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Tips of the Week for May, 2016

How Taking Care of Yourself Makes You a Better Mom

By: Kelly Ross, MD, FAAP

Mothering is hard work. It is constant work. It is so easy to stop caring for yourself or to get overwhelmed. But, when you stop caring for yourself, your ability to care for your child is impacted and your ability to enjoy motherhood is impacted.

My Best Advice: Take Care of Yourself

As a pediatric hospitalist, a good part of my career involves caring for new babies in two very different hospital settings. I have been sending moms and babies home for 15 years now. Having watched them, and having gone through motherhood myself, what would my "best advice for new moms ever" include?

It's something many women work hard to do throughout their pregnancy but stop once they hear that first baby cry. It's something that has a rippling effect for decades. It costs nothing, but saves society millions. It is something that is so hard to do at times and yet so vital.

So, what is my "best advice for new moms ever"? Take care of yourself. That's it, four little words.

When you are pregnant, it is easy to see why this one idea is so very important.

The little baby growing inside of you is directly affected by what you eat, drink and do.

  • If you smoke, the baby gets exposed and doesn't grow as well.
  • If you are chronically stressed or depressed, your body's responsive hormones cause a cascade of negative effects on your baby.  
  • If you eat poorly, the baby is at risk for poor growth.

But once the baby is no longer a part of your body, it is easy to forget that tight association between how you care for yourself and how you care for your child's health.  

It Isn't Selfish to Take Time to Exercise!

A mom who is well rested, eats a healthy diet, gets plenty of exercise, maintains close relationships with friends and gets help when she realizes she isn't coping well, is far more equipped to be the best mother she can be than one who doesn't do those things. It isn't selfish to take time to exercise or to get an adequate sleep each night.

I can remember when I was in middle school waking up to my mom returning from a training run with stories of "the nice police man" who followed her while she was running to make sure she was safe. My mom is a trusting soul, she often ran at 4:00 AM. Looking back, now that I am a mom, three things about that memory are clear:

  1. I no longer think she was crazy for running at 4:00 AM. It was the only down time she had as a mom, and she took advantage of it rather that choosing not to exercise.
  2. Her example and those memories are deeply ingrained in me as "what moms do."
  3. That police man really was nice! Thank you officer for keeping her safe, so she could grow up to be a grandma!

When I first became a mom, I didn't exercise. I felt it was selfish to take time away from the kids to do something for myself. I "didn't have time to exercise and be a good mom" with three little children. Honestly, some days it seemed to take an act of God to get 10 minutes to shower.

When my triplets turned 2, I realized I wasn't strong enough to pull the wagon with all three of them, so I started going to the gym. Going to the gym not to take care of myself mind you, but to be able to take care of them.

Your Children Are Watching You…And Want to Be Like You!

It wasn't until the kids were school aged that I truly realized that by being a "good mom" and not caring for myself, I was actually falling short of my goal. Like the little boy in the Rodney Akins song, Watching You, one day I realized "they were watching me."

If I never drank water, how could I ask them to drink 8 glasses a day? If I never exercised, how could I tell them it was important to exercise in order to be healthy? And so, like my mother had, I began to figure out how to find time to exercise even when I didn't feel like I had time.

I also realized, like the spokes on my bike wheels, that one effort can branch into so much goodness. Biking has made me feel healthier and have more energy. My clothes fit better, and what woman doesn't like that? I have a whole new group of friends to ride with, or as my one bike friend's husband says "to get out on the road and solve the world's problems" together. And through charity rides and the kindness of others, I have raised a great deal of money for multiple sclerosis (MS) and cancer research.

If you look at all of that through the eyes of your little buckaroo who is "watching you" and "wants to be just like you," know you truly are being a good mom by being a good example.

Additional Information from


About Dr. Ross:

Kelly L. Ross, MD, FAAP, is an assistant professor in the Department of Newborn Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pediatric hospitalist at St. Louis Children's Hospital. She also serves as Director of Pediatric Hospitalist Medicine at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. As the mother of premature triplets, Dr. Ross serves as the Medical Director of Mothers of Supertwins (MOST), an international organization that exists to support families who have triplets, quadruplets or more. Connect with Dr. Ross on, a blog written by five dynamic mom-pediatricians who share their true confessions of trying to apply science and medicine to motherhood. 

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Copyright © 2016 Kelly Ross, MD, FAAP

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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American Academy of Pediatrics Pool and Swimming Safety Tips for Famil

Drowning is a leading cause of death among children, including infants and toddlers. For Memorial Day this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is launching a water safety campaign, including a series of informative videos with AAP Spokesperson Dr. Sarah Denny, to help educate parents how to keep children safe in and around water. In this first video, Dr. Denny, an emergency room pediatrician, offers parents tips on how to keep children safe at pools. For more information, please read the Summer Safety Tips: Sun and Water Safety and other informative articles on

Please help educate families across the country by sharing this video on social media and embedding it on your practice websites:

To see the video, please click on the following link:

Thank you!

Thomas McPheron

Manager, Public Relations and Communications

Department of Public Affairs

American Academy of Pediatrics

141 Northwest Point Blvd, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007



Happy Memorial Day

Please remember what this day is about.  Take a moment and say a thank you for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and for our freedom.  Please have a safe and Happy Memorial Day.

Foster Parents: FAQs

Becoming a foster parent is a big decision. Below you will find the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Q: How can I adopt from foster care?

A: At last count, there were approximately 130,000 children in the foster care system awaiting adoption nationwide. Adoptions from foster care are usually handled through local and regional public agencies; however, some states contract with licensed private agencies to recruit, train, and conduct home studies and license adoptive parents for these children.

Q: What are the different kinds of foster care?

A: There are several kinds of foster care, including:

  • Straight or family foster care refers to the scenario where the state or local government places a child with certified foster parents, who are not related to the child.
  • In kinship foster care, a child is placed with a relative. This kind of foster care isn't always reported to an agency for oversight, because in many families, relatives step in to take care of a child (or a parent gives a child to her grandparents or other family members) without going through the court system. In some areas, close family friends can also be considered as kinship caregivers.
  • With pre-adoptive foster care, a child is placed with the family who will adopt her.
  • Treatment foster care, also called therapeutic foster care, involves placement of children with foster families who have been specially trained to care for children with certain medical or behavioral needs. Examples include medically fragile children, children with emotional or behavioral disorders, and HIV+ children. Treatment foster care programs generally require more training for foster parents, provide more support for children and caregivers than regular family foster care, and have lower limits on the number of children that can be cared for in the home. Treatment foster care is preferred over residential or group care because it maintains children in a family setting.
  • Residential or group settings (also called congregate care and institutional care) include community-based group homes, campus-style residential facilities, and secure facilities. Almost one-fifth of children in out-of-home care live in residential or group care. Residential programs, and the staff who work in them, are generally focused on working with children who have certain special needs. Examples include community-based group homes for adolescent males who are involved in the juvenile justice system and residential campus facilities for children and youth with serious mental health problems.
  • In some jurisdictions, children removed from their birth families are first placed into an emergency care setting. This may be a shelter/group facility or a family setting designed to keep the children safe while assessing their needs and finding a more appropriate placement to meet their needs.
  • In Shared Family Care (SFC), parent(s) and children are placed together in the home of a host family who is trained to mentor and support the parents as they develop skills and supports necessary to care for their children independently. SFC can be used to prevent out-of-home placement, to provide a safe environment for the reunification of a family that has been separated, or to help parents consider other permanency options, including relinquishment of parental rights.
  • Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) is a case plan designation for children in out-of-home care for whom there is no goal for placement with a legal, permanent family. APPLA is an acceptable designation only if there is sufficient reason to exclude all possible legal, permanent family goals. However, APPLA designations must include plans for permanent placements of children and youth that meet their developmental, educational, and other needs.

Q: How can I become a foster parent?

A: The requirements are different in each state. Find the appropriate department in your state to learn about becoming a foster parent.

Q: What are the rewards and challenges of being a foster parent?

A: The most significant reward of being a foster parent is having an impact on the lives of children and teens in a significant way. It is truly one of the few times in our lives that we can do something heroic.

There are many challenges involved in foster parenting, including realizing that your work may not be successful in changing the entire life experience for some children and teens. The support given to foster parents is often inadequate to meet the needs of the children and teens being fostered. The behaviors of some children and teens in foster care can be so dramatic that it can create very difficult home life for families. Perhaps most importantly, it is difficult to give your heart and develop strong bonds with a child whom you know you may not have in your life for very long, and it can be excruciatingly painful to let a child go, once you do have that bond of parental love.

Being a foster parent is truly a special calling, giving ordinary people the opportunity to do something extraordinary.

There are a number of resources available for foster parents:

Q: Where can I find information about foster care in my area?

A: There are many resources, both locally and nationally, where you can find information about adoption and foster care in your area:

  • Local and state governments
  • Private agencies
  • Faith communities
  • Other organizations

Visit to find resources in your area. Enter your state and criteria, and find information lines, government agencies, and even photos of children waiting to be adopted.

Click here to view a comprehensive list of foster care organizations.

Q: What legal issues should I know before I enter into the process of becoming a foster parent?

A: While the federal government provides basic standards that states must follow, for the most part, foster parenting is governed by states. To learn more, click here.

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Healthy Foster Care America (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


All information provided by  For additional links and information including audio, please go to the following site:


10 No-Cost, Screen-Free Activities to Play with Your Preschooler

​By: Suanne Kowal-Connelly, MD, FAAP

Getting Back to Basics

Most parents want to provide more for their children than their parents were able to do for them. But, have you ever noticed how kids tend to have fun with things as simple as a cardboard box? It's true. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report on the importance of play explains that inexpensive toys such as blocks, balls, jump ropes and buckets are more effective in allowing children to be imaginative and creative than more expensive toys that may be out of reach for many parents. 

​So, why not take that cardboard box and play with them? More than any material gift, YOU are the best toy your child will ever receive!

Not Just Kids' Stuff

While it may be hard to relax and give yourself over to play, view this time with your child as an adventure. You are not only promoting the many benefits of play, but also getting to know your child better and strengthening the parent-child bond. For starters, your role can actually be quite minimal and the play you undertake can be almost any activity.

Here are ten ideas that your preschooler will adore.

Bonus: You don't need much time or expensive lessons or toys to participate in any of the activities listed!

  1. Duck, Duck, Goose: Everyone sits in a circle. One child is "It" and goes around the circle tapping everyone on the head and saying, "Duck." At this child's discretion, he or she taps someone and calls out "Goose." At the moment, the child tapped must jump up and chase the child who was "It" around the circle of kids. If the child who was "It" makes it around the circle and sits down, then he or she is "safe." If tagged by the "Goose," then he or she is out. Either way, the Goose is now "It" and the game resumes. Eventually, only two children are left. The last child left without being tagged wins.
  2. London Bridge is Falling Down: Two children form a bridge by joining hands across from each other. As everyone sings the nursery rhyme, all the children pass under the up stretched arms. When the song ends, the arms are dropped around the child passing through at the time. Then, the song changes to, "Take the key and lock him up." Those joining hands can start rocking arms back and forth. Preschoolers delight in being "locked up" and swayed to and fro.
  3. Limbo: Bring a broom stick outside and ask two older children or adults hold the ends. Have the children go under the stick without touching it. If the stick is touched, then that child is out. After everyone has had a turn, the stick can be gradually lowered in increments. This can be done to music, too, if available.
  4. Egg Races: Make some hard boiled eggs and bring them outside with some tablespoons. Have fun telling your preschooler where they have to walk, run, jump, etc., while balancing the egg on the spoon. This promotes balance and dexterity.
  5. Simon Says: This is one of the most popular games for young children to play. It encourages good listening skills and focus. You are Simon. Stand facing your children and give orders, such as "Simon says to touch your nose" or "Simon says to do a jumping jack." As you call out each order, the children must do whatever you do, as long as you have said, "Simon Says." If you just say, "Do this," whoever follows the action that you now do, is out. The last child standing wins.
  6. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes: You sing the tune and control the pace. Children have to touch the body part being mentioned, as it is mentioned. You can speed up the pace of the tune, and your child has to move faster and faster to keep up. It can get pretty funny as everyone tries to touch their knees and toes as fast as possible.
  7. Nature walks: You can turn literally any walk outside into a nature walk—even a walk around the block. Observe the weather, animals, bugs, and plants. You might say, "Look at those big clouds," or "Touch this grass. It is still wet from yesterday's rain." Preschoolers especially love exploring and are sure to have plenty of questions for you along the way!
  8. Follow the Leader: Move all around doing different movements. Everyone has to do what you do. Simple. Great. Fun!
  9. Tag: You can be "It" for starters. Everyone tries to catch you and tag you. If you are tagged, then that child gets to be "It." Some designated spots can be considered "safe," like all the trees, or park benches, etc. This is a great excuse to just run around!
  10. Run Around: You can be "It" and call out things for everyone to do. For example, "Run from this tree to that tree," or "Hop on one foot from this bench to that tree." There are endless suggestions—you will probably run out of ideas before your preschooler gets bored!


While you may find many opportunities to capitalize on "teachable moments" during these activities, the key is to do what comes naturally to you as a parent. Playing together shouldn't be a chore or something you feel pressure to do. Enjoy the time you spend with your child. It will pass all too soon!

Additional Information:


About Dr. Kowal-Connelly:

Suanne Kowal-Connelly, MD, FAAP is a pediatrician with 30 years of group practice experience, and is a voluntary faculty staff physician at Nassau University Medical Center mentoring residents. She is a USAT (USA Triathlon) Level I Certified Coach and a USAT Youth & Jr. Coach. Dr. Kowal-Connelly is also the founder of, where families and organizations can learn strategies for successful lifelong health and wellness and read her blog. She is also the very proud mother of three grown sons. Follow her on Twitter @healthpby.


Suanne Kowal-Connelly, MD, FAAP

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


All information provided by  For additional information including links and audio, please go to:


Dog Bite Prevention Tips

Dog Bite Prevention Week®​ is May 15-22, 2016

Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs, and of the 800,000 Americans who receive medical attention for dog bites, at least half are children. Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. Remember, as most dog bites involve familiar animals, prevention starts in your home.

Preventing Dog Bites:

  • Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. For children, the injuries are more likely to be serious. Parents should be aware of some simple steps that can prevent dog bites.
  • Never leave a small child and a dog alone together, no matter if it is the family dog, a dog that is known to you, or a dog that you have been assured is well behaved. Any dog can bite.
  • Do not allow your child to play aggressive games with a dog, such as tug-of-war or wrestling, as this can lead to bites.
  • Teach your child to ask a dog owner for permission before petting any dog.
  • Let a dog sniff you or your child before petting, and stay away from the face or tail. Pet the dog gently, and avoid eye contact, particularly at first.
  • Never bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. Dogs in these situations are more likely to respond aggressively, even with a person who is familiar to them.
  • Do not allow your child to run past a dog, because dogs may be tempted to pursue the child.
  • Teach your child that if a dog is behaving in a threatening manner—for example, growling and barking—to remain calm, avoid eye contact with the dog, and back away slowly until the dog loses interest and leaves.
  • If you or your child is knocked over by a dog, curl up in a ball and protect the eyes and face with arms and fists.

Treatment for Dog Bites: 

If a dog bites your child, follow these steps: 

  • Request proof of rabies vaccination from the dog's owner, get the dog owner's name and contact information, and ask for the name and telephone number of a veterinarian who is familiar with the dog's vaccination records and history.
  • Immediately wash out the wound with soap and water.
  • Call your pediatrician because the bite could require antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and/or rabies shots. The doctor can also help you report the incident.
  • If your child is bitten severely enough that the skin has been broken, call 9-1-1 or bring your child to an emergency department for treatment.
  • Be prepared to tell the emergency department doctor about your child's tetanus vaccination status, the dog's vaccine status (or offer contact information for the dog's veterinarian), the dog's owner, and if the dog has bitten before.
  • Follow your pediatrician's instructions to ensure proper healing.

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