February 21, 2006

A Delicate Balance: Skin Care Tips for the New Mother and Baby

(ARA) – As a new mother, what do you do if your infant suddenly develops what looks like a case of teenage acne or a rash on his or her scalp? And while you’re worried about your child’s skin, you may be worried about your own and the changes it experienced during and after pregnancy. For a lifetime of healthier skin, a dermatologist – a doctor who specializes in the care of the skin – can address both mother and baby skin concerns.

“Psychosocial stressors, such as hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, dietary changes and the new responsibility of caring for a baby can have a significant effect on a mother’s skin,” says dermatologist Andrea Lynn Cambio, M.D., of New York City. “Hormones that also can affect the baby’s skin pass from the mother to child, leading to several common conditions in baby that can be resolved by consulting with a dermatologist.”

Winter Skin Care for Baby

The change of season can be challenging for the delicate skin of an infant and Dr. Cambio recommends the following tips to prevent seasonal skin conditions:

* Use only fragrance-free baby soaps and lotions.

* Apply generous amounts of moisturizing creams and ointments to areas of baby’s skin that appear dry.

* Reduce the number of baths – Avoid daily baths and spend no more than 10 minutes washing your child in lukewarm water.

* Use a humidifier to boost moisture and ease your child’s breathing overnight.

* Don’t bundle children up too tightly – Heavy layers can make children sweat, leading to skin irritation, while under-dressing can expose your child’s skin to the elements.

Infant Skin Conditions

Recurrent diaper rash is caused by persistent wet, soiled diapers and the use of unnecessary baby products, such as powders, creams, lotions and oils. “When a baby has diaper rash, parents should remember to change diapers frequently, use a warm, wet washcloth instead of pre-moistened baby wipes on the bottom and apply a barrier cream with zinc oxide to the affected area,” recommends Dr. Cambio.

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is an itchy, oozing, crusting rash that occurs mainly on the face and scalp, but patches can appear anywhere. Eczema treatment can include the use of an over-the-counter or prescription topical, steroid-free antihistamine.

Baby acne, which can have the appearance of pimples and whiteheads along the nose and cheeks, is quite common in newborns. This condition usually clears within three weeks without treatment.

Birthmarks, the two most common types of which are hemangiomas and port-wine stains, may increase in size as a child grows. Port-wine stains are present at birth, while hemangiomas may not immediately appear. Oral corticosteroids can be prescribed or a pulsed-dye laser can be used to significantly improve the appearance of these birthmarks.

Mother’s Skin Changes

Dark patches on the face could be melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy.” This benign condition is attributed to an overproduction of melanin, a natural substance in the body that gives color to the hair, skin and eyes. Dr. Cambio recommends applying cosmetics to camouflage the condition and wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher to prevent further darkening of the skin. A dermatologist also can prescribe topical creams with ingredients such as hydroquinone, retinoids, azeleic acid or hydroxyacids.

Stretch marks develop in more than 90 percent of women during pregnancy. “There are no over-the-counter treatments to ‘cure’ stretch marks, but a moisturizer may help improve their appearance and control itching,” remarks Dr. Cambio. “Women also may use a sunless tanning product which can help hide stretch marks, or there are many successful treatment options available from a dermatologist, such as a prescription tretinoin cream or laser treatments.”

During pregnancy, itchy, red skin is common on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The best solution for this condition is to avoid long, hot showers and switch to a fragrance-free non-soap cleanser. An over-the-counter mentholated or oatmeal-based moisturizer stored in the refrigerator can provide added relief.

“For many new mothers, caring for their own skin after pregnancy is not at the top of their list, while caring for their newborn’s skin becomes the priority. A visit to the dermatologist can put a mother at ease about her child’s skin condition, while finding solutions to her own skin concerns,” says Dr. Cambio.

For more information about skin care, visit the Academy’s Web site at www.aad.org or contact the Academy toll-free at (888) 462-DERM (3376).

Courtesy of ARA Content


Nanny 411: Real World Tips for Choosing the Right Nanny for Your Family

(ARA) – Mary Poppins dropped from the sky. On TV reality shows, childcare experts hand pick miracle-working nannies for families struggling with difficult children. In real life, finding just the right nanny is never that easy.Securing child care has become a primary issue for working class families. Many families are foregoing temporary babysitters or daycare in favor of a nanny, someone who will be a long-term employee committed exclusively to the care of their children.

Finding a nanny who fits your family doesn’t have to be a complicated, frustrating process. Kathleen Webb, president and co-founder of 4Nannies.com, an online resource that has helped connect more than 16,000 families with nannies since 1997, offers the following “Nanny 411:”

Step One: Envision Your Ideal Nanny

Parents should collaborate on a list of their expectations. What characteristics and experience do you want in your nanny? What duties must she be willing to take on?

“Put your requirements – including the ‘must haves’ and the ‘would-be-nice-to-haves’ – in a list that you can refer back to when you get to the interview phase of the process,” Webb says. “Also, establish your nanny budget now, so salary discussions won’t be a stumbling block later.”

Step Two: Choose Your Recruiting Tool

How will you search for your nanny? Common nanny search tools include newspaper ads, nanny agencies, networking with family and friends. Recently more and more families are turning to online resources as a low cost alternative. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but the same objective – to help you narrow the field of applicants to a handful of likely candidates.

“Going it alone through newspapers or networking may save cash, but add a substantial cost in terms of time investment,” notes Webb. “Agencies can save you time in preliminary screening of applicants, but typically charge finder’s fees of $1,500 to $3,000. An online service, such as 4Nannies.com, streamlines the pre-screening work and charges membership fees of a few hundred dollars.”

Step Three: The Initial Contact

Once you’ve identified your candidates, you will want to further determine their level of interest and suitability. Depending on where you and the candidate are located, it’s likely this initial contact won’t be face to face. Increasingly, it’s made via e-mail, Webb says.

“By contacting the nanny online, you can have a conversation whenever it’s convenient for you,” she says. “You can send an e-mail at 10 p.m., when the kids are in bed, and probably have a response by the time you get home from work the next day.”

Use this step to further narrow the field to candidates whom you would like to interview in depth.

Step Four: The Interview

Remember your list from Step One? Now’s the time to use that list to craft questions for a personal interview of your nanny candidate. Most families prefer to conduct the interview in their home, but sometimes distance will make that impossible and you’ll have to settle for a phone interview, Webb notes. However you conduct your interview, be sure to ask open-ended questions designed to elicit more than a simple “yes” or “no” response.

“Behavioral interviewing will give you a better picture of a person’s childcare style,” she says. For example, consider questions such as: “How would you comfort/calm a fussy 2-year-old?” “If my toddler has a temper tantrum in the grocery store, what would you do?”

Step Five: Reference and Criminal Background Checks

This step usually takes place after you’ve picked a nanny and made an offer of employment. Contact two references, preferably work or character references, not related to the nanny.

Next, obtain a professionally done criminal background check. To do this, you will need the nanny’s full legal name, date of birth, Social Security number and a signed release. Typically a professional background check can be obtained for between $50 and $100. Beware of Websites that promise “instant” low cost background checks, Webb cautions. Often, these sites are searching online public records databases that are incomplete or out of date.

“The criminal background checks provided by 4Nannies.com are physical records checks that include a Social Security number trace and in-court criminal records search,” Webb says. “Typically, you will get the results of a physical records check in two to three business days.”

Step Six: Hire and Retain Your Nanny

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve found the right nanny, make sure the terms of your arrangement are spelled out in an employment agreement that will be signed by you and your nanny. Hire your nanny and orient her to your home, family and schedule. Make sure she has your office and cell phone numbers, as well as written authorization to pick up your children from school or obtain medical care for them.

Consider keeping a “Nanny Log” where your nanny can record the day’s events – how many times the baby’s diaper was changed, what your preschooler had for lunch, how long your toddler napped, etc. You can also use this log to communicate to the nanny important information like reminders of doctor’s appointments or if your child didn’t sleep well the night before. The log can also be a tracking system for reimbursing out-of-pocket expenses your nanny might incur throughout the day.

Finally, Webb suggests sitting down (without the kids) at the end of the first week for a “debriefing.” “Talk about what went right the first week, and what areas you will work on for the future,” she says.

To search an online database of more than 1,600 nanny candidates across the country, or for additional tips on how to find a nanny, go to www.4nannies.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content


EDITOR’S NOTE: Photo Caption: Many parents are addressing their childcare needs by hiring nannies, professionals dedicated exclusively to the care of their children in the family’s home.

Be Sure to Budget for Baby

(ARA) – When they find out a baby is on the way, most couples spend more time thinking about how to decorate the nursery than on how their new addition is going to impact their family budget. In fact, according to a new national survey conducted by Aetna and the Financial Planning Association (FPA), 71 percent of Americans spend practically no time reviewing their health benefits.

“It’s important for expectant and new parents to thoroughly review their health benefits and family budgets. Pregnancy is the ideal time for combing through the details of their health plans, for example, to make sure all the bases are covered. Fortunately, there are resources and experts available for new moms and dads to get great advice planning for their future,” says Sandy Jones, co-author with Marcie Jones of “Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth.”

Plan for Your Health, a public education program from Aetna and FPA, can help you make the best health benefits and financial choices for you and your new baby. Here are a few helpful tips:

Review Your Benefits

Know what your plan covers during pregnancy to fully maximize your health benefits.

* Schedule time to look closely at your coverage, in between reading baby-related books and magazines and shopping for baby accessories.

* Find out if your health plan covers genetic counseling and other new, cutting-edge services as well as traditional services.

Revise Your Family Budget

While health insurance may cover many medical costs, there are other expenses to consider. Don’t forget that these additional expenses should also be included in your overall family budget.

* Create a new budget to include baby-related expenses.

* Estimate daily expenses such as diapers and formula to include in your budget.

* Account for health care expenses such as health insurance, non-covered medical expenses, life insurance, additional doctors’ appointments, deductibles, premium costs, coinsurance and co-payments.

* Speak with your doctor about the cost of a normal delivery vs. a complicated one and what your insurance will cover.

Plan for Your Health

Expectant parents can visit PlanforYourHealth.com, featuring a newly expanded “Family” section, with tips, checklists and tools on health and financial information on bringing home baby. The tools and information include:

* A “Baby Expense Calculator” to help expectant parents estimate the cost of pregnancy and their new baby in the first year

* Tips for finding and interviewing a pediatrician

* Expectant family health benefits and financial checklist

* Adoptive family health benefits and financial checklist

In addition to information about planning for a new baby, PlanforYourHealth.com provides easy-to-understand information on other life events — changing jobs, getting married and starting over — in order for you to make well-informed decisions at critical moments in life.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Don’t Let Your Child Be a Victim of the Obesity Epidemic

(ARA) – The statistics are enough to make you lose your appetite: Obesity rates among children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 have tripled over the past 40 years, with up to 30 percent of American school-age children considered either overweight or obese.

“We are raising a generation of children who are at risk for serious illness such as diabetes and heart disease simply from their eating habits,” said Veronica Atkins, chair of the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation and the author of two cookbooks.

Beyond socioeconomic conditions, other important factors are also contributing to this escalating epidemic. Today’s overscheduled lifestyle has led to a decrease in activity and an increase in fast and processed food consumption. Our children are suffering the consequences of this trend. Left unchecked, they will grow up to be the obese – and unwell – adults of tomorrow.

“Food companies are spending $11 billion per year marketing to kids, using popular characters to manipulate food choices, and kids are eating it up,” said Atkins. However, recent studies demonstrate that this power to influence can be channeled in a healthier direction. For example, the Sesame Workshop’s recent “Elmo Broccoli Study,” supported by the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation, concluded that children would chose broccoli over chocolate when the vegetable was labeled with an Elmo sticker, and an unknown character was placed on a chocolate bar.

More recently, another study conducted by the Institute of Medicine reinforced this concept with its recommendation that licensed TV characters should only promote healthy foods. Even Congress has weighed in on the issue, by suggesting the regulation of junk food marketing to children. While Atkins believes that these efforts further emphasize the gravity of this growing epidemic, she stresses that when it comes to anti-junk food options, the ultimate decision-makers have and always will be parents. “The good news is that even though we don’t yet have a cure for obesity, we do know that healthy food choices can help prevent it,” said Atkins. “It’s time that parents step up to the plate and take control over what they and their children are eating. Parents must set the example.”

From brushing teeth and washing hands to looking both ways when crossing the street and not going with strangers, parents strive to instill good habits in their children from an early age. But somehow, what our children eat seems to get away from us. “You wouldn’t allow your 6-year-old to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or engage in other destructive behaviors, because you know it can hurt them in the long run. We should consider unhealthy snacks and meals in the same vein,” said Atkins, who also funds “Life in Action,” a nutritional education program of the Canada-based Free the Children youth empowerment organization.

In the meantime, families can make positive/healthy changes, one meal and one day at a time. In her book Atkins for Life Low-Carb Cookbook, Atkins offers parents these suggestions to jumpstart a healthier diet for their families:

* Less is more. Portion control isn’t an adult concept. Children need limits too.

* Go for color. Colorful food is packed with vitamins and minerals.

* Choose whole foods. The less processed a food is and the closer it is to its natural state, the better.

* Know the difference between a treat and every day. There should be a difference between what your child eats every day and the occasional treat.

* Get moving! Get outside with your children, encourage them to play, exercise and move around. Limit time spent watching television and computer games.

* Keep nutritious snacks at hand. Cut up vegetables, fruit, cheese wedges, nuts (as age appropriate).

* Take a stand. Resist being manipulated by your children’s demands for high-sugar/high-calorie snacks and empty calorie drinks.

* Serve food from all the food groups every day. This includes milk/dairy, fruit/vegetables; whole grains; protein and healthy fats/oils, including nuts.

* Eat a good breakfast and be sure your children do too.

* Pack nutritious lunches. Lunch money is too often used for junk food.

* Stay on a schedule. Keeping meal times regular can keep kids from overloading on snacks.

* Set a good example. If parents take the lead in staying active and eating well, children will follow.

Courtesy of ARA Content

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Atkins Foundation seeks to positively impact disease prevention and health management worldwide by supporting independent nutritional research and educational programs. Established with a $40 million endowment in August 2003, the Foundation, which is managed by National Philanthropic Trust, provides grants to support scientific, evidence-based and clinical research that examines the role of metabolism and nutrition in obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease and other major health issues confronting our society today.