Ask Dr. Jay
Pediatrician Jay Gordon answers questions about your baby's health.
My 15-month-old came down with a nasty case of croup last spring. Is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening again?
Croup is a viral illness that causes inflammation and narrowing of the respiratory passages, usually in babies and toddlers. Children with croup generally can inhale with no problem, but exhaling causes a barking, seallike cough, which can sound a lot scarier than it really is.
The best thing you can do to prevent croup is to breastfeed your baby, as it minimizes his chances of contracting any illness. If your baby does develop the infection, the best early treatment is to take him outside if the air is cool and moist—dress him warmly and drive him around in the car with the windows rolled down. The second best thing is to buy a cool-mist humidifier and let it "rain" directly on your child.
If your child spikes a fever, try bringing it down with Infants' Tylenol--one dropperful for every year of age, every four hours, is a good guideline--and by putting him in a lukewarm bath. If his fever runs as high as 104° F, call your pediatrician; also call if your child has trouble inhaling, as this indicates excessive narrowing of the respiratory tract.
Soothing Your Baby's Tummy
My 6-week-old daughter seems to have stomachaches often. She is breastfed, is gaining weight and smiles, but she also seems uncomfortable much of the time. What should I do?
It's normal for babies of this age to get full and gassy, but rest assured that as her intestinal tract matures, she'll have a much easier time. That said, I have had great results decreasing a breastfed baby's gastric distress by changing the mom's diet. Eliminating dairy products, eggs and peanuts can make a huge difference; these protein-rich foods can make breast milk harder to digest. If you do eliminate dairy and are worried about getting enough calcium, take a calcium-magnesium supplement.
In the meantime, try burping your baby more frequently. In addition, switch breasts only once during a breastfeeding session. This will decrease your milk flow slightly, ease her digestion and decrease her gas.
You Snooze, You Lose
Just one more time: How long do babies sleep? And when, oh when, do they sleep through the night?
Many babies, especially newborns, sleep only a few hours at a stretch because they need to waken to be cuddled or fed. Some may start sleeping longer at 4 or 5 months; others may not until after the first year. To help fix this "problem,"many books tell you to let your baby cry it out beginning in his first few weeks. But by enforcing these sleep-changing programs, you encourage less contact with, and feeding by, your baby.
The safest and most loving way to handle the sleep issue is to feed and cuddle your baby whenever he wakes up and to continue doing so for as long as it works for your family. In other words, make your own rulebook.