3 Parent Practices that Make for Healthy Kids
Lifestyle The first few months of parenthood can leave any mother frazzled. And whether it’s your first, second or fifth time, there’s always something new to learn.
It’s important to help your family get off to good start. Above all, the best thing you can offer your child is a safe environment to grow up in, loving relationships, and good nutrition.
1. Prenatal care
Regular prenatal care gives babies a healthy start in life. The schedule of visits to your obstetrician during pregnancy is designed to keep you and your baby healthy. It’s also an opportunity to discuss with your doctor your own exercise habits and nutrition, as well as environmental factors that may affect your developing child. Now is also a good time to choose a pediatrician.
Selecting a pediatrician while pregnant gives you an opportunity to get to know the doctor before your baby is born and ask any questions you may have as you get ready for your child’s birth. When choosing a pediatrician, look for the letters “FAAP” after his or her name. This means that person is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is board-certified in pediatrics and has made an ongoing commitment to lifelong learning, quality pediatric care and advocacy for children.
2. Newborn screening
Shortly after birth, your baby should receive a blood test for a number of conditions that can affect their health as newborns and in the future. In addition, a hearing test should also be performed. The AAP recommends all newborns be given a hearing test before they are discharged from the hospital. Hearing plays a large role in your child’s language development, and these skills develop rapidly before age 3 so it’s important to detect any problems early.
"Giving your baby a safe home, a loving family and good nutrition will go a long way to a great start in life."
Your infant will also be screened for jaundice, a common newborn condition caused by a build-up of bilirubin in the blood. Most cases of jaundice correct themselves on their own.
But if your child’s case is more pronounced or prolonged, increasing feedings and possibly adding light therapy can help break down bilirubin. Undetected and untreated, prolonged jaundice can damage the brain, making early screening very important.
3. Well child visits
Well child visits, or check-ups, with the pediatrician start early and continue throughout a child’s life. The visits are important to make sure children are growing and developing as expected. Your doctor will share advice on your child’s nutrition, physical and emotional development, and answer any questions you have about your baby’s health. It’s a good idea to establish a “medical home” with a practice where your child will consistently receive medical care.
Visiting the same practice ensures a child’s records are all in one place and that those caring for her know her family’s and her medical history, including immunization records. By having access to these records, your pediatrician can make sure your child receives the right vaccines at the right time. The vaccine schedule is designed to protect your child from deadly diseases when she is most vulnerable to them, especially in the first two years of life. The measles outbreak this year showed why it is so important that all children be protected by immunizations. Family members and those caring for infants should be up-to-date on vaccines to help protect infants who are too young to be immunized.
We congratulate parents and families around the world as they welcome their new babies into their families. While the first few months can seem overwhelming at times, just remember that giving your baby a safe home, a loving family and good nutrition will go a long way to a great start in life.