Ask the Expert

the baby years

Q: My breast-fed baby is often gassy and fussy. Is this caused by something in my diet? Are there foods I should avoid while breastfeeding? ANSWER

Q: We hate to see our baby crying from discomfort and pain due to new teeth growing in. What are some safe ways to help ease a baby’s teething discomfort? ANSWER

Q: Before we start stocking up on baby bottom balm and lavender baby wash, we want to get an expert opinion. What type of skin care products does a baby truly need and what can we do without? Are there specific cleansers that are better than others? Do babies need a moisturizer? ANSWER >

Q: What are the best play ideas to encourage our baby’s development? ANSWER >

Q: What is “colic crying” and how do we best calm a fussy baby? ANSWER >

Q: We need to buy a lot of baby gear and equipment (car seats, strollers, crib, etc.) for our new baby. But does it all need to be brand new? What has to be purchased new and what is safe to purchase used? ANSWER >

Q: Our baby is babbling non-stop. It’s like she has her own language and creating her own social interactions. What are the best ways for parents to interact during these adorable babble fests, and should we encourage this babbling or what? ANSWER >

Q: My baby was born with a small birthmark on his head. Should I be concerned? Do they usually fade and if not, can they be treated or removed? ANSWER >

Q: What are the benefits of massage for infants and babies? How does it work? ANSWER >

Q: My 5-month-old wakes up several times during the night and as a result, I am one sleep-deprived mama! How can I help her stay asleep through the night? Is there a way to ‘train’ her to sleep better and longer? ANSWER >

Q: I know that ‘tummy time’ is important for my baby (builds muscles, etc.), but try telling my baby that! He’s just not into it. In fact, he fusses and cries. How can I help make tummy time more fun for baby – and for me? Any tips? ANSWER >

Q: I know that reading is one of life’s most important skills. How early in a child’s life should a parent start focusing on reading readiness? What steps can we take with our 6-month-old to prepare her to read? ANSWER >

Q: We’re new parents and looking forward to camping this summer with our little guy. I’m sure the idea of camping with a baby sounds crazy to some, but we love the outdoors and want to give it a shot. Any tips to help us make it a success? ANSWER >

Q: My husband thinks swimming classes for our 6-month-old baby is a silly idea and we are just as well off going to a community pool as a family. Are there actual benefits for starting a child swimming at this age? And are there any risks? ANSWER >

Q: I know that co-sleeping with an infant is a hotly contested issue. But for those parents who choose to co-sleep with their baby, what steps should they take in order to set up the safest possible sleep environment? ANSWER >

Q: Life with a newborn has me flustered and bewildered. It seems like the crying, rocking, feeding, walking-the-floor insanity is going to last forever. I’m also dealing with extreme fatigue and roller-coaster emotions. What are some ways that I can stay balanced when my new baby totally rocks my world? ANSWER >

Q: When I recently Googled “best toys for babies,” I came up with more than 32 million results. Sure, there are endless opportunities for parents to spend their money on toys, so please help us cut to the chase: What kinds of toys are good for babies? ANSWER >

Q: Finding the right childcare setting for my 6-month-old baby seems overwhelming. What are some tips for finding the right place for him? ANSWER >

Q: Is it ok to give my baby a pacifier when he gets fussy? If so, is there a better type over another? If not, what are the risks in doing so? ANSWER >

Q: My baby is due soon and I want to make sure I purchase the best type of car seat for an infant and that I get it installed correctly – any tips? ANSWER >

Q: Can you prevent type 1 diabetes? My first child was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus when he was 5 years old. I just had a baby and I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to reduce her odds of getting diabetes too? ANSWER >

Q: I know that newborns’ immune systems aren’t built up yet, so they’re more susceptible to illness. Being that I am a bit of a germaphobe, I am nervous about what my newborn should be exposed to. Should I be asking visitors to slather on hand sanitizer before touching her? How do I protect her without going overboard? ANSWER >

Q: Can we travel with our newborn baby? Is it safe to let her fly on a plane? ANSWER >

Q: I want to make sure I have breastfeeding success with my newborn. Is there any problem with supplementing breast milk with a bottle of formula now and then? Will this affect my baby or affect my milk supply? ANSWER >

Q: What are some tips for getting my baby on a regular sleep schedule? ANSWER >

the early years

Q: My toddler is a runner. As soon as we arrive anywhere, she takes off running. If I chase her, she looks back at me laughing and runs faster. How do I deal calmly with this while keeping her out of danger? ANSWER

Q: I’m going back to work and want to find the best child care facility I can for my 2-year-old. What should I be looking for when I’m researching facilities? ANSWER

Q: We’re wondering about the importance of a child’s ‘baby teeth.’ Since these teeth will fall out anyway, do they require the same care and attention as permanent teeth? Also, when should parents schedule their child’s first dental check? ANSWER >

Q: Our toddler acts shy in social situations. People around her might try to help by saying, “Don’t be shy” or “Has the cat got your tongue?” but these reactions seem to increase her anxiety and make her more self-conscious. Any tips for ways we can encourage her to feel more comfortable and gain confidence? ANSWER >

Q: Ah, the dreaded public tantrum – we’ve all been there, right? It’s hard to ignore a toddler having a meltdown in the supermarket or restaurant, so what is the best way to handle these moments outside of the home? ANSWER >

Q: Now that our child is learning to read, what are some ways we can help her get excited about reading and encourage her to appreciate books? Any tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime? ANSWER >

Q: My preschooler has picked up some foul language and has been using his “potty mouth” at very inappropriate times. He doesn’t really know what it means, but he likes getting a reaction. What is the best way to deal with this? ANSWER >

Q: Our child will be starting daycare and I’m worried about germs being passed back and forth! Do you have any tips for keeping our family healthy, so we are not stuck in a cycle of sickness? Should we talk to the daycare teacher about germ prevention? ANSWER >

Q: My toddler sometimes hits me when he’s upset or frustrated – and it can be embarrassing in public. This aggression also makes me feel like I’m failing as a good parent. Is this behavior normal and how should I be responding? ANSWER >

Q: As parents, how do we explain dramatic, disturbing news (that often leaves us speechless) to our 5-year-old? From natural disasters to mass shootings, the wall-to-wall coverage is hard to avoid. What are some ways to talk to young children and help them deal with this information without adding to any fears? ANSWER >

Q: It’s happened. My 3-year-old has decided he will eat only a few foods: bread and cheese, chips, fruit snacks and apples. We’re concerned he’s missing out on some important nutrients. We’ve tried to convince (and yes, bribe) the little guy, but he’s not giving in. So, what should we be doing during this very frustrating food rut? ANSWER >

Q: How does early music education affect a child’s learning ability? Would it be beneficial to our 3-year-old? Can he take ‘formalized’ lessons at this age? ANSWER >

Q: We’d like to get our 4-year-old involved in gardening this summer so she can learn more about how plants grow and where food comes from. What are some pint-sized projects that would be fun and easy for her to tackle in the garden? ANSWER >

Q: We’ve all witnessed a toddler screaming in a restaurant or acting out while food is on the table. Now that our daughter is entering toddlerhood, what are some ways to not only prevent this bad behavior at dinnertime, but also teach her to have good table manners? ANSWER >

Q: When I’m trying to put together lunch or make dinner, my toddler is always climbing up my leg and it’s hard to get anything done with one arm. How can I get her involved in the kitchen? Are there any appropriate tasks she can handle at that age? ANSWER >

Q: My toddler is always shouting “Mine!” as she grabs any and every toy from her playmate. I’ve told her that she can’t keep all the best toys to herself when she’s with other kids, but she doesn’t seem to get it. How can I teach her to share? ANSWER >

Q: My 3-year-old is just starting to show an interest in arts and crafts, and I’m eager to encourage her creativity. Do you have any suggestions for activities that we could enjoy together?

Q: My 3-year-old daughter is interested in helping with chores, but the jobs she wants to do – washing the dog and vacuuming – are too big for her. What are some tasks that are just the right size? ANSWER >

Q: We’re planning to take a long flight with our very squirmy toddler. Any tips (or tricks) for stress-free flying with our tiny traveler? ANSWER >

Q: I think my son has social anxiety. He went to a birthday party – with a bouncy castle, games, costumed characters and balloons everywhere – but he still wanted to stay attached to my leg instead of joining in on the fun. Should I be worried? And are there any strategies I can use to help him get comfortable in a crowd? ANSWER >

Q: My son is a pretty good eater, but refuses to eat vegetables. What are some tips for getting toddlers to eat their vegetables? ANSWER >

Q: My 27-month-old daughter still hasn’t started talking, even though she understands almost everything we ask her to do. She’s smart, but should I be concerned that she might have a speech disability? ANSWER >

Q: I’m trying to introduce potty training to my 25-month-old, but it seems like she feels it’s more of a punishment to be on the potty than an exciting hurdle. Is there a way I can make this a fun experience for her? ANSWER >

Q: My child is having trouble with separation when I bring him to preschool. What are some ways I can mitigate his reaction when I’m about to leave? ANSWER >

the middle years

Q: How do I keep my 5- and 8-year-old entertained indoors when they can’t play outside, like on very cold or rainy days? ANSWER

Q: Our fourth-grader seems really anxious and stressed before any school tests. How can we help ease her anxiety and best set her up for test success? ANSWER >

Q: My son turns 7 this year and seems to have an interest in music. What musical instrument might be a good fit at this age? ANSWER >

Q: This is my son’s first year to go to an overnight summer camp and I’m worried he’ll be homesick. Any advice? ANSWER >

Q: Our 8-year-old wants a pet and promises he will care for it. We know his intentions are good, but are afraid that after a few months and a busy schedule, he may lose interest in those tasks. Any tips for choosing the right pet for our child and is he old enough for a pet? ANSWER >

Q: Our fourth grader has moved into a new school and is struggling to make friends. Any suggestions for ways we can help him? ANSWER >

Q: My 8-year-old keeps a very messy room, which is the cause of many arguments between the two of us. How can I get a better result, as my current nagging is obviously not working!

Q: We’re concerned about our 8-year-old’s weight. What is the best (and safest) way to help her lose weight at this age? And are there any incentives or ideas to get our whole family onboard with healthy changes (rather than singling out our one child)? ANSWER >

Q: Our 8-year-old thinks money grows on trees (or magically pops out of ATMs). What are some age-appropriate ways we can teach him to gain a better understanding about money, and how to save and spend it wisely? ANSWER >

Q: I know that working with numbers and math concepts can be fun and challenging for some children, but it is a very different experience for my son. He gets stressed out and feels frustrated about not getting the answers right and is developing a dislike for the subject. Any tips for ways we can help him handle this math anxiety? ANSWER >

Q: Our 7-year-old can be sarcastic and sassy. I will ask him, “Are you ready to clean your room?” and, as usual, he barely looks up from what he’s doing. After I ask him several times, he says mockingly, “I don’t know. Am I?” Not sure where he learned the snarky comeback (playground, TV show?) but how should we address this bratty behavior and help him move toward a more respectful attitude? ANSWER >

Q: How do we begin to have a conversation about discrimination with our 8-year-old? Sometimes he blurts out offensive comments about others who are different from him. In one case, it was an overweight child at the park. How should parents handle this? ANSWER >

Q: My son, who is now in 1st grade, has an adorable way of saying his “R’s” as almost a “W” sound (such as “wabbit” for “rabbit” and “owange” for “orange”). But as he gets older, I worry about him being afraid to speak up in class or being teased by peers. Will he just outgrow it? Should I correct him? I don’t want to give him a complex. What should I do to help? ANSWER >

Q: It’s the season of giving and I want to teach my 10-year-old about the value of giving back. But I don’t want to drag him to a soup kitchen. Any suggestions for easy and fun things he can do that will help him see how good it feels to do something for others? ANSWER >

Q: Our 6-year-old shows no interest in sports; she would rather read, draw or play. But I do want her to have a positive experience with sports and physical activity. Do I risk turning her off to sports and activity if I “force her” to do them? Any tips? ANSWER >

Q: My 6-year-old daughter often has nightmares. She gets very upset and then comes into our bed for comfort. What might be causing these nightmares and what is the best way to help her cope? ANSWER >

Q: My 8-year-old daughter loves to perform on the piano, but is always unnerved prior to a performance. How can I help her overcome her fear? ANSWER >

Q: My 9-year-old wants to switch from glasses to contacts. Some of her classmates have them and she doesn’t want to be left out. Are contact lenses a good choice for kids this age? How do we know if she’s a good candidate? ANSWER >

Q: Is it healthy for children to be vegetarians? I am a vegetarian, but I have some concerns that my children (5 and 7) might not get enough nutrients. ANSWER >

Q: My 7-year-old child is still wetting the bed. Should I start worrying? And what can I do to help him have an accident-free night? ANSWER >

Q: My 8-year-old son is a reluctant reader. In fact, he says he hates to read. What are some ways I can help him enjoy reading and move toward a book-filled future? ANSWER >

Q: I try to teach my 10-year-old to have good posture, but it doesn’t always work. Why is good posture so important? Are there any health risks associated with bad posture? ANSWER >

Q: My child is 9 years old and her new permanent teeth have a yellowish tint to them. I make sure she brushes and she even uses whitening toothpaste sometimes. Is there something wrong or something else we can/should be doing? ANSWER >

the tween & teen years

Q: My daughter sustained her second concussion during soccer and I want her to stop playing soccer all together because I’m worried about re-injury. Is retiring her from sports the right decision? ANSWER

Q: It can be hard for pre-teens and teens to know when a dating relationship is unhealthy. What are the main signs of relationship abuse – and how can parents spot it long before the victim can? What are the best things parents can do to prevent relationship violence in their teen?

Q: Now and then, my daughter can have a bit of an attitude, accompanied by shrugs, rolling eyes and bored looks. What is the best way to connect and communicate through these challenges? ANSWER >

Q: This summer my tween will be too old for daycare and too young for a job. What are some ways to keep her busy during the summer? ANSWER >

Q: Our pediatrician checked our teenager’s cholesterol and it came back high. What should we do? ANSWER >

Q: My 13-year-old has no interest in physical activity. Through the years, she’s tried karate, soccer and ballet. But now, she isn’t interested, and we don’t want to shove activities or sports down her throat. Any suggestions to motivate her? ANSWER >

Q: How much privacy should parents give teenagers as it relates to their phone and computer? ANSWER >

Q: I’d love for our teen to get involved in some volunteer activities this summer. Any tips for encouraging and helping him find the right fit? ANSWER >

Q: With all the accidents due to distracted driving, I’m pretty concerned about my teen getting behind the wheel. Are there any anti-distraction measures that parents can employ to monitor a child’s driving activities? Or other solutions for helping teens become safer drivers? ANSWER >

Q: With marijuana becoming legalized, the conversation about the effects of marijuana on teens has gotten a lot more complicated. How do we talk to our teens about the effects of marijuana, in light of the changing laws and societal attitudes? ANSWER >

Q: It seems that in every school across the country, kids are being victimized by bullies. As parents of a preteen, we feel at a loss for how to prevent it from happening. What are some ways to help empower our child to respond and stand up to bullies? ANSWER >

Q: My two teenage kids are masters at all things electronics, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to switch off the devices and get connected as a family – like having an old-fashioned family game night. Any suggestions for some board games that would keep teens entertained – and maybe even teach them some important skills? ANSWER >

Q: My 9th grader, who is very bright and articulate, is totally unmotivated in school, and his report card grades definitely reflect his lack of effort. Any suggestions on how we can help teach him to raise his grades? ANSWER >

Q: When I ask my teenage kid why he’s so stressed out, he gives me a long list of offenders (homework, tests, friends, the way he looks, girlfriends, no free time, etc.). Any tips on how I can help my overwhelmed teen cope with stress? ANSWER >

Q: My teenage son, a first-time job hunter, says he keeps applying for jobs, but he never hears back from anybody. How can he get an employer to take notice? ANSWER >

Q: My 15-year-old says he wants to start drinking coffee to help increase his alertness in school and enhance his athletic performance. Should I be concerned about coffee consumption at his age? ANSWER >

Q: My son tells me that vaping is the new, popular thing with teenagers and that it’s a safe alternative to smoking. What do I need to know? ANSWER >

Q: I want to motivate my 14-year-old to start exercising, but I’m having a hard time. He claims to hate working out. How can I get him away from the screens and, even more than that, enjoy being physically active? ANSWER >

Q: I don’t like to think about it, but I know the truth is that many teens try alcohol during their high school and college years, long before it’s legal for them to drink it. What can we parents do to help our teens make smart decisions and ‘just say no’ to using and abusing alcohol? ANSWER >

Q: How do I help my teenager stay safe online and act responsible on social networks?

Q: When my teenage daughter misbehaves, I can’t just put her in a time-out like I did when she was little. And if I yell “you’re grounded,” she just sits around stewing and probably isn’t learning the intended lesson. So what is the best approach to disciplining teens for bad behavior? ANSWER >

Q: Many teens get pimples that are handled with over-the-counter treatments. But what is the difference between mild teen acne and something more serious that would benefit from a dermatologist’s help? ANSWER >

Q: It’s hard to get more than two words out of my teen. Do you have any conversation strategies to help me communicate with my son? ANSWER >