ask the pediatrician

Have a few worries, concerns or questions about your new baby? Welcome to parenthood! Since babies don’t come with instructions, we thought we’d address some common questions new parents often have. To help us out we sought the advice of Dr. Janet Shen from The Children’s Clinic, Anchorage.

Dr. Janet Shen is a board-certified pediatrician with The Children’s Clinic, Anchorage.

Q: We’re concerned that our new baby has colic. She cries for what seems like hours a day. What can I do to soothe her?

Colic is defined as prolonged crying in an infant (more than 3 hours a day). It is most common between 3 weeks to 2-3 months of age and usually occurs at the same time of day (unfortunately, evenings are most popular). The cause of colic is unknown, especially since the baby seems fine the rest of the day, but is probably due to a combination of factors, including an immature nervous or gastrointestinal system. A fussy baby should be examined by the pediatrician to make sure there are no other reasons for the fussiness. If the mother is breastfeeding, she may be asked to avoid some foods which may cause discomfort in the baby, such as dairy and caffeine. There are some soothing techniques that parents could try, such as swaddling, rocking while holding the baby upright or on her tummy, infant massage, a warm bath, white noise, or (if feasible) going for a drive. If nothing works, don’t be afraid to put the baby in her crib for a few minutes so the parent can “regroup” and calm down. Remember that colic always resolves by around 3 months of age.

Q: With all the talk of obesity, should I be worried that my baby is overweight? Should I restrict his calories to make sure he does not become an overweight preschooler?

With one in three American children classified as overweight or obese, parents need to start thinking about establishing healthy habits early. Regular visits to your baby’s pediatrician is a good way to track your baby’s growth. You should never restrict your baby’s caloric intake unless recommended by the pediatrician. However, there are some things you can do to prevent obesity later on. Breastfeeding is recommended (unless there are maternal reasons not to) since breast milk contains the perfect combination of fat, carbohydrate and protein for a baby’s nutritional needs. Ensuring adequate sleep, encouraging active play, limiting television/media exposure, a healthy diet and regular meal times are also important. Don’t use food as a reward or a pacifier. Don’t force your child to eat if he is not hungry. If you are concerned about your baby’s weight or nutrition, make sure you address it with his pediatrician.

Q: Is it safe to fly with a newborn?

If your newborn was checked by her pediatrician and is healthy, it is medically safe for her to fly. However, traveling with a newborn usually involves exposing her to crowds and, therefore, a number of potential viruses and bacteria. Newborns have very immature immune systems and are very susceptible to infections, so make sure you do not expose her unnecessarily to germs. Keep her in a sling or in her car seat if possible; do not let adoring passers-by touch or hold her, and keep your hands clean as well. Follow all safety regulations on the flight. She may experience some ear discomfort during takeoff or landing, so try to nurse her or feed her a bottle during those moments.

*This column is intended to provide general information and guidance only and is not intended to replace the personal medical advice of your health care provider.