Ask the experts
Advice and wisdom
OPEN BITE AHEAD?
Q Will thumb-sucking make my baby buck-toothed? A Early childhood health nurse
Sharon Donaldson says: Babies and toddlers sucking on thumbs, fingers and toys is considered healthy behaviour. Most children will stop sucking between the ages of two and four, however, thumb-sucking after four years of age may affect a child’s speech, bite and their appearance.
Between the ages of six and seven, when the permanent teeth start to erupt, continued thumb-sucking may cause teeth to grow out of line. Buck teeth and an open bite may result from habitual thumb- or finger-sucking. Your child may also develop a lisp, when trying to say the ‘s’ sound, it becomes ‘th’.
Prevention is better than cure. So if your child continues to suck their thumb or finger after the age of two to three, you may need to address this habit to avoid any problems in the future.
The best way to deal with thumb- or finger-sucking is through positive reinforcement, and avoiding negative words or behaviour. Your child is only doing what feels natural. Encourage, praise and reward your child when he is not sucking his thumb or finger. And consult your dentist, GP or paediatrician if you have any concerns.
Q If I put my daughter to bed later, will she sleep in for longer? She’s nearly eight months old. A Early childhood health nurse
Sharon Donaldson says: All babies wake overnight, and many are inclined to be early wakers. Generally, putting her to bed later wouldn’t usually make her sleep in for longer.
How your baby girl goes off to sleep and how she resettles will determine her sleep patterns, and the length of time she sleeps. In other words, if your daughter is encouraged to go to sleep awake in her cot, without the use of sleep aids or being rocked or breastfed to sleep, then she will learn better the ability to settle and resettle for all of her sleeps.
Creating a consistent bedtime routine around 6.30pm to 7pm each night is a good start towards healthy sleep habits. Dinner, bath, pyjamas, milk feed, then story and a kiss goodnight is a typical bedtime routine for families.
An eight-month-old baby will still need two daytime sleeps, and is likely to be having three solids per day with optional snacks. She may still need a milk feed at around 10pm, but wouldn’t need any milk feeds overnight.
Focusing your efforts towards healthy, consistent settling methods will help your daughter achieve the ability to settle and resettle. Remember that ‘sleep promotes sleep’, so the more your baby sleeps, the more sleep she will want.
COMING BACK UP
Q I’ve heard of silent reflux. What’s the difference between that and normal reflux, and how will I know if my baby has it? A Paediatrician Mike Starr
says: Gastro-oesophageal reflux is when stomach contents are brought back up either into the oesophagus or mouth. Sometimes, acid from the stomach is brought back up as well. This may cause irritation to the oesophagus and can be distressing for the baby. Babies with reflux usually vomit. The term ‘silent reflux’ is sometimes used to mean stomach contents and acid being brought back up without vomiting. Experts disagree about whether silent reflux really exists. Reflux generally resolves by itself and does not require any treatment.
NUTS TO THAT
Q My sister has a serious peanut allergy. Does that mean I shouldn’t give my baby peanuts? A Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan
says: There is no evidence that delaying or avoiding potentially allergenic foods reduces the risk of your child developing an allergy. In fact it may even increase the chance, although more research is needed to confirm this. The Infant Feeding Guidelines in Australia recommend exclusive breastfeeding for around six months, before solid foods should be introduced in no particular
Q My 14-month-old pulls other children’s hair at playgroup. Should I discipline her or wait for this phase to pass? A Child psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack
says: This is a good question because parents are often unsure about telling their child not to do something and risking the child enjoying the attention, then repeating the behaviour.
The interesting thing with the word ‘discipline’ is that some people might think it means ‘punishment’, however it actually means ‘to teach’.
The best strategy for a 14-month-old is to simply remove her from the group for a few minutes. She will learn that the ‘consequence’ of pulling someone’s hair is that she does not continue playing with them. order. Whole nuts are, of course, a choking risk and should not be given to children under four, but nut butters are nutritious for young children. My advice is that once your child is eating finger foods, try giving him a tiny amount of peanut butter on toast. Do this when you are close to medical help in the unlikely event that you should need it. See your GP or health professional if you have any concerns.
Q We have had to take my 20-month-old daughter to the doctor repeatedly with ear infections. Is this normal, and how can I prevent her from repeatedly getting them? A Paediatrician Dr Scott Dunlop
says: Ear infections are very common in childhood, particularly if there is frequent contact with other children, as viruses are the usual cause. Antibiotics are sometimes required for bacterial middle-ear infections. While having ear infections is not abnormal, if they are frequent, we do worry about the possibility of fluid build-up in the inner ear, and the reduction in hearing that can occur as a result. This can sometimes affect speech development.
In most cases, you can’t prevent ear infections without isolating your daughter from other children. Fluid build-up can sometimes be managed with prolonged antibiotics.
If there is concern regarding inner ear fluid and hearing impairment, consult your GP. He or she will usually refer you to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon who will discuss insertion of grommets (small drainage tubes) to allow fluid to drain away. This involves a brief anaesthetic in hospital.
DR SCOTT DUNLOP DR JOANNA MCMILLAN SALLY-ANNE MCCORMACK DR MIKE STARR SHARON DONALDSON