Good Fats Needed: Your Child’s Brain and Health

Could government guidelines for a diet low in healthy fats be making our children sick? The numbers and new research suggest this may just be the case. From 2003 to 2011, for instance, ADD/ADHD rates increased by 43%, and continue to rise. The number of kids on antidepressants jumped 50% from 2005 to 2012, with over 7 million children now taking psychoactive drugs.

In 2015, 6 million children in the U.S. were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and treated with Ritalin, Adderall, and related drugs. While this means that only two out of three kids with diagnosed ADHD are treated, some experts feel that not enough children are being medicated. This is backwards reasoning that fails to look at the cause of ADHD. Over 2.1 million kids in the U.S., meanwhile, are taking anti-depressants, according to 2017 statistics.

There is no sign that trends in these ailments are reversing, but the good news is that there are practical steps you can take to prevent or alleviate these disorders. Adding vitamins and healthier food to your child’s diet will provide essential nutrients that are missing in the Standard American Diet.

SAD daily food plan
Standard American Diet (SAD) daily food plan

New research is discovering nutritional solutions to mental health issues, pointing to vitamin supplementation and better diet as the most effective solution for mental health issues. Studies show that certain fats make excellent antidepressants. Even severe depression and schizophrenia have been successfully treated with vitamins and diet.

The good news is that you can keep kids happy and healthy by changing their diet. Your children can benefit from proven research which is not yet widely known or accepted. The bad news is that you have to be willing to buck traditional nutritional and medical advice.

There are many plusses to treating mental health issues with diet instead of drugs. Let’s compare diet to Ritalin, the most common psychoactive drug given to kids:

Dietary Approach to ADHD:Ritalin:
No side effects.Long list of side effects including nervousness, tics, insomnia, weight loss, psychosis, etc.


Lower cost.The cheapest discounted Ritalin will cost about $400 per year for 30-40 mg per day. Full price and higher dosage could easily triple that amount to $1,200.
Long-lasting improvement: Mental health benefits from dietary supplements can last for at least one year after stopping supplements.Ritalin works only for as long as it is taken.



Before we discuss diet, let’s take a look at how started down this path of declining mental and physical health.

Replacing Fat with Sugar

In the 1970s, the nutrition advice of the U.S. government underwent a radical change in an effort to stem rising heart attack rates in men. Wanting a quick solution, politicians seized on the results of the earliest studies, ignoring researchers who cautioned them to wait until all the data was in. Worse yet, the new nutrition guidelines targeted adult men, ignoring children’s differing needs. The assumption that the new guidelines were safe for all has since been proven incorrect. The diet, moreover, did not prevent male heart attacks.

The new policy recommended eating a carbohydrate-loaded diet and restricting fats, especially saturated fats. People stopped eating animal fats, and ate more sugar, a simple carbohydrate. Manufacturers “improved” tasteless, boring, fat-free snack foods by adding sugar. The resulting products were sold as health food, while butter and fatty meats were said to be dangerous. Sugary foods were even marketed as low-fat and heart-healthy, despite being mostly devoid of nutrients.

Snackwell Devil's Food cookies were low in fats, high in sugar
The Snackwell Effect: high-carb, low-fat cookies touted as a health food

The new food items were a win for food companies because they were cheap to produce and had shelf lives stretching far into the future. Some breakfast cereals were over 50% sugar, while claiming to be good for children. Now that we have adult-onset diabetes in kids under ten, we’re beginning to see that sugar was never just a source of empty “fat-free” calories.

Inexpensive high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS) was first marketed in the late 1960s, and plugged as healthier than sugar, because fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar. But HFCS is 45% glucose, 55% fructose, while table sugar is 50% glucose, 50% fructose. There’s no great difference between the two. And while fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar, it does go straight to the liver, just like alcohol. Children who drink large quantities of sugary soda, use lots of sugar-laden ketchup, and eat sweet treats, may just end up developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Hidden Sugar

Today the CDC recommends limiting sugars, but other than recommending that kids under two avoid added sugar, fails to specify how much sugar is too much.  We’re used to a sweet edge on food, so manufacturers add sugar to commercial foods to make them taste better. As parents and consumers, we do however, have the right to check packaged foods for hidden sugar and to choose sugarless items.

Avoiding sugar except for rare treats makes sense. According to pediatric researchers, NAFLD is now common among children, affecting 3-12% of children, in general, and occurring in 70-80% of obese children. After 2020, NAFLD will become the most common reason for liver transplants. For kids, and especially teens, obesity creates its own world of mental anguish, as obese kids often face rejection and bullying.

Sugar may create behavior issues, too. Many parents note that children are more manageable on a low-sugar diet. Kids seem to have better focus and concentration without sugar. Sugar may be harming our children’s mental health. Mental health statistics suggest that lowering dietary fats and replacing them with sugar has only made things worse.

The Wrong Fats

Until 1990, McDonald’s used beef fat to make its crispy fries taste hearty. But a consumer advocate group believing the early, flawed research results, waged war on saturated fats. McDonald’s switched to a “heart-healthy” fat for its fries.

The food industry already had an inexpensive answer to the fat conundrum. Crisco and margarine had been around since the early 1900s. These hydrogenated trans fats made from vegetable sources replaced “unhealthful” animal fats. Trans fats were vegan and miraculous for food texture—until 2001, when we found out just how bad they are. Heart inflammation and brain issues such as memory loss are just two side effects of these solid fats.

The food industry switched to liquid vegetable oils. But when repeatedly heated to high temperatures these oils produce dangerous, cancer-causing acrylamides. Eating foods deep fried in these seed oils during pregnancy deters fetal brain development. That means that families eating lots of deep-fried foods are at risk for brain issues.

Because we traded bad fats for worse fats.

Most commercial vegetable oils, for instance canola oil, are unstable seed oils, and are best avoided. Such oils are high in unhealthy Omega 6 fats and low or without beneficial Omega 3 fats. As a rule, if an oil can’t be produced outside of a factory, it is inflammatory. Inflammation is responsible for many harmful disease processes throughout the body.

complicated canola oil production versus simple olive oil extraction puts olive oil in the family of good fats
Canola oil is extracted with multiple chemical processes; olives are simply pressed to release their oil.

Better Fats, Better Brains

If canola oil is bad for your child’s general health and brain health, what fats are good? For non-meat, non-dairy options, coconut oil, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil are all good choices. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are great for brain health and mental clarity. Avocadoes are a food source containing healthy fats.

We need healthy fats because the nervous system needs fat for proper function and because the human brain is 60% fat. Brain growth and development reach their full potential when we eat a traditional pre-industrial diet of home-cooked foods. In spite of what we now know, current CDC recommendations still advise a low-fat diet for children.

Cleveland dentist, Weston A. Price, demonstrated a number of the benefits of animal fats in the 1930s. Adding good grass-fed butter to the diet resolved nutrition and health issues in malnourished inner-city children, including tooth decay. These days, the CDC-recommended low-fat diet has left even affluent children malnourished.

Important: Fat-Soluble Vitamins D, A, and K

Parents once gave kids butter and cod liver oil rich in Vitamins D, A, and K, to keep them healthy. We ate fatty foods and foods fried in animal fats. The high-carb, low-fat trends of today’s Standard American Diet have left us literally SAD and reeling from depression. By putting nutritional fats back into the diet we can turn that frown upside down.

Vitamin D

Most people including children are, today, deficient in Vitamin D, a major cause of depression. The two sources of Vitamin D are sunshine and food. When kids play mostly indoors, they lose out on sun exposure. This means kids make less Vitamin D in their skin. Instead, they get their Vitamin D from milk with added Vitamin D2, which is inferior to the D3 we make in response to sunlight or consume from animal sources.

Animal sources are the most bio-available form of D. Bio-availability means that a nutrient source is eaten in the same form that our body uses directly. Non-bio-availability means that a chemical conversion is required, and this usually means a shortfall in that nutrient.

Why do we need Vitamin D3? Vitamin D3 acts as a hormone in the body. It helps us fight viral infections; absorb calcium for growth and maintenance; and regulate blood pressure. The mental wellness effects of D3 were well-known to traditional peoples who prized fatty fish.

Dr. Jay Wortman, a Canadian M.D. and researcher, interviewed an older First Nations man about his traditional diet, which includes oil from the oolichan fish. High in D3 and other fat-soluble nutrients, oolichan oil was described by his grandfather as “your sun in the winter”. In the far north, the mood-boosting effects of the oil are important in the long, dark winter. Another key component of that northern diet is salmon, also a fatty fish. Traditional peoples did not avoid fats; they prized them as health-giving components of a proper diet.

Native American smelting process for oolichan or eulachon fish, a source of healthy fats
Oolichan or eulachon fish were a prized source of healthy fats for the indigenous population. Here they are rendered to extract the fat.

A diet deficient in D3 can mean poor mental and physical health. Correcting D3 deficiency may help fight autism. D3 acts to combat depression. Diagnosing and correcting a deficiency in Vitamin D3 levels should be the first line of treatment for depression. If your child suffers from depression, you will need to tackle the problem with sunshine and outdoor exercise, fatty fish, or D3 drops. You can check recommended sun exposure times for season and location here.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is another important vitamin that fights infections, and long-term deficiency causes night blindness. A lack of Vitamin A leaves one prone to infectious diseases like pneumonia and measles. Enough Vitamin A means the ability to fight off serious infections. For school kids, that’s a big edge, especially in flu season.

Some think that a low-fat carrot muffin made with vegetable oil has enough beta carotene to provide Vitamin A. But the beta-carotene in carrots and yellow vegetables doesn’t readily convert to enough usable Vitamin A. That does not mean you shouldn’t eat yellow vegetables. It means you need to add a meat source, for instance liver, once a week, to get enough bio-available Vitamin A in your diet.

Start serving liver when children are young, and you won’t have to introduce it later. The secret is not to overcook liver, and to serve it with a smile. If kids won’t eat liver, try flavored cod liver oil for a balanced dose of A, D3 and other essential nutrients.

While Vitamin A is essential, you can get too much, so:

  • Always check dosage information for your child’s age and body weight.
  • Keep your pediatrician in the loop whenever you use supplements.
  • Remember it is always best to get nutrients from food.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is another key nutrient we are coming to appreciate for its many health benefits. Vitamin K2 has many important and distinct functions.

K2 Functions:

  • Supports brain function
  • Supports growth and development
  • Keeps skin healthy
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Maintains bone strength
  • Prevents cancer

Eating foods with Vitamins K2, D3, and A will keep your child in good mental and physical health. We’re still learning about the best K2 food sources.

K2 Food Sources:

  • Fermented foods like natto and sauerkraut
  • Meats, including beef, chicken, and cured meats such as salami
  • Chicken liver
  • Butter and fatty cheeses
  • Egg yolks

Health and dietary trends show that the outmoded low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet recommendations aren’t working. Replacing fats with sugar, damages the health. Yet we stick with poor government advice. Mental health issues, childhood obesity, and diabetes are epidemic. Yet these urgent issues have not made a dent in the anti-fat CDC guidelines. Happily, parents have the power to make food choices for their children.

Real Food and Fats for Better Mental and Overall Health

Simple diet choices can have major impact. Serve kids real foods like eggs scrambled in grass-fed butter instead of breakfast cereal. Use full-fat cheese and olives on a lunch salad, and nourishing meats and fish for dinner. You don’t have to labor for hours, just plan ahead when shopping. Fish and hamburgers each take 20 minutes, tops. Frozen veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and spinach can be cooked with butter and full-fat cream or coconut cream. Blend veggies and cream with an immersion blender and a few seasonings for a hearty, filling soup. Add eggs instead and bake a casserole that can also be packed as tomorrow’s lunch along with a handful of nuts.

Cooking real food doesn’t have to be hard, and kids will find the fats so satisfying and filling that they won’t be looking for overpriced between-meal snacks.

This writer strongly believes that the evidence is sufficient and urgent enough for parents to make bold dietary decisions for their families. Our children’s mental and physical health are at stake. Our national institutions show little interest in revoking long-held and long-discredited nutritional advice. But there’s no time to wait. It’s up to us to protect our children.

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What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease. It’s the common name for a usually minor virus that mostly affects preschool and school-age children aged 5-15 years in the springtime. The medical name for fifth disease is erythema infectiosum and it is caused by parvovirus B19.

Fifth disease passes quickly and most children get better without complications. A parent might think the child coming down with fifth disease has a cold virus. At the start, there’s low fever, a headache and a stuffy or runny nose. Then the symptoms leave and the child seems to be all better.

A few days later, the rash comes out. The rash is bright red and starts with the face, eventually traveling down to the chest and back, buttocks, arms, legs, and bottoms of the feet. At first the child will look like someone slapped his face. In fact, doctors call it the “slapped cheek rash.” As the rash spreads downward, it looks more like red blotches.

By Andrew Kerr (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fifth Disease: A Lacy Pink Net

After a few days, the rash changes and begins to look like a lacy pink net, covering the skin. Sometimes the rash itches. It can take from 1-3 weeks for the rash to go away.

Fifth disease got its name by being the fifth childhood virus with a rash. The other viral rash diseases of childhood are measles, rubella, chicken pox, and roseola.

Not every child with fifth disease gets the rash. The rash is more common in kids below the age of 10 years. In 78% of older teens and adults, fifth disease can come with swollen, painful joints. The swelling and pain may last weeks or months. In rare cases, chronic joint pain and swelling can last for as many as 9 years.

Some adults with fifth disease only have painful joints and no other symptoms. This is called polyarthropathy syndrome. The affected joints are usually in the hands, feet, and knees. More women develop polyarthropathy syndrome than men. Most of the time (in 90% of cases), the pain lasts 1-3 weeks and goes away without any long-term issues.

It’s less common, but sometimes fifth disease comes with sore throat, reddened eyes, swollen glands, and diarrhea. Sometimes the rash is different and looks more like bruises or blisters. In other cases, some 20% of the time, a person with fifth disease will have no symptoms at all. Even without symptoms, the infection can spread to others.

Because of the way the rash spreads, a parent may think the child is getting worse. As the rash spreads and becomes lacy, however, it’s getting ready to fade away for good. Here’s the ironic thing about fifth disease: when you see the rash, the illness is usually no longer contagious.

The rash is the body’s way of reacting to the infection. This immune system reaction to parvovirus B19 happens only after the infection has cleared out of the system. Fifth disease is contagious during the early days of mild fever and cold symptoms, and usually not when the telltale bright red rash appears. In other words, fifth disease is only contagious when you don’t yet know what it is!

Fifth disease is difficult to prevent. There’s no vaccination for fifth disease. It’s hard not to spread the disease, since it seems like just a mild cold during the time fifth disease is contagious. The best thing to do is to wash your hands a lot whenever you or anyone you care for has cold symptoms.

It takes 4-14 days to develop fifth disease after being exposed to the virus. Parvovirus B19 is usually spread through the saliva, phlegm, or nasal mucus of an infected person who coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be spread through the blood, which is why a pregnant woman can pass fifth disease to her baby.

The doctor usually knows your child has fifth disease by looking at the rash. In the case where there is no rash, the doctor may need to do blood tests to find out if your child has fifth disease. A blood test can identify antibodies to parvovirus B19 only during the first two months after becoming infected. After that, a blood test can determine only whether someone had the virus at some point in the past.

Rest up!

As for treatment, well, it’s a virus. You can’t cure a virus with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria germs but do nothing for viruses. Fifth disease is mostly about resting up until it passes. The rash may be a bit uncomfortable. Talk to the doctor. Sometimes antihistamines may be prescribed for the itch. For joint pain, acetaminophen can be helpful. Just DO NOT give aspirin to your child, since aspirin use in children has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.

If your child isn’t uncomfortable from the rash of fifth disease, there’s no reason for him not to go to school. He isn’t contagious once the rash comes out. The teacher may want to see a doctor’s note confirming that the child is not contagious.

It’s important to note that while fifth disease is usually no big deal in healthy children, it can be a much bigger hazard for a child with a weakened immune system from leukemia or other cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV infection. The parvovirus B19 can slow or even stop the body from producing red blood cells. When this happens, there’s a danger of serious, chronic anemia. This complication may require treatment in the hospital. A person with a weakened immune system may also remain contagious with fifth disease for a longer period of time.

A pregnant woman who gets fifth disease is also in a special category. The developing fetus can be endangered by the mother’s infection with parvovirus B19. This is especially true during the early months of pregnancy. If you are pregnant and your child has fifth disease, it’s a good idea to consult your physician. A blood test may show you’ve already had fifth disease. If not, you should be monitored with extra care.

There isn’t much to do about fifth disease except to let it pass. But if your child develops a rash, or joint pain, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor. Otherwise, make sure your child gets plenty of rest, drinks lots of fluids, and eats a healthy diet.

It’s no fun getting sick or having a rash. The good news is that once your child has had fifth disease, he’ll most likely have lifelong immunity and won’t ever get it again.

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Yellow Babies? What’s Up With That??

Yellow babies are babies with jaundice. Jaundice occurs when a baby has too much bilirubin. As bilirubin builds up inside the baby’s body, the baby’s skin and even the whites of his or her eyes may turn yellow. A new mother may notice her baby’s skin is yellow in color around two or three days after the birth.

Yellow babies are common, as jaundice affects around 60% of full term newborns. Babies born early are even more likely to get jaundice as are babies who are sick. Most of the time, yellow babies are healthy and the jaundice goes away after a week or so.

Unless the level of bilirubin is very high, the yellow color is normal and the baby will be just fine. Some yellow babies will need treatment. The main treatment for jaundice is phototherapy (light therapy), in which the baby is placed under bright lights.

Yellow Babies: How It Happens

Our bodies are making and breaking down red blood cells all the time. This happens in babies, too. The hemoglobin in red blood cells, for instance, is broken down into different waste chemicals. One of those chemicals is bilirubin.

Before the baby is born, the placenta carries the bilirubin out of the baby’s body and into the mother’s blood. The mother’s body handles the more difficult task of filtering this waste product and getting rid of it. But after the baby is born, the newborn’s liver must suddenly take on this task. The baby’s liver may not be quite mature enough to handle all that tough work.

As a result, it takes more time to flush out the waste, and the bilirubin levels build up in the baby’s body. That is what causes the yellowing of the skin and eyes. In fact, all babies have a higher than usual bilirubin level for some days after birth. In a normal healthy baby, this is not cause for concern, and there may not be any noticeable change in color. Even where there is yellowing of the skin/eyes, the level of bilirubin may not be high enough to worry about.

If the baby has a lot of bruising, from a rough birth, for instance, there may be a high number of damaged red blood cells. These blood cells need to be broken down in order to clear the way for new red blood cells. As the blood cells are broken down, the baby’s bilirubin levels can climb.

Yellow Babies And Breastfeeding

Some yellow babies, around 5% of them, are breastfed babies. These babies can have a mild jaundice that is persistent, and takes a few weeks to clear up. It is thought that a protein in breast milk may cause bilirubin levels to remain high, though not so high as to harm the baby.  Also, a mother’s milk takes a few days come in. During this time, the baby may not be getting enough calories and fluid to flush out the bilirubin as quickly as usual. This too, can cause bilirubin levels to stay high, though not high enough for concern.

Other Causes Of Jaundice

Premature babies and babies sick for one reason or another, for instance, infection, may also have higher than usual levels of bilirubin. Yellow babies may also be the result of babies with different blood groups than their mothers. The level of bilirubin is less important than the general health of the baby. A healthy, fully mature baby with a higher level of bilirubin may do just fine, while an early or ill baby may develop further health issues.

In addition to the yellow coloring of their skin and sometimes eyes, yellow babies may seem sleepier than usual and they may not want to feed much. Getting babies to feed often and long is important. Lots of liquid nutrition can often do the trick of bringing down the bilirubin levels with no need for any other treatment.

The bilirubin levels have to rise quite high to cause damage. But unchecked, very high bilirubin levels can affect the parts of the brain that control vision, hearing and movement (kernicterus).

Now that babies are sent home a day or two after birth, mothers need to be on the watch for jaundice. The yellowing first appears on the baby’s face and head. If the level of bilirubin rises, the yellowing will then show on the baby’s body. At very high levels, there will be yellowing on the baby’s palms and on the soles of his or her feet.

If you’re not sure your newborn baby is yellow, there’s an easy way to tell. Simply press the tip of your finger (gently!) on the tip of the baby’s nose or forehead. Watch as you lift your fingertip away. If the baby’s skin looks white, the baby is fine. If the skin appears yellow, call your baby’s doctor.

If the doctor agrees your baby may be jaundiced, a blood test will be done to see the level of bilirubin in the baby’s body. The doctor will decide whether the baby needs treatment depending on the level of bilirubin and the baby’s health. If the baby is full term and healthy, the doctor may decide to keep a watch on the baby and the baby’s bilirubin levels.

Most yellow babies won’t need treatment. Their livers will mature and learn to break up the bilirubin so it can be broken down and flushed out of the system through the gut. But in the event that the baby’s bilirubin levels continue to climb, phototherapy is an effective treatment.

In jaundice, some bilirubin is just beneath the skin. In response to light, the bilirubin can turn into a different chemical that is easier to clear out of the baby’s body. A baby may need phototherapy for a number of days. This type of therapy works well and is quite safe.

During phototherapy, the nude baby is placed in a bassinette under lights. The baby’s eyes are covered so the light won’t be uncomfortable. Nursing or feeding often is to be encouraged during this time. If you’re breastfeeding, aim to feed the baby between 8 and 12 times a day for several days.

Yellow babies will receive blood tests daily to measure bilirubin levels. This will tell the doctor when the baby can stop phototherapy, assuming the baby responds well and levels of bilirubin are falling. If bilirubin levels become very high, the baby may need a blood transfusion, perhaps from the mother. This almost never happens.

Doctors used to recommend that yellow babies spend time in the sun. Today, this is no longer done. Sun exposure can burn the baby’s delicate skin and the sun may overheat the baby. Phototherapy is much safer, more controlled.

Did you have a newborn with jaundice? What was your first thought when you saw the baby becoming yellow?

Zika Freak Out: Stop it Before it Starts by Avoiding Mosquito Bites

Zika Freak Out: Stop it Before it Starts by Avoiding Mosquito BitesZika virus freaking you out? It’s no wonder. Because it causes babies to be born with smaller heads. Which is freaky stuff. And of course, the media is all over it, because feeding the public panic leaves them gasping for more.

What We Know

By now we know that Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that has spread to 38 countries, 33 of them in Latin America. And the results are just awful: thousands of babies born with microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

microcephaly comparison
A comparison of a normal baby’s head with that of a baby with microcephaly

The Zika virus itself, is usually not so bad. In fact, some people never even know they have it. Which is a problem, because if you don’t know you have it, you don’t bother to stay away from other people. This is one of the ways Zika virus has managed to spread so far and wide, affecting so many pregnant women and their unborn children.

So obviously, Zika virus is really bad for pregnant women and their babies. And if we want to be good, moral people, we should be doing everything in our power to slow the spread of Zika virus, since it is so harmful to babies in the womb. The upshot? We should all avoid traveling to places where Zika is especially active, if at all possible. And we should be working to avoid mosquito bites.

A female Aedes aegypti in the process of acquiring a blood meal from her human host (photo: James Gathany)
A female Aedes aegypti in the process of acquiring a blood meal from her human host (photo: James Gathany)

Zika Virus: Going Somewhere?

As for figuring out whether or not it’s safe to travel to an intended destination, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), has a great utility to help you figure it out along with other helpful information for travelers. You can find all of that HERE.

You also want to do what you can to avoid mosquito bites, so you don’t contract Zika virus and become a carrier, yourself. There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself against mosquito bites.


Avoid Mosquito Contact

One of the main ways to avoid mosquito bites to limit contact with them by:

  • Avoiding the out of doors during the times mosquitoes are most active, from dusk until dawn
  • Fixing any tears in window screens, screen doors, and tents
  • Use mosquito netting over beds, strollers, cribs, and for sleeping out of doors

Use Insect Repellent

The three most effective insect repellents on the market are:Apply repellent

  • DEET
  • Icaridin (picaridin)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant-based compound)

Of these three repellents, DEET has the most staying power, but if you’re going to be out of doors for a shorter amount of time, you may not need something so long-lasting. Whatever type of repellent you decide on, if you use repellent in spray form, apply it out of doors and away from food.

Don't spray repellent directly to the face, but put it on your hand and then pat it onto your face
Don’t spray repellent directly to the face, but put it on your hand and then pat it onto your face

Using sunscreen, too? Put that on first and wait 20 minutes before you use the repellent. Don’t buy a combination sunscreen/repellent product. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied at regular intervals, while you should limit how much repellent you use. If you buy the combination product, you may end up using too much repellent.

Use Repellent With Caution

While using repellent is necessary to help prevent the spread of Zika virus, one should be careful to use it with caution. Repellent is thought to be safe except in a few cases. Here are some exceptions to keep in mind:

  • Avoid using DEET on newborns before the age of 2 monthsRepellent Child
  • Keep DEET and icaridin away from the faces and hands of young children
  • Don’t use oil of lemon eucalyptus for children below the age of 3
  • Don’t apply repellent to skin that will be covered by clothing
  • Avoid using repellent on irritated skin or open wounds (burns, sunburns, cuts and scrapes, rashes)
  • Once you’re back indoors, wash well with soap and water to remove leftover traces of repellent

Don’t Neglect Clothing And Outwear

A female Aedes aegypti takes flight as she leaves her host’s skin surface (photo: James Gathany)

Use permethrin on your clothing. Permethrin acts as both an insect repellent and an insecticide. You apply it to your clothing and outerwear, never to your skin. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear gives you an extra layer of protection against mosquito bites.

Cover Up

Use clothing to cover your skin as much as possible by wearing:

  • Light colored clothing
  • Socks
  • Shoes with closed toes (not sandals)
  • Long pants (tuck the hem into your socks, if possible)
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • A hat that covers ears and neck, some also have mosquito netting to cover the face

Keep Mosquitoes Outside

Keeping mosquitoes out of your home is another important part of avoiding mosquito bites and the Zika virus. What you want to do is make the environment outside of your home unfriendly to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes need standing water to breed. Eliminating any sources of standing water in the areas around your home, is a good way to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside your home. Here are some tips on eliminating sources of standing water around your home:

  • Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week
  • Keep roof gutters free from debris
  • Empty children’s swimming pools often
  • If you store empty flowerpots outside, turn them upside down
  • If you have a barbecue pit, make sure you drain it after a rainfall
  • Don’t keep old tires out of doors, since water can collect inside them

Remember: you may not be pregnant, but that’s no reason not to care about the Zika virus. Don’t let the mosquitoes get to you, so you can help keep other people safe. It’s all about having compassion and being a citizen of a kinder, more caring world.


Bonding With Baby: It Isn’t Always Instant

Bonding is the close attachment formed between parents and babies. This close feeling is nature’s way of making sure that parents develop an instinct to care for their young. It is bonding that guarantees babies will be nourished and kept safe and protected.

You may be a deep sleeper and deep sleepers are not awakened by noise. But parents who are well-bonded with their babies will hear them cry at 3 AM and rise to care for them. That’s even if those (exhausted and sleep-deprived) parents tend to be deep sleepers. Waking up in this case is the parental instinct kicking in, thanks to good bonding.

Sometimes bonding happens as soon as the baby is born. Sometimes bonding takes time. And sometimes, unfortunately, bonding fails to happen altogether. In fact, a study published in 2014, found that one in four children never form a strong bond with their parents. That’s a lot of children and parents that aren’t really making it.

And that’s a shame.

Bonding is important not just because it makes parents care for their infants. It’s important because bonding is what makes babies and children feel safe and secure. It gives them a good feeling about themselves. It makes them feel worthwhile as human beings, and not just needy little burdens and brats that don’t let their parents sleep.

The study mentioned above found that the 40% of babies who never experience bonding grow up to become aggressive, defiant adults with a tendency to hyperactivity. The same study found that 25% of those children failed to bond because their parents didn’t respond to their needs. In other words, just by responding to your baby’s needs, you are helping your baby to bond with you.

Remember that when you feel your energy flagging in the early days after birth.

Signs Of Bonding

How can you know if you’re bonding with your baby? Well, for one thing, if you look deep into your baby’s eyes and he or she looks back at you, you’re definitely bonding. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, your baby’s cries may cause your milk to let down. That’s a really good sign you’re bonding with your baby. And of course, if you hear your baby crying in the middle of the night, even when you are deep, deep asleep, it’s because you’ve done a great job of bonding with your baby.

But what if you aren’t really feeling the love? What if you don’t really feel that attachment to your new baby? What if your new baby somehow feels like a stranger to you?

Bonding Isn’t Always Instant

Again, it’s important to remember that bonding is not always instant. There are all sorts of things that can delay bonding. Moms that have babies via C-section can find it more difficult to bond with their babies. They don’t always get to see and hold their babies after birth and that makes a difference. Babies born prematurely may need to spend time in the intensive care unit away from their mothers. It may also take longer to bond with an adopted baby.

In all these cases, moms and babies can’t spend time skin-to-skin in the early days after birth, something that really helps make bonding happen. But even when baby is biological and the birth is uncomplicated and there’s plenty of skin-to-skin time, bonding can be delayed. Some mothers get the baby blues, and that can make bonding difficult. Other moms may feel so exhausted from giving birth that exhaustion gets in the way of bonding. A difficult birth may mean more pain in the days after the birth, and pain is a major factor in preventing early bonding between mommy and baby.

For the father, bonding can take longer because fathers don’t nurse their babies and don’t have the same natural, skin-to-skin closeness with baby. Not nursing the baby also means spending less time with the baby. Some parents opt to have daddy give the baby a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula just to give the father some equal time. Of course, while not the same as breastfeeding, fathers can change baby’s diaper, bathe baby, and spend time rocking, comforting, and singing to baby.

Bonding Difficulties—Some Factors

Here are some common issues that can make it difficult for parents to bond with baby:

  • Growing up without a good parental role model
  • Having a history of depression or other mental health issue
  • Losing a past pregnancy or child
  • A lack of family or friends for emotional support and postpartum help
  • Money troubles, being unemployed, having a stressful or difficult job
  • Marriage problems or abuse
  • Colicky baby

Bonding Tips

Here are seven things you can do to help you bond with your baby:

  1. Be with your baby as much as possible. Begin by asking the staff to let you room-in with your newborn.
  2. If your baby is in neonatal intensive care (NICU), visit your baby as often as you can. Ask the staff if you can hold and touch your baby. If you can’t, talk to and sing to your baby.
  3. Use a baby carrier or sling to keep your baby close to you whether you’re going about your chores or going out. Choose the carrier or sling over the stroller whenever you can. The more you keep your baby close to you, the easier it is to bond.
  4. Spend as much time as you can with your baby at home. Sing and talk to your baby, pat your baby, rock your baby in a rocking chair or in your arms. Voice and touch will help you and your baby to connect.
  5. Breastfeed your baby if you are able and feel good about doing so. Nothing creates so strong a bond between mother and child.
  6. Consider sleeping with your baby by your side. It’s called co-sleeping. Do some research on the subject and consult with your baby’s doctor. Some experts feel it isn’t safe. Some say it is both safe and beneficial in a variety of ways, as long as you do it correctly.
  7. Massage your baby gently, using a bit of olive oil or baby lotion. It’s great skin-to-skin contact. Massage can calm babies and ease colic, too. Massage has been found to help with postpartum depression, too.

Dads And Bonding

Dads have it harder bonding with their babies. Here are some ways to help foster father/baby bonding:

  • Start bonding before the birth by being with mom for doctor’s appointments and tests; by placing a hand on the mom’s belly to feel the baby move; and by imagining yourself as a dad.
  • Be there for labor and delivery and do what you can to help.
  • Once baby is home, be involved as much as possible by changing diapers, comforting and singing to baby, and maybe feeding baby a bottle at night so mom can sleep a bit more.
  • Wear the baby in a carrier or sling and take a walk together.

So let’s say a few weeks or maybe months have passed and your baby still seems a bit like a stranger to you. It is probably a good idea to speak to your baby’s doctor at this point. The doctor should be able to tell whether you need professional help or just more time and effort to get that connection going.

Bonding can happen all sorts of ways. It may be your heart feels so full the very second you lay eyes on your baby and the connection is immediate. Or it could be that three months into your relationship, baby cracks a smile for the first time and you feel that zing to the heart. And maybe you don’t call it “bonding” but “love.”

However it happens and whatever you call it, bonding is one of the best things we get to experience as human beings. There is simply nothing so wonderful as the feeling of connection to a new being. And nothing as powerfully important to your child’s wellbeing, from birth to adulthood.

What have you done to help bond with your infant? When did you realize you felt bonded to your baby? Have you ever experienced a delay in bonding? What helped you bond with your baby?

Expectant Moms Turn To Doctor Google

Expectant moms are turning to Doctor Google for advice. That is, they are seeking answers to their questions about pregnancy that they can’t get in the early weeks of their pregnancies. That’s because the first prenatal visit for a mother-to-be generally takes place at eight weeks into the pregnancy.


That’s pretty late in the game, especially with early pregnancy tests easily available over the counter at drugstores everywhere. Women find out they’re pregnant and then have to wait for two months to get answers to their questions. Is it any wonder they’re excited and curious? Is it any wonder that in the absence of access to a medical expert, moms-to-be turn to the Internet seeking the information they crave?

Penn State researchers discovered that the trend toward getting pregnancy information online is more common than one might have thought. But it’s not that women are happy about turning to Google for answers to their early pregnancy questions. Jennifer L. Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine discovered that expectant moms were annoyed at being forced to turn to the web with their questions. “We found that first-time moms were upset that their first prenatal visit did not occur until eight weeks into pregnancy. These women reported using Google and other search engines because they had a lot of questions at the beginning of pregnancy, before their first doctor’s appointment,” said Kraschnewski.

Worse yet, even after the first prenatal visit to the obstetrician took place, women still found themselves turning to the Internet, whether to search engines or social media, with myriad questions. Mostly because the literature dispensed to them by their doctors was found wanting. The women discovered they still had more questions than answers.

Expectant Moms Turn To Doctor Google

The researchers involved in the Penn State study concluded that prenatal care hasn’t really changed all that much, in spite of technology. The schedule for prenatal visits has, in fact, remained much the same over the past century. The funny thing is that this isn’t at all what the researchers set out to find. Originally, Kraschnewski and her team were attempting to collate information in order to develop an app for smartphones that women could make use of during their pregnancies. Only by accident did the researchers happen on the information that women felt dissatisfied with the way their prenatal care had been structured.

In this study, the researchers looked at 17 expectant women over the age of 18 who owned smartphones. The women were placed into four different focus groups. The major finding was that the majority of the women felt that prenatal visits don’t really address the needs of the individual pregnant woman so that expectant moms felt forced to use technology to fill in the blanks of their prenatal education.

In addition to this fact, however, the research team found that women were dissatisfied with the information available to them over the Internet as well as by the information provided to them by their obstetricians. The pamphlets the women received at their first prenatal visits, for instance, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” were way outdated. On the other hand, the medical information available online is not regulated, so that the quality and accuracy of the information varied widely.

Expectant Moms Turn To Doctor Google

Still, the women mainly preferred watching video clips, social media, apps, and websites to get their pregnancy information. They liked getting information in the varied formats available thanks to technology. “This research is important because we don’t have a very good handle on what tools pregnant women are using and how they engage with technology,” said Kraschnewski, who is also affiliated with  the Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity. “We have found that there is a real disconnect between what we’re providing in the office and what the patient wants.”

Kraschnewski underlined the problems inherent in the unregulated information available to patients through Google by citing a 2008 study on search engines and common pregnancy terms. This earlier study found that while the most common pregnancy terms generated millions of hits, fewer than 4% of the websites cited in the search engine results for these terms had been created by or developed under the auspices of actual physicians. “Moving forward, in providing medical care we need to figure out how we can provide valid information to patients,” said Kraschnewski. “We need to find sound resources on the Internet or develop our own sources.”


Two Men Go Through Simulated Labor As Their Wives High Five

The pain of childbirth carries with it certain implications. There’s the biblical idea that women experience the pangs of childbirth due to Eve’s sin in tempting Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. There’s the idea that women are somehow superior or tougher than men and that in their place, men just wouldn’t make it through labor and delivery. Finally, there’s the idea that men should feel guilty forever more for selfishly making their women go through childbirth.

As for that business with Eve, talk about collective punishment! Women going through all that pain for thousands of years for something that was done before they were even born? More likely, God knew that women would make their men feel guilty about their womenfolk suffering so much so He gave them something handy to say, “Well, hey! It was a WOMAN who gave Adam that apple in the first place. It’s not MY fault your great great great great great whatever grandmother made Adam sin. “

A kindness that, having an excuse at the ready. Yeah. Throw that guilt right back at ya, Babe. Thanks, God.

Who’s Weaker?

So that takes care of the unfairness of collective punishment for the women and it takes care of the guilt that men feel for getting off scot-free. That leaves the argument about the superiority and toughness of women relative to men. Who is the weaker of the sexes?

Happily for us, two men volunteered to go through a simulated birth experience to answer the question for us once and for all. Well, kinda sorta. They only go through a single hour of simulated labor. Not to mention that they don’t have to actually push a baby out, or an afterbirth, or have stitches, or deal with the postpartum aftermath while caring for a newborn who wants to be fed every couple of hours or so 24/7.

But their wives seemed please to watch them suffer. Isn’t that the main thing? Oh, and yeah. They survived. So maybe men are as tough as women after all. What do you think?

I think I totally would have aced the simulated labor experience. Piece of cake. Now excuse me while I duck, because if you’re anything like my wife Carey, you want to throw a shoe at me right around now.