, and I wanted to assess what factored into this, and what parents and children contribute to sleep patterns."

The study is still going on but I think the findings are really interesting.  I can only imagine how scary it might be for a young toddler/baby to go to sleep in their own room, alone and in almost darkness.  We had our child in our room the first 6 months and would still bring her into bed with me when she awoke in the middle of the night. I slept better and she did too.  But since she was about 9 months old she has been staying and sleeping in her own crib.

Now I know a lot of you may still co-sleep, and you have to decide on what is right for you and your family.  Once my child started crawling, she did NOT want to sleep in my bed. For her it was playtime.  She loves her crib and usually motions for me to put her in it when we are rocking to sleep!  So for us the crib works and it's almost like she feels it is a safe and comfy place.

BUT this study is very interesting in looking at how parents respond to their child before and during sleep states.  And how it can affect their sleep quality.  I think it completely makes sense that it found how you talk to your child, such as in a soothing voice and letting them know everything was okay helps them sleep better.

I still think routines are important because children like to know what comes next such as bath time, then PJ time, then read a story and then bed, etc.  My child knows what to expect and if we do something out of order, she takes a lot longer to fall asleep.

But I also think it takes flexibility.  If your toddler is wanting to skip story time or keeps coming up with excuses not to go to bed, a parent still needs to be emotionally receptive, but to also set a few limits.  It takes meeting them in the middle- a sweet and understanding tone but also if you let them have "one more story" that it turns into 10, then guess how many they will ask for the next night?

You can read more about the study here.  What do you all think?
Wednesday, July 20, 2011


As far as social skills with toddlers go, they are like little sponges just soaking up everything they see and hear. We know that modeling for them is the best way to teach our little ones. Things like manners, right from wrong and how to socialize with others.  As parents, we have been working hard teaching them these things by telling them "soft touches" when interacting with their friends, smiling when greeting someone, and saying "thank you" and "please."

But as I was in the waiting room of my dermatologist's office today, I had a light bulb moment with my little girl.  She was sitting in her stroller and I noticed how she was watching everyone in the room.  Soaking it all up.  Yep, I was thinking, "this is social development in the works!"

She saw one woman waiting and sleeping in a chair. She saw a couple of kids with their father sitting behind us. She watched a grandmother who came over to say "hello".  And she also observed the receptionist behind the counter interacting with the nurses and staff.

Now, I have taken her to plenty of socialization 'experiences' such as doctor appointments, restaurants, malls, play groups, swimming pools, parks, mommy and me classes, birthday parties, etc.  So she has had a lot of interactions already.

But what made today different was that I really put myself in her shoes and tried to imagine what a 14 month old would be thinking while watching people and here is what I came up with:

-Woman sitting in chair with eyes closed: "What is that strange person doing sitting in a chair and not paying attention to me? Is it naptime? I'm confused, I thought naps were taken in my room?"

-Receptionist: "Why is that lady behind a wall and not coming out? She isn't looking at me."

-Grandma: "This lady is friendly and funny! I like her."

Kids and parent: "I love kids and I am smiling at them and they are smiling back at me"

Or at least I thought that's what she was thinking. She definitely learned what goes on in a waiting room as we were there for 30 long minutes!

I can only imagine what it must be like for these little tots to witness things for the first time. Things I've witnessed for a long, long time and don't think twice about.  I now realize how every social encounter is a huge learning experience for her.  She's going to be learning appropriate behaviors, how people interact with others, what is normal/not normal, expectations and in a super fast amount of time.

Like I said, little sponges.  Kind of exciting, but also kind of scary too!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Toddler Journals

My child turned 14 months old last week, and I have been amazed at all the new things she has been learning each day. Her expressions are adorable and becoming more and more toddler looking!  I am so proud of all she has accomplished in such a short amount of time (oh and if you had any idea of how hard it was to get her to keep her scarf on her head in that picture, without ripping it off AND me getting a photo op in there, then you would be proud too. Just saying.)

She is learning new things on a DAILY basis, seriously.  Her signing 'more' has gone from wanting food items to wanting 'more' of everything such as more toys during bath time to asking for me to show her more of the video clip I just took of her.  She is making more distinguishing words now too, or at least I think she is saying more words like "ball" or "bubble." And then I swear she is doing more and more dramatic play by the day, such as pretending to feed her baby doll with her spoon.

Witnessing how much she is growing made me decide I just had to get some sort of journal to capture all of these moments, and to keep it close by in the kitchen so I can hurry and jot them down right at the moment so I won't forget. Her official baby books are in her room and I work on them from time to time, but what I needed was a quick journal type book.

So after researching and researching I found a few options (and I was not compensated at all for these in any way- I wish!):

1) The Mother and Toddler Journal: A Fun, Interactive Journal to Fill in Together is a great journal to capture all of those little moments after 12 months of age.  The only thing about this one is that it looks to be more of a preschool aged journal.  So maybe next year we will get this one.  If you click here you can see a sample page.

2) Then there is the Toddler Journal, The Toddler Journal : A Week-By-Week Guide to Your Toddler's Development from Ages 1 to 3

This is the follow-up to the First Year Journal.  I had the First Year Journal and didn't like it as much because there was not enough room to write anything down and I was more into using a journal to write down her daily feedings, diaper changes and sleep schedules.  But this Toddler version looks like it has a lot more to write in and just the kind of things you want to write down such as new words, new motor skills, and other weekly tidbits.

3) Since I was more into a daily thing her first year, I used The Essential Baby Organizer pictured here that I loved, but....

the author has a new follow-up for it called the Essential Toddler Journal which is now only available in PDF format, so you can order it here and then print it out yourself and put it in a little organizer. I already ordered one for 12$. It has a lot of good things in there like pages to write down words, making handprints, and a daily groove chart where you can write down cute things your toddler does.

4) Then there is the Baby Tracker is a cute binder that you can keep daily track of your child, and order more pages as you go along.  This is ideal for those in daycare as it keeps track of diaper changes, meals and sleep schedules, but it doesn't have enough room for all the comments and 'cute' things your child does on a daily basis. I of course ordered one to check out, but will probably get more use out of it when she is older and order the Kid Tracker pages that helps chart toilet training, etc.

So I think for now, I am going to use the Toddler Journal and then use one of the other choices after she turns 2 :)  (I hope I can keep it up when I have a second one).  Let me know if you guys out there have found anything that works well!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sun Fun

Yesterday my little girl turned 14 months old! Wow, the weeks have just been flying by. Although I don't want her to grow too fast and have the weeks pass us by, I am anxiously awaiting cooler weather and secretly wishing it was closer to September. I love the Summer but the heatwave we've been having has just got to go.  It makes it hard to run any errands during the day because my poor child is sweating in her car seat and I hate getting her out in the heat. Not to mention there aren't many fun things to do during the day anyway, except swim.  Forget going to the park, going on walks or swinging in her tree swing.

Luckily, we were invited to our friend Vanessa and Andrew's playdate at their pool yesterday to cool off.  As soon as we got there, Luna was ready to get in. But first we had the lovely chore of getting her sunblock on.  It's always a slow process to get it rubbed in all over her body and making sure we get all the little crevices and hard to reach places like her ears.

At one point as the moms were getting our kids ready for the sun, the topic turned to the bad ingredients in sunscreens. Have you heard about this?  Environmental Working Group has rated sunscreens and SPFs. Check out the link here where they review all the popular sunscreens and which ones work and which ones don't.  It is also amazing to read about SPF moisturizers us adult mommies use, that can rub off on our children.

I remember when I was newly pregnant and about to open my new tube of low dose Retin-A for my anti-wrinkles. I gasped as I had forgotten that it says not to use when pregnant. Thankfully I had not rubbed it all over my crows feet yet, but it make me think. If this stuff is absorbed into our skin and causes birth defects, what else do we put on our skin that gets rubbed in and causes problems? Self-tanners? Lotions? Makes you really think!

I quickly went thru all of my moisturizers last week to make sure they were on the safe list. I am a big SPF daily moisturizer user. I've been that way since I was 24 because I am desperately trying to prevent sun damage being white as a ghost. And the minute I walk out into the sun, I swear I get a new wrinkle and freckle immediately!  I curse you dark and olived skinned women out there :)

So much to my horror, several of my moisturizers had the dreaded ingredient Oxybenzone in them! So I trashed those and went up to Whole Foods to buy more of my favorite moisturizer, Pomegranate Daily Protection by Skin Organics. Why I had stopped using it, who knows. Probably because I had found another one that promised more wrinkle control, which of course we all know is a lie. None of the darn things work, but at least this one is safe, has 30 SPF in it and does not make me feel like I slathered Crisco all over my face.

And as for our babies?  I found California Baby is safe to put on our children and it works to protect from UVA and UVB rays.  I am not happy with the 18$ price tag it has though and will have to try a cheaper version like Babyganics and Aveeno Baby Natural Protection next time.

So I slathered Luna's expensive sunscreen all over her body yesterday before we entered the sauna of the Dallas outdoors.  Overall we had a nice time at the playdate.  Luna loved splashing around with her friends.  The sunscreen was a success as Luna did not get a sunburn.  But even though we cooled off in the water, the poor thing had rosy red cheeks when we got home, and not from a sunburn. She was just hot from being outside and the car ride home.   If only the temperature would come down just a little bit. Come on rain, give us some relief!
Monday, July 11, 2011


What do most moms of babies talk about? When I get together with my mom friends the main topics are usually about sleep, teething or food.  And we know so well that teething pain=mommies losing sleep.  So it is a frequent topic complaint we like to chat about!

Our poor little ones suffer not just once or twice with teething woes, but for the first 2 years of life if not more.  That's a lot of sleepless nights for babies and their parents!

I've heard some babies have teeth that come in with no symptoms at all.  Symptom free teething? So not fair. Most babies get extremely fussy, have fevers, runny noses and diarrhea when they are teething. And those are just the most common symptoms, but I have heard a long list of other ones that moms swear are caused by teething.

Other little side effects that babies have are biting on their little fingers or toys to help relieve the pressure in their gums. They may also refuse to eat and drink because their mouths hurt so much.

When my little one is teething, she sometimes gets low grade fevers, is fussy and up every hour of the night, and drools excessively. Now that her molars are coming in we have added a new symptom, she bites me- not just her toys or her fingers anymore.  Thank goodness she is not in a daycare setting, or she would probably be biting other little ones and I would be getting a dreaded call from the Director!

What is a mom to do, especially when the molars are starting to come in and the pain is 3 X as bad at 13 months, as it was at 4 months of age?

I've tried the motrin and tylenol and it doesn't make a difference, well, at least it doesn't seem to because she wakes up just as much in the middle of the night.

Oral gels? They say the anesthesia in them is not recommended for babies, even though it says 'Baby' Oral Gel on the package!

So I searched the web and found the top answers to our babes teething woes.  Some of them come from the blog,  Let me know if any of these have worked or helped you in the past!

Chew Toys

Sophie!  She has been my child's favorite teething toy. It's not a cure, but it is a temporary fix for sure.

Cold Fruit or Vegetables

Several moms mentioned they use frozen fruit to help soothe painful gums.  I've given my child frozen mangoes but she looked at me like, "what the heck did you just feed me," so it's a no go for us, but it may work for others out there.

Or frozen vegetables (as long as they are not a choking hazard). One mom I read about claims that celery actually has numbing properties that help lessen the pain of teething.  I have not tried this yet, but if I do I will make sure it is a large piece that she can not break off and choke on.

Wooden Teething Toys and Rings

Wooden teething toys have been used for years apparently. I have not tried them yet, but one of the popular brands is Camden Rose:


Or you can always try a wooden spoon! Babies love adult toys and sinking their teeth into the soft wood may help relieve some pain.

Homeopathic Remedies

So I've heard the Hylands brand of teething tablets was pulled off the shelves because the ingredients were said to not have uniformity of dosing. My doctor suggested them and said the ingredient in them, Belladonna, can't be overdosed on because it has been diluted so much and it's such a low dose when you use homeopathics. You can buy generic belladonna in your local health food store.  I have tried them and it seems to help a little bit, but you have to give them every 2 hours, so what do you do in the middle of the night, wake them up?

I also read about using Clove oil concoctions on baby's gums. I have not tried this myself but some bloggers and message board moms swear by this.

Amber Teething Necklaces

I recently came across one of these for the first time the other day. My friend's mother-in- law is Lebanese and had been to France recently and brought one back for her 4 month old. It is a little strange as it's a normal looking little beaded necklace that you wear around your baby's neck. They don't eat it or chew on it, but the amber in it is supposed to absorb into your baby's skin and relieve teething pain.  If anyone has tried this, let me know!

Ice Cube and Slushy Remedies

Again, this is a quick fix and can help relieve pain as they are chewing on them, but for me, once that cold remedy is out of their mouths, they are back to crying and fussing.

  • Ice cubes placed in a handkerchief, washcloth, cheesecloth, or a feeder.

  • Ice cubes prepared as a slushy.

  • Ice cubes scraped with a spoon and fed to baby.

  • Favorite drink frozen in a popsicle mold.

Cold, Frozen Washcloths

Grab a few washcloths and water them down, then toss in the freezer. They will freeze in a weird distorted shape which is a good thing, because then the babies can manipulate it and put the frozen edges on their aching gums.  They can reach all of the hard spots with the washcloth where other teething toys can't.  For my daughter, it works, oh for the minute it is in her mouth. But once she is done with it, back to the fussies.


If anyone has any other tips or suggestions, let us know. Or feel free to just vent.  There are some mornings I wake up and just want to say, "why, why, why?  Just let all of these teeth come in already!"


Friday, July 8, 2011

Casey Anthony

I know what you're thinking, no more talk about the Casey Anthony case, please! But so many people have asked my opinion on the matter and all I have to say about it is this:

I did not watch the trial this year and every time it came on the news I turned it off.

Yep, as a new mom, I just did not want to hear about such a sad story. I don't know all of the details but all I know is that A) a poor little girl is no longer living and B) somebody killed her.

With my years of experience as a child counselor and working in non-profits, I have come across a lot of dysfunctional families.  All I can do for them is help the child and help the parent that has cared enough to get their child the help that they need.  You have to desensitize yourself to the dysfunction and meet them 'where they are at' at the moment.  Dysfunction breeds dysfunction.  Sigh.  That is why counseling is so important, it can really make a difference for a child and their family.

I currently work for CPS (child protective services) now once a week, and it's hard seeing some of the things these poor children have to endure.  CPS as a system is trying, but it is still a system that needs a lot of fixing.  Kids slip through the cracks all the time and it seems this poor Casey child was one of them from what I have been told.

I hate children being taken away from their mothers but when they come from such uncaring and hurtful parents, then I LOVE the policy where CPS comes in to the delivery room and takes the newborn away from that mother. It's as if they are saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, you did what drugs while you were pregnant?"  And, "you 'failed to protect' your previous kids from sexual abuse, neglect and physical abuse, well then, we are sorry, no more kids for you!"  Especially, not if the minute they are born they are discharged from the hospital and taken back to their home, aka the Crack House.

How about all you out there, opinions on the court case???
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Catch 'Em Being Good

I love positive reinforcements!  And I am jussssst now realizing I am able to start molding this concept on my little 13 month old daughter.

What exactly is positive reinforcement?  Well, it's what I like to call, "Catch 'Em Being Good" and to encourage that behavior.  So, for instance if you see your child sitting there patting the dog affectionately, instead of grabbing and hitting the poor thing, then give your little one kudos and acknowledge their behavior!  Don't just think to yourself how nice they are behaving, actually say it out loud!

Giving positive reinforcements really helps foster better cooperation, compliance, less irritability, fewer temper tantrums and it also boosts a child's self esteem.

The concept is to give little attention to bad behaviors and big attention to good behaviors.   For older toddlers, preschoolers, and school aged kids, the more attention they get for good behaviors, the more you will see them do it and acting out less!

On a side note here for non-verbal young ones, they are still learning danger vs non- danger, so I still sometimes have to give a firm 'No' when my child is about to hurt herself.

And when I want to encourage a good behavior, I use that 'good doggie' voice and raise it up a notch and get all excited happy when she does something well.  That way it will encourage my child to do it again.

So here is what it looks like with preschoolers and school aged kids :

A child playing nicely with his brother: "Chase, you are playing together with your brother so well, you are sharing and I don't hear any arguing!!"

Dinner time: "Sara, you put your own plate in the sink, I am so proud of you!!"

Bedtime: "Wow, you did such a great job of brushing your teeth, and you didn't even need to be reminded!"

So basically, you acknowledge behaviors any time you see your child complying (catching them doing something good) such as, "You wiped your feet before you came inside, thank you so much for keeping your shoes and the house clean!"

See what I mean? Just the little tiny things that you would normally take for granted, notice them and comment on them.

So there you have it.  I have let you in on one of the little secrets to success.  Yep, this is the main thing we counselors teach parents when their child is having temper tampers, acting out at home, has symptoms of ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorders. But no reason to wait until it's too late and you are about to pull your hair out. Start early and you will be able to curb most bad behaviors before they even start. Oh and this works well with other people living in your home too like spouses, in-laws, etc. :)  Catch 'em being good!
Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday today!  We started off at our Lake Highlads neighborhood parade.  Luna was mesmerized by the firetrucks, the man on stilts and all the cheerleaders waving 'hello'.  She had a great time, until her mom realized she locked her keys in the car. Well, there's a first time for everything, huh?  I have momma brain for sure and the 100 degree heat didn't help either!  Luckily our neighbors were there and helped us out!!

Since it's a scorcher here in Dallas today, we headed to my sister's house for lunch to cool off and dip in the pool.   Luna loves pools and her momma loves this pool especially, since it's salt water and has dark tile which makes it feels like the shade.

We decided to skip on the fireworks tonight since Luna is still too young and goes to bed at 7pm.  She has never stayed up super late and 9:30pm is really pushing it!  Next year for sure, we know she will really enjoy them!

Happy 4th!!