Cord Blood-To Save or Not to Save-That is a Commonly Asked Question

As a pediatrician I am often asked by soon to be parents about cord blood banks and whether they should save their newborn’s cord blood.  It’s an important question with a complex answer and so I want to offer up some information and clarification as there are many misbeliefs about storing and using cord blood to save your child’s life.

Soon after birth, blood from baby’s umbilical cord can be collected.  The umbilical stem cells have become therapy and treatment for many conditions like blood disorders, severe immune deficiencies and metabolic abnormalities. They can also be used to treat side effects from radiation and chemotherapy, which kill not just cancerous cells but also the good stem cells found in the bone marrow. These new normal donor stem cells can be given to replace the defective cells and produce healthy new blood cells that boost immunity, and can rid a child of a life threatening disease. It’s pretty amazing!

However what parents need to know is that right now cord blood is not a cure for all diseases, especially not leukemia.  There’s definitely a mistaken belief by many that if one stores an infant’s stem cells that they can be used later if that same child develops leukemia.  Unfortunately, the initial cord blood stem cells are already “infected” and treatment of that same child have resulted in reappearance of the leukemia. Stored cord blood can often be used to help certain diseases in a sibling but not the initial donor. In addition, because of the small amount of stem cells harvested from cord blood its use is limited, there’s usually only enough for treatment to use on a child and not a full size adult. 

Storing cord blood in a private cord blood bank is very expensive- with a yearly maintenance fee to store the blood and so it’s important to weigh the risks of the expense vs the true probability or likelihood that a family member will benefit from the cord blood. (for example, if there is a known disorder that a family member has that can be treated with cord blood cells) Most parents get their information from private cord banks which often pray on parents fears in order to get them to use their private banking services. In addition, private cord blanks are all very different in terms of quality as they are not subject to strict quality control and oversight which plays a factor when and if the stem cells are ever needed.

So, what do I suggest? I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Get the facts, speak with your pediatrician as well as your obstetrician to see if private banking makes sense for your family. However, I advocate for public cord banking which is free and the chances that an infant’s cord blood cells would be used for transplant is a whopping 30 times greater in a public cord blood bank vs a private cord blood bank. It’s also important to know public cord banks are very strictly and highly regulated. If we all banked our newborns blood publicly it would dramatically increase the odds of other potential candidates in finding a match. Check out the National Marrow Donor Program for information on public cord blood donating.

sources

Pediatrics, November 2017, Volume 140/Issue 5 From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement Cord Blood Banking for Potential Future Transplantation

The Smart Parents Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses and Accidents

 

Dr. Jen's 5 Expert Tips for Caring for Your Newborn

Bringing a newborn home is one of the most exciting yet often terrifying milestones for new parents. You are now responsible 24/7 for this bundle of joy- they depend on you for survival, nurturing and growth. You can do this, I'm sure, but having some insider information to help reassure you is such a big help and confidence booster. Here are 5 of my essential tips for caring for your baby.  https://www.culturelle.com/resources/Caring-for-Your-Newborn-Five-Expert-Tips

Healthy Holiday Habits - Travel Tricks and Tips for Kids

The winter holidays are just about here. That usually means change in kids routines, travel to see family and friends as well as a whole lot of feasting.  Though there is a lot of excitement and positive energy, traveling with kids can be stressful. Here are some of my key travel tips and ways to keep kids eating sensibly throughout the holiday season while still having fun. #culturellepartner    https://www.culturelle.com/ resources/Holiday-Habits-Your- Culturelle-Kids

 

 

 

The Importance of Outdoor Play on a Child's Immune System

There are so many benefits to being outside among nature especially for children as they grow and development in order to support their active minds and bodies.  Parents don't be afraid of having your children play among the grass and dirt, it really will help to build immunity an of course its fun too! Read on to find out more about supporting your child's health #CulturellePartner 

https://www.culturelle.com/res ources/outdoor-play-and-childr en

Why vaccinations are important

Vaccinations are one of the most important medical advances to help protect children from many serious, often life-threatening preventable diseases. In addition, many of these infections in childhood can cause severe complications like hearing loss, infertility and even damage to the brain.  As a pediatrician for over 20 years and a mom of three, I have unfortunately seen healthy children succumb to diseases such as influenza and pneumococcal meningitis.

 Sometimes I hear that parents aren’t worried about their child getting many of these diseases because they say the infections don’t seem common anymore. And that just it, immunizations have drastically reduced diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, pneumococcal disease to name a few. Because the vaccines work so efficiently in preventing these diseases it may not seem like a threat, but just ask your parents or grandparents how seriously ill children were from these diseases before they were invented. My concern is real, if parents don’t know about these diseases and fail to vaccinate children when they are young, the diseases will come back and spread extremely quickly.   Not only are you putting others at risk who may not be able to be vaccinated but putting your own child at risk too.

Because this is so important to me, I teamed up with Parents Magazine and Pfizer to discuss their recent survey to assess parents knowledge of many preventable childhood illnesses and to educate parents about the importance of staying up to date on their child’s vaccines. Even when a baby’s health seems fine, regular check-ups during the first 2 years can help ensure baby receives all the recommended preventive care not just vaccines but also important safety and developmental screenings too.

 

The Dr. Taz Show: Tips for Raising Healthy Kids

Technology Create healthy habits surrounding technology. Place limits on when and where your kids can access devices. This varies from family to family, but a good rule of thumb is to ban screens/interruptions at the dinner table and an hour before bed. Don't sit your toddler down in front of a screen. Kids learn and thrive the best when they "play" with real, 3D toys. As they get older, educational programs are fine in small doses. Elementary schools are starting to use devices like iPads within the curriculum. Physical play is still essential, so schedule it if needed.  Nutrition Don't single out picky eaters (or alternatively, really good eaters). Be a role model with your own healthy choices. Understand how important breakfast is. Your kids have a long day ahead, and you don't always know what they're eating for lunch. Be prepared for that healthy breakfast. Set the table and the menu the night before. Don't cater to pickiness; one child can pick the menu one day, another can pick the next, etc.  Sleep Over-scheduling has made it challenging to balance sleep and activities, but kids need downtime to unwind before they go to sleep. Have a sleep routine, or good "sleep hygiene." Have them read instead of watching TV or being on the computer.

Click here to listen to my top tips to raising healthy kids

Overcoming ACES (adverse childhood experiences) A Boy and his Lemonade

What an inspirational story about this 9 year old boy who set up a lemonade stand in order to help fund his adoption. Tristan has been under the legal guardianship of Ms. Davis since age 5 but she couldn’t afford to legally adopt him.

Ms. Davis raised Tristan until age 3, although she is not his biological mother. The biological mother (a woman who had an affair with Davis’ ex husband) came and took the boy away. Davis was eventually able to be reunited with Tristan after the birth mother left him at a children’s homeless center . However the few years apart were said to be traumatic and filled with neglect for this young boy.

I bring this important issue up as the article states Tristan has been diagnosed with ADHD, impulse control disorder and depression. Davis has been working hard to give her son a stable and supportive life which is extremely important for his long term health. Though I do not know this courageous young man and mother, it signifies the epidemic in this country regarding ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and the effect of toxic stress and a child’s long term health.

The landmark ACES study http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/  a collaboration between the CDC and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego examined data from over 17000 individuals and what they found is those individuals that had adverse childhood events including separation from attachment parent, physical/ emotional abuse or neglect, as well as violence were at much higher risks of health issues cancers, heart disease, immune disorders, alcoholism , depression, anxiety as well as behavioral issues like ADHD. And in fact the risk of disease and negative health outcomes increased with the number of ACES a person experienced.  The study also showed that ACES are very common 67% of those in this large study had at least one.

Additional research over the past 2 decades confirms that children are impacted by toxic stress that occurs in childhood. We now know these events change the brain structure and circuitry as its developing and has direct effects on other organ systems and neurotransmitters and hormones in the body. This puts our kids at higher risk for learning issues in school, emotional and developmental problems and chronic health issues into adulthood.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Effective screening for ACES as well as interventions to promote positive parenting, mindfulness and building resilience can prevent the effects of toxic stress. It’s a conversation well worth having with health professionals but also within communities to support our children. To me this story is so much more than a boyselling lemonade; its about the health and well being of the next generation. And so I applaud Tristan on his resilience, Ms. Davis for her perseverance and never ending support and a big thank you to the community who embraced this boy and reinforced his self worth.

Full story can be found here - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/04/25/the-9-year-old-who-set-up-a-lemonade-stand-to-help-his-parents-fund-his-legal-adoption/

Natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe

Natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe or without side effects especially when it comes to young children. There are increased reports of toxic exposures to kids from essential oils derived from plants used in many natural remedies and homeopathy.  Because young children often like to put things in their mouth especially when something smells pleasant, there is the potential for not only swallowing but often coughing leading to aspiration into the lungs and pneumonia. Many times allergic reactions can even occur if too much is rubbed into the skin as a child’s skin is more sensitive and prone adverse reactions, rashes, andburns than adults.

Tea tree oils have been used for skin infections to kill both bacteria and fungi as well as in bath water to help reduce coughs. However this essential oil seems to be cited frequently for many overdoses and accidental ingestions especially in kids according to Dr. Justin Loden at VanderbiltUniversity Medical Center’s TennesseePoison Center. In addition applying tea tree oil to the skin especially boys may be unsafe as it is a potential hormone disruptor and there have been cases of enlarged breast tissue in boys using this product. Safety for young girls is not really known.

Besides tea tree oil, lavender, camphor, clover and wintergreen essential oils can be toxic in high amounts causing behavior changes, hallucinations, seizures ,burns and liver failure.  If you do use or have these oils in your home, it’s extremely important to lock them up or put them out of your child’s reach like youwould do with prescription medications or cleaning products. And always keep the Poison Control phone number1-800-222-1222 easily accessaible .I recommend to all my patients to program it into their phone’s speed dial so you have it if your ever need to use it.

see the full article here; https://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/poisons-health-news-537/rise-in-children-ingesting-essential-oils-710912.html