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Your Health

Pediatrician offers tips on caring for infants and young children

Parenthood can be one of the most joyful experiences in life, but sometimes caring for and trying to make the right decisions for an infant or young child may seem like an overwhelming task.

Following are some of the most common questions that parents of children under age 5 ask their pediatricians.

Are vaccines safe?

With so much media attention on vaccines, parents are often unsure whether vaccines are good for their child’s health. In the U.S., vaccines are very well studied, safe and strictly regulated by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When children are not vaccinated, the diseases we’re protecting against reappear. For example, in 2011 in California there were more cases of measles than in the whole of the past decade, and we’ve suffered the largest whooping cough epidemic since the 1950s. Vaccinations are the best thing you can do to protect your child against dangerous and life-threatening diseases.

How do I know if my newborn is healthy?

Fortunately, there’s a straightforward and reassuring way to tell if your newborn is healthy: If your baby is gaining weight (approximately an ounce a day or more), this is the best indicator of good health.

How can I make sure my child has a healthful diet?

Parents should decide when meals happen and what the meals consist of, and children should decide if and how much they eat. When parents start trying to control the child’s domain, battles start. Foster good habits by eating healthful foods together as a family.

What’s the best way to discipline my toddler?

There’s no one way to discipline, but the most effective methods are positive reinforcement, consequences, withholding privileges, timeouts, actively ignoring bad behavior and being a good role model.

Remember that there are five things you shouldn’t try to make your child do: speak, sleep, pee, poop and eat.

How can I get my child to sleep through the night?

Your child will become a better sleeper if you give him or her space to figure it out. Infants wake up approximately every three hours during the night, and if they know how to fall asleep by themselves, they’ll be able to get back to sleep each time without waking you for help.

Think of all the things you do to help your child go to sleep, such as singing a song, reading a book, darkening the room and feeding. Then start reducing them one by one, with the easiest one first.

When should I start potty training?

Children start using the toilet when they’re emotionally and physically ready. This can’t be forced. In fact, the more you insist, the less likely it’s going to happen. Rather than ask your child whether he or she needs to go to the bathroom, change the environment and take the pressure off. Instead, go into the bathroom yourself and bring whatever activity he or she is engaged in with you. If your child really needs to go, you’ve provided the setting and opportunity.

I hope these tips help. Remember, though, first and foremost trust your own intuition – that’s the real heart of good parenting. Sometimes this might be as simple as giving your child a hug.

Dr. Kellen Glinder is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center.

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.

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