Children’s Health

Do babies need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement?

DEAR DOCTOR K: The other day I saw a vitamin and mineral supplement for infants. Should I be giving this to my baby?

DEAR READER: Most babies who regularly breast-feed or take commercial infant formula get all the vitamins and minerals they need. Sometimes, however, your doctor may prescribe certain vitamin and mineral supplements. Do not give your baby any supplements unless your doctor recommends them.

How can I encourage my daughter to choose a healthy lunch?

DEAR DOCTOR K: How can I encourage my daughter to eat a healthy lunch at school, whether she buys lunch or brown-bags it?

DEAR READER: Children need a healthy lunch to refuel after a long morning of working hard. The midday meal also provides energy and nutrients for kids to stay healthy and grow as well as possible. If your daughter is going to buy lunch at school, encourage her to:

How can I prepare my son to be a responsible driver?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son is going to get his driver's license in a few months. How can I help him get ready for this new responsibility?

DEAR READER: Taking the test to get my first driver's license was one of the most emotionally charged moments of my teenage years. Being able to drive oneself around is an important step toward independence. Boy, did I want that independence.

When should I talk to my child about sex?

DEAR DOCTOR K: When should I start talking to my child about sex? And what topics should I discuss?

DEAR READER: Many parents are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids, but they know the day will, and should, come. They often anxiously prepare in advance what they will say if their child asks a question about sex.

Should I give my baby a pacifier?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm pregnant with my first child. Do you have any advice about whether or not to give my baby a pacifier? Also, is it OK if my baby sucks her thumb?

DEAR READER: My mother told me that when I was a baby I sucked my thumb a lot. And that she pulled it out of my mouth a lot. But since I have absolutely no memory of that, I doubt that it's so. Anyway, I checked in with my pediatrician colleagues on this question, and here's what they shared. Don't worry if your infant sucks her finger or thumb.

What can I expect when my daughter goes through puberty?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What should I expect when my daughter goes through puberty? How can I help her as she goes through these changes?

DEAR READER: Full disclosure: I don't have any personal or parental experience to tap into for this question. Experienced colleagues and friends always emphasize how important it is to discuss puberty with your daughter before these changes begin. She needs to know what to expect and also that these changes are perfectly normal. Otherwise, she might be frightened by the first signs of change, such as her first menstrual bleeding.

How can my 4-year-old prevent another UTI?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think my 4-year-old daughter may have a urinary tract infection. How will it be treated? And what can I do to make sure she doesn't get another one?

DEAR READER: A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria infect urine in the kidneys, bladder or urethra, a small tube that connects the bladder to the outside. In girls (and women), the urethra is located in front of the vagina. The opening of the urethra is also near the rectum. The large intestine (the colon and rectum) are filled with bacteria. During bowel movements, those bacteria start living on the skin around the rectum and near the urethra.

How can I protect my children against the enterovirus?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm very worried about the new enterovirus I'm hearing about. What can I do to protect my kids against it?

DEAR READER: Enterovirus D68 is a virus causing an epidemic of respiratory infections. It has been spreading across the news and across the country, making some children quite ill. Infection with the virus can cause nothing more than a garden-variety cold, but sometimes it can lead to serious breathing trouble, particularly for kids with asthma or a history of wheezing.

How can I help my children reduce their risk of sport injuries?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a fourth-grader and a middle-schooler. Both enjoy playing sports. Is there anything I can do to reduce their risk of sports injuries?

DEAR READER: You ask an important question. Injuries that result from youth sports are becoming more common -- and the injuries aren't just the expected bumps and bruises that come with being active, either. Doctors are seeing more serious injuries, some of which can lead to lifelong disability. At the same time, regular exercise is really important to a child's health. It also sets patterns for exercise when kids become adults, and that's important to their health later in life.

Is it ok for my toddler to play with my iPad?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have an 18-month-old who loves to play on my iPad. I think it's fine; my wife doesn't. What are your thoughts?

DEAR READER: The only thing I can say for sure is that I'd rather have your toddler play with your iPad than with mine. Seriously, you've asked an important question, because we see it everywhere: babies and toddlers playing with their parents' tablets or smartphones. Parents use these devices to entertain their children, and in the hope of helping them to learn.