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Posts from the ‘Safety’ Category

Emma’s Halloween Tips & Tricks

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. Costumes, decorations and watching all the kids’ faces light up as they trick-or-treat!

Multi-ethnic children dressed in Halloween costumes

Here are a few of my tips for having a safe and fun Halloween night. Go over my list before you leave the house so your child is aware of your expectations.

  • Map out a route before you go trick-or-treating and stick to it
  • Go to areas with plenty of people around & only go to welcoming houses with decorations and lights on
  • Explain about staying on paths & respecting people’s property – no trampling flower beds or touching decorations (unless they say it’s ok!)
  • Stay outside & never go into a stranger’s house
  • If your costume is dark, remain visible with glow sticks or a flashlight
  • Look at your candy before you eat it to make sure no one tampered with it & ask before you eat!
  • Take only one candy unless offered more –  let them know there will be a lot of kids out trick-or-treating & we need to leave enough candy for everyone
  • Remind them to say “Thank You!” even if they don’t like the candy offered

Most importantly, be safe, have fun & get plenty of candy 🙂


A Little Book About Safety: Book Review

“Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe – but how can we talk to our kids about personal safety without scaring them? How can we be sure they know what to do to keep themselves safe when we’re not around?” The Mother Company has found a way to do just so… by following the lovable Hugo the Hippo as he navigates his way through a fun day at the pool with his family.


The Mother Company is an excellent resource for parents, especially those with preschool-aged children. Their expertise in social emotional learning makes them a trusted source when it comes to communicating with kids.

I love their Ruby’s Studio series so naturally I was thrilled when they sent me A Little Book About Safety. The book is meant to be a companion to their applauded Ruby’s Studio: The Safety Show. Both are fantastic tools for parents and caregivers to explain the importance of safety. Your child will be empowered and feel like they have the skills to be the boss of their own safety.

The storyline is adorable, as are the characters. The Mother Company touches on topics that are important but in a fun way. The points are still getting across to your child without them getting overwhelmed.

The best thing about the Mother Company is they know kids, so they use language that your child can understand and relate to. They’re able to explain safety in a non-scary way. Safety is an important topic that shouldn’t scare our children, but it is something we need to discuss with them. A Little Book About Safety makes touching on important topics easy to talk about and creates an open dialogue with your child.

One thing I always ask myself when choosing a children’s book is, is it interactive? This is the best way to keep kids engaged. The Mother Company does a great job with this. They insert “Safety Tips” throughout the book that work as breaks in the storyline where you can stop and discuss. It has the key element in a good children’s book – making it all about your child! Even from the inside cover, “This book belongs to                   ”, your child will feel like it’s a special book just for them. I also like how they use the term “Safe Adult” because you can go over who is and who isn’t a “Safe Adult” in their life. Every child’s situation is different and this book allows you to tailor it to your little one.

There is honestly nothing I would add or remove from this book. It covers a wide-range of safety topics, like: Knowing a safe adult’s name and phone number, it’s ok to be scared and it’s ok to say NO, and what to do if they get lost. I especially like Safety Tip No. 2, “the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit are private” and Safety Tip No. 5, “YOU are the boss of your own body, and it’s ok to say “Stop!” to anyone… No one should touch you in any way you don’t like.” This isn’t any easy topic to cover but they touch on it perfectly.


My favorite part? “All his smart choices will keep him strong, happy and SAFE.” Kids understand this. It gives them the right tools to take control of things that will keep them safe. As I say in Keep Calm and Parent On, give your child some power. They need to feel in control and feel ownership of their choices.

You can purchase A Little Book About Safety here!

The Perils of Attachment Parenting

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of writing an opinion piece for The Atlantic. I discuss the controversial topic of “attachment parenting” and why I think a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’ can be a slippery slope. I’ve never been a fan of any one parenting technique. I prefer to use a more simple, “back to basics” approach where we expect more out of our kids. Manners, respect and boundaries aren’t a thing of the past.

Extremes like on-demand breastfeeding can take their toll on parents and children alike.


I could tell from the dad’s voice that he was at the end of his tether. He hadn’t slept in eight months and was utterly spent, all the time. He would fall asleep at his desk or neglect his work. He and his wife always fought and they hadn’t had sex in nearly five months. “What can I do?” he begged me.

I have been a nanny and parenting consultant all of my professional life. Often friends of the families I work for will ask me for advice. The dad on the phone was the friend of a former employer. After asking him a few questions, I knew immediately what the problem was.

The dad and his wife had decided to try “attachment parenting” with their newborn son. That meant they slept in bed with their son every night, fed him milk every time he cried, and carried him everywhere they went in a baby sling. Though the intentions behind the philosophy are wonderful—let’s raise secure, attached, emotionally healthy children—attachment parenting is an unsustainable model. I am an absolute proponent of meeting a baby’s needs—and especially to meeting every need as soon as you can in those first couple of fragile weeks. And some elements of attachment parenting—such as sleeping in the same room as a newborn (but not in the same bed), and baby-wearing when it’s convenient—are great. But like so many trends that catch on through social media and word-of-mouth, it’s gotten out of balance. And like many well-intentioned practices, when taken to an extreme, it loses all value.

One of the tenets of attachment parenting is that you breastfeed a child on demand. That can lead to a habit where a child will snack—eating a little bit many times throughout the day. It’s much harder to get the baby on a schedule when he’s snacking constantly, and it’s hard for the mom to get anything done, let alone take care of her own needs, while feeding her baby all the time. I also fear that breastfeeding on demand can limit the role of other caregivers. If the baby is eating so frequently, he probably just wants his mother. This limits the potential involvement of dads and non-breastfeeding parents. And though it might seem to make life easier when you don’t need to worry about feeding schedules and having bottles ready, it means the mother must be available to the baby 24/7. That is simply not sustainable. It often means that when a child cries, the first thing he gets is the breast as an offer of comfort, so he doesn’t learn other ways to self-soothe. Nighttime feeding on demand disrupts parents’ and babies’ sleep. If parents set a precedent that nighttime is not mealtime, and feed the baby when he’s hungry but not every hour or so for comfort, children can be sleeping through the night by the time they’re four months old. This leads to a happier and more content baby, not to mention much happier and more rested parents.

Attachment parenting advocates would say that’s one reason mom and baby should sleep together. When the baby wants to eat, the mother can just roll over and feed him. Aside from the safety concerns with co-sleeping, babies do not learn to sleep on their own when they’re snuggled up with their parents. They become used to sleeping with a warm body and heartbeat next to them, and they will come to depend on that. The same is true for constant baby-wearing. It’s hard for a child to be put down alone on a blanket when she’s used to being held all the time. And it’s hard to get anything done—let alone be intimate with your partner—if there’s constantly a baby on your chest.

Attachment parenting encourages responding to your baby immediately each time he cries, or better still, before he cries. But parents don’t get a chance to learn their child’s different cries if they always pre-empt the crying. Is your child hungry? Gassy? Tired? Soiled? Parents learn to develop an ear for their baby’s distinct cries. But in an attachment model, the parents run at the slightest fuss, never giving them the opportunity to recognize their child’s needs.

Babies will often put themselves back to sleep if they’re given the chance—but these children never get the chance to self-soothe, to calm themselves down, one of the most important tools a child can develop at an early age. I know eight-year-olds who can’t go on sleepovers because they can’t leave their mother’s bed.

Some people argue that throughout history, all over the world, parents have kept their children by their side at all times. Yet our Western culture hardly resembles these cultures. (Did these parents have commutes and nine-to-five jobs?) Parents need to be able to focus at work, not be sleep-deprived, and devote their affection and attention to their kids when they get home.

Perhaps what’s most concerning to me about attachment parenting, though, is the thread that runs through each of these practices—sharing beds, feeding on demand, keeping the baby close at all times. It is a philosophy of putting children’s needs above parents’, all the time. Parents are at their best when they’ve taken care of themselves—when they’ve had a decent night’s sleep, when they’ve had a chance to connect with their partner, and when they’ve had the opportunity to move around baby-free.

When parents begin a pattern of meeting their child’s every need at the expense of their own, it sticks. It’s hard to pop out of that mindset when your six-year-old wants another cup of milk even though you’ve just sat down for dinner, or when your 10-year-old is eager to add yet another activity to his schedule that would require you to drive across town at rush hour. I’m not suggesting that parents be selfish or ignore their child’s needs, but rather, a balance. Children who grow up seeing that mom and dad are individuals who have needs, too, learn that there is nothing wrong with a little independence, a little patience, and a little self-reliance.

TV-Tipping: An Avoidable Accident

Do you have your flat screen television mounted to the wall securely? If you still have an older model, is it secured by brackets or tethers? Parents regularly take precautions such as tethering large bookshelves or dressers to walls or locking cabinets, but television safety is often overlooked.

An annual average of 17, 313 children are injured by tipping or falling television sets each year, one study finds. The median age of children hurt was 3-years-old. Kids this age are very probing and don’t quite grasp cause and effect. Climbing on top of an entertainment system or standing on the edge of a table to reach the television can lead to disaster.


NPR recently highlighted the dangers of young children pulling televisions down on themselves, noting that “every 30 minutes a child ends up in the emergency room with injuries caused by a television.”

Head and neck injuries are very common with television accidents, as TVs are generally set up high… just out of an inquisitive child’s reach. Most of the children in the study suffered from bumps, cuts and bruises but some even ended up with concussions, which can be very dangerous to a young child.

A 2012 report by Safe Kids Worldwide said that one child dies every three weeks from a television-tipping related injury. This is shocking considering there are so many ways to prevent this type of tragedy.

Caregivers know that a determined child will make persistent attempts to touch or grab things even when they are told not to. To keep children safe we must take extra safety precautions. Mounting hardware and tethering kits are available at almost any store that television sets are sold as well as many baby stores. The extra effort it takes to install safety straps is well worth it when there are curious climbers in the house!

After drafting this post, I actually found a blurb about this problem in the new issue of Parents Magazine. I snapped a shot of it because it has helpful tips for keeping your child safe. is also an excellent resource for simple solutions!


New Genetic Test Believed to Predict Autism

Prenatal testing for birth defects has been a long-standing practice for women who have a family history of certain chromosomal abnormalities, are over 35, or have an ultrasound that reveals other high-risk factors. It is not without its own risks because amniotic fluid is removed which may distress the baby. It may also present difficult decisions and extra worry for expectant mothers.

A new study published in Translational Psychiatry has found that some mothers carry an antibody that can serve as a predictor of autism.  The researchers claim that a test for “six antibodies in an expectant mom’s blood may predict with more than 99 percent certainty which children are at highest risk of developing autism,” according to Time magazine. The study also revealed that nearly one quarter of cases of autism could be related to the presence of the antibodies.

The underlying cause of autism has been under hot debate and discussion as the numbers of children placed on the autism spectrum have jumped in recent years—going from 1 child in 88 in 2008 to 1 in 50, according to most recent CDC studies. Environmental factors and/or a combination of genetics have long been explored as causes for autism.

Just like amniocentesis, this new antibody test that can predict a mother’s likelihood to give birth to a child on the autism spectrum is not without considerable ethical and personal questions for parents. What would you do? Would you want to know?

copyright Tetra Images/ Corbis

Who Might Outgrow Childhood Asthma?

Childhood asthma can be a limiting factor for children who want to run and play like their peers. Luckily, nearly half of children grow out of the shortness of breath and restricted airways that characterize childhood asthma. New research from Duke University looks into genetic testing that may predict which children will suffer only during their younger years and which may deal with symptoms into adulthood.


Duke University researchers compared data from two major asthma studies to create a genetic profile of asthma risk. The first study, the GABRIEL project, was a large-scale (26,000 patients!) genome-wide association study of asthma. The second study, the Dunedin study, followed 1,000 patients for the 1st 40 years of their life.

Those with the highest genetic risk score were prone to earlier onset, more severe symptoms, chronic allergic asthma and duration into adulthood. Patients with the higher scores missed more work and school due to asthma symptoms than those with lower scores.


The study gives more credence to genetics as a key factor in long-term asthma. It will help doctors examine whether your child may be able to outgrow asthma—something that has not been explored to this depth before.

However, a simple genetic test is a work in progress because researchers are still trying to discover additional risk factors.

What Are Ways to Avoid Asthma Triggers?

  • Strive for Low-Humidity– use a dehumidifier if necessary
  • Change Filters in Air Conditioners and Heaters Often
  • Keep Dust to a Minimum– get rid of carpeting if necessary, clean regularly, encase pillows
  • Reduce Pet Dander– groom furry friends regularly
  • Regular Exercise– exercising opens airways and a healthy weight can improve symptoms

Following these tips and your doctor’s instructions can help ease your child’s symptoms. An asthma diagnosis can be scary for kids and parents alike but taking these steps can lessen the possibility of an asthma attack. Creating an asthma action plan can also be a great start!

Staying Safe: Fun in the Sun

For those in the northern hemisphere you may have noticed SUMMER IS HERE! The season has already brought on extreme temperatures and heat advisories. Parents may be left with an age-old conundrum: How hot is too hot to play outside and how do I keep my kids safe in this heat?


Even in cooler conditions a person can suffer from heat exhaustion after about 45 minutes of intense exercise! Many kids just don’t know when to take it easy. A day of play in the sprinklers or a soccer game is great for restless children but it can make for a recipe for disaster if certain precautions aren’t taken.

Remember that you’re responsible for your kids. They don’t know when enough is enough or that it’s time to reapply sunblock and have a drink of water. It’s all up to you! There are tons of great options for sun protective clothing and hats, even with moisture wicking material. Make sure your child wears breathable, cotton fabrics and a wide-brimmed hat and stays out of the sun whenever possible.

boy drinking water

If they’re at school or camps this summer make sure you ask about their sunscreen policy. Do you need to drop off a tube? Who’s responsible for putting it on/reapplying? Do you need to put it on before they leave the house? This is important to discuss with your care provider, especially if you have a fair-skinned child. Pack a refillable water bottle, too.

Hydration is key. If you’re not sure if  your child is adequately hydrated, check their urine. It should be colorless with very little smell. The more yellow and the more it smells the more dehydrated you are.


  • Remember to have kids take plenty of breaks and to offer plenty of water (WATER! much better than juice & alternatives)
  • Play in the shade whenever possible
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that breathes
  • Watch children carefully for signs of heat exhaustion
  • Don’t take any chances; go to the emergency room if symptoms of heat stroke persist

On average, the CDC reports that 675 people die from intense heat related illnesses each year in the Unites States. Children – especially infants to age four – are much more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses because their bodies are less efficient at cooling.

If caring for a baby, they are obviously ultra-sensitive so here’s a link to a helpful article from iVillage about protecting baby from heat stroke.

Heat-related illness is almost entirely preventable and it is important to know the signs of overheating:

  • Light headedness, dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Obvious fatigue
  • Cessation of sweating
  • Obvious loss of skill and coordination/clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • Confusion
  • Aggressive or irrational behavior
  • Altered consciousness
  • Collapse
  • Ashen grey pale skin

Of course everyone wants to play outside in the sunny weather, and a great time can be had by all when precautions are taken. Kids and adults love to play outdoors and these simple tips can help everyone have a safe summer!


Hope you’re enjoying the extra family time!

Xx Emma

A Call to End Use of Antibiotics in Animals

While glancing over my morning paper, I saw a full page ad from the Consumers Union that really caught my attention.

Due to recent alarming Consumer Reports, the Consumers Union has established the ‘Meat Without Drugs’ campaign. You can get involved by reading more on the issue and signing their petition.

The Consumers Union is calling on national grocer, Trader Joe’s, to stop selling meat and poultry raised with antibiotics because it threatens public health. Animals raised on antibiotics can spread drug resistant “superbugs.”


Why are “superbugs” a threat?

“These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections. Worse, they spread antibiotic-resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective.”

Why do farmers use antibiotics on livestock?

You may be surprised to hear 80% (and growing!) of all antibiotics sold in the US aren’t used on humans, but livestock. Antibiotics are used to make the animals grow faster and prevent disease from crowded/unsanitary conditions on factory farms.


The Consumers Union is looking to Trader Joe’s because they are one of the most progressive national grocers. Trader Joe’s has already said no to GMOs, artificial colors, and trans fats in their products.

Trader Joe’s was an industry leader by being the first to offer affordable organic foods and cage-free eggs. While they do offer some chicken, turkey, and beef raised without antibiotics, they continue to sell meat from animals raised on drugs.

They are already half way there, so consumers are looking to them to start a change among all grocers. You can help too by signing the petition and not purchasing meat raised on antibiotics. Also, educate your family and kids on why they shouldn’t put artificial products in their bodies.

I’ll leave you with this:

“We shouldn’t waste these critical medications to make animals grow faster or to prevent disease. Humans don’t take antibiotics to prevent disease and neither should healthy farm animals.”

Bulletproof Backpacks: Parental Fear or Legitimate Safety?

I was watching ABC’s ‘Nightline’ Wednesday evening and they did a segment on bulletproof clothing and backpacks for children. I have to say, coming from England, where the police didn’t even carry guns when I was growing up, this came as a bit of a shock.

Does this seem like a precaution we should be taking? Isn’t this the acceptance of gun violence? I think we’ve lost sight of the real issue here, which is combatting gun violence. I totally understand parents being nervous in light of recent tragic events like Aurora and Sandy Hook and we should absolutely take precautions but this just doesn’t seem like the right direction.

Are we over-preparing our children? I worry that we’re breeding insecurity and I don’t think a 4-year-old should be burdened with such a heavy issue. I think before taking such a drastic measure we need to study the long-term effects, like anxiety.

It’s definitely a different world and we need to keep our kids safe but we also need to be careful not to rob children of their childhood.

My heart and deepest sympathies go out to all the victims and their families of these horrendous acts of violence.

NPR: An HIV Breakthrough

Breaking news on March 4, 2013: A 2-year-old Mississippi toddler appears to be the second case of a documented HIV cure.

Let’s go over some basic HIV/AIDS statistics:

  • HIV is the virus that causes AIDS
  • Every year 2.5 million people join the 34 million already infected with HIV
  • 300,000 babies born with HIV each year
  • AIDS has been a world-wide epidemic for 32 years


A routine test showed that the baby girl’s mother was indeed positive for HIV, putting the child at extremely high risk for contracting it herself. Due to her high risk of infection she was transfered to a hospital under the care of an infectious disease specialist.

The infectious disease specialist put the baby on three antiviral drugs used to treat HIV at higher doses than usual.

Of course there is some skepticism from AIDS researchers and the community. She was treated very early with these antiviral drugs. Most HIV patients do not start these powerful drugs until years after infection. The baby was treated aggressively with this regimen within 31 hours of birth. Researchers believe this aggressive treatment likely cured the toddler.

Dr. Deborah Persaud, the lead on the cure report, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center says this is “proof of principle that we can cure HIV infection.”

Also, two weeks ago in France, researchers reported 14 more cases of a “functional cure.” These 14 patients with HIV were also treated early with strong doses of medications.


Bottom line: we aren’t there just yet but this is a huge breakthrough! Further studies are being planned to test this new regimen, and the Mississippi baby will continue to be monitored for her HIV status. What about the people with established infections? Prevention is still what we need to focus on.

The real issues are still the same: cost and access to treatment and preventing mother-to-child transmission.

Read further into this case in NPR’s report.

Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT