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Archive for February 2016

Baby’s Ear Ache

Earaches are painful and distressing.

When and where ear pain occurs

Ear pain can occur when your baby is teething, flying in a plane, swimming, or after an illness. Pain can come from the outer or middle ear. Most children have had an ear infection before the age of three but infection is not always the cause.

Structure of the ear supports infection

Babies are at risk of ear infection because the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and nose, is short and straight. This shape makes it easier for bacteria from infections in the nose and throat to travel up into the middle ear.

Infection results in swelling of the Eustachian tube. Swelling causes fluid to become trapped in the middle ear creating a wet, dark, warm environment, perfect for growing bacteria and viruses. Trapped thick infected fluid builds up in the middle ear causing the eardrum to bulge. This condition called Acute Otitis Media is discovered when the doctor looks into the ear canal with an instrument called an Otoscope. If the immune system is strong, inflammation and infection will clear and pressure will be relieved before the eardrum perforates.

Ear infections are not directly contagious but can follow viral or bacterial illness. Regular hand washing is the best defence against the spread of germs. Fever is nature’s way of fighting bacteria so don’t be too quick to give medications to reduce fever; let fever do its work first. Giving fluids, rest, cuddles, and pain relief may be all your baby needs to recover. Even when the drum perforates, fluid drains and it heals quickly on its own.

Glue ear and grommets

If thick fluid doesn’t drain and is constantly in the middle ear it is referred to as Glue ear, a condition, which stops the ear functioning as it should[i] and results in hearing loss and subsequent behaviour and language problems.[ii] To avoid this happening, some babies will be prescribed a course of antibiotics to help clear the infection. Your GP may suggest seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who may recommend an operation to insert an artificial tube (Grommet) through the eardrum. This tiny tube allows air and fluid to flow freely through the ear. Grommets usually remain in place for about six to 12-months if they don’t fall out earlier.

Hearing loss

If your baby suffers more than three or four ear infections a year, a hearing test (by an audiologist) will rule out any hearing loss that can hinder language development.

In-flight sucking

In-flight earaches occur during take-off and landing due to changes in air pressure within the middle ear. Try reducing your baby’s ear pain by getting her to suck on a dummy, breast or bottle when taking-off and landing. The increased swallowing action may help equalise the air pressure in the Eustachian tube. Medications containing pseudoephedrine (decongestants) that dry inner ear secretions appear to have little effect on in-flight ear pain.

Learn how to clean ears: Caring for newborn sensitive bits










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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Gagging is not Choking

It is important for parents to understand the difference between a baby gagging on food and choking on food… gagging is normal infant development whereas choking can be harmful.

Learning from the mouth

During the first year of life babies learn many things through the mouth such as texture, temperature and taste. Until four to six months of age (after this age food can be introduced) babies only swallow liquid. Apart from the temperature and different tastes in milk nothing much changes. Swallowing becomes totally different when food is involved. There are different tastes, textures and temperatures to explore and become familiar with. Some babies are sensitive to these changes while others are not.


Soft, pureed or chewed food passes over the tongue touching the gag reflex at the back of the throat on its way down to the stomach. Suitably prepared food, softened and mushed (mechanically or in the mouth) slides down the oesophagus into the stomach and intestines for further digestion.

This process of swallowing often involves gagging when the food is new. Choking occurs when food items are too hard or large. Gagging is not the same as choking.


Choking occurs when a substance gets lodged in the small oesophageal tube and pushes into into the trachea (airway) lying alongside it.

Food matter can partially obstruct the trachea or completely obstruct the tube. This depends on the size and firmness of the lodged substance. Sitting upright helps food matter slide down.

Clearly, you never offer babies food that could get lodged in this tube such as peanuts, raw carrot, apple, and hard biscuits that don’t soften with saliva.


Gagging is when babies are getting use to different textures. Once food starts to descend down the oesophagus babies may regurgitate it up from the back of their throat but often swallow it again. It is important for babies to be in an upright position to aid this process. Gagging is necessary for babies to understand how to chew and swallow different textures. Giving babies soft foods that are age appropriate will usually not cause choking but often causes gagging during the chewing and swallowing process.

Always sit with babies when offering them solid food. Avoid showing panic reactions in front of them if they do gag. Instead, smile and be encouraging, knowing that they are capable of regurgitating and re-swallowing. A shock reaction from you can cause babies to panic and suddenly inhale the food they have in their mouth.

Enjoy the experience of eating 

Help babies enjoy the experience of eating in a non-rushed, non-distracted atmosphere. Sit in front of them face-to-face with an encouraging smile and keep a ‘sippy cup’ of water handy.

Staying on mush

Many parents hold off moving their infants onto textured food. This can lead to fussy eating and slowed speech development. Parents may fear choking or only use processed foods from jars, squeeze packets and tins (kept soft for legal reasons).

This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, private child health consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.