Ask the Experts Q&A: January 2020


One thing we all have in common as parents are questions. Lots of questions. Whether it’s concerning how to save for your child’s college fund, best practices for dental care, or how to talk to your child about a death in the family, it can feel overwhelming at times. While Google is handy, it can also be confusing and most importantly, unreliable.

We are so excited to introduce a new feature on Charleston Moms called Ask the Experts where a team of local experts will answer your burning parenting questions in a monthly blog post. Our hope is that you get answers to some common questions that many parents have and connect with these amazing resources right here in our community!

Want to learn more about our team of local experts? Have a question? Ask it here and it will be answered in next month’s post! 

*This is a sponsored post, presented by our valued local partners. While we love sharing these resources with our readers, we have not personally vetted each individual business represented here and encourage our readers to do their own research to find the best fit for their family.

Children’s Health

Q: My toddler still uses a pacifier for naps and nighttime. I wanted to wait until she was naturally ready to let it go on her own, but I’m thinking I might just have to push her to be done with it for good. Is cold turkey the way to go or are there other ways to lead her to wean off a pacifier (she is very attached to them!)

A: Sucking is soothing to babies and interestingly the use of pacifiers has been associated with a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the first 6 months. The easiest time to wean from the pacifier is 6-7 mos of age. Pediatricians and family physicians generally recommend stopping pacifier use around 6 months of age to avoid an increased risk of ear infections and dental problems. If still using the pacifier, around 9 months children become emotionally attached to the pacifier. If the child continues to use the pacifier into the toddler years, most kids are ready to wean by 2-4yo but it’s worth laying the groundwork for your child by discussing what will happen.

If your child is still attached to the pacifier, encourage him or her to use other comfort objects instead and establish pacifier-free times throughout the day. Praise your child for going a period of time without the pacifier. Some folks suggest giving the pacifier to another baby, but this may create some jealousy (and suboptimal oral hygiene)! Discuss together when you might give the binky away, possibly on a special day such as a birthday when you are celebrating another year older and wiser! Finally, be patient; thankfully I’ve never met a college student with a pacifier!

Elizabeth Mack, MD, MS
Division chief of pediatric critical care
MUSC Children’s Health




Women’s Health

Q. I had gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy, which resulted in several early labor scares and hospital stays and as I’m trying to conceive again, I’m wondering what I can do to avoid that or if it’s common to have GD in subsequent pregnancies?

A: Gestational diabetes is a common complication of pregnancy occurring in 6-7% of pregnant women. The hormones of pregnancy lead to resistance to insulin, which is what causes gestational diabetes. There is an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes in a subsequent pregnancy with up to 2/3 of women who have had gestational diabetes developing it again in their next pregnancy. While there are some risk factors for diabetes that can be modified before pregnancy, many risk factors cannot be changed. Non-modifiable risk factors include multiple pregnancy, advanced maternal age, certain ethnic backgrounds including Hispanic and African American, a prior large baby (over approximately 9 pounds), polycystic ovarian syndrome and a family history of diabetes. The risk factors that can be modified are maternal obesity, defined as a prepregnancy BMI of > 30 kg/m2, excessive weight gain during the first two trimesters, smoking, hypertension, and heart disease.

In women who are obese or overweight before pregnancy, losing weight and beginning an exercise program will reduce the chance of developing gestational diabetes. In women who smoke, stopping smoking may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

If you were not screened for diabetes 6-8 weeks after delivery, you should contact your healthcare provider for this screening. In some women, gestational diabetes will later be diagnosed by Type 2 diabetes. Improving your glucose control before attempting another pregnancy will decrease the chance of pregnancy-related complications. Preconception care is crucial if you had gestational diabetes in your last pregnancy so that your healthcare provider can address possible lifestyle and/or treatment changes that can be made to reduce the chance of gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy.

Barbara Head, MD
OB-GYN Maternal-Fetal Medicine




Mental Health

Q: I had a traumatic birth experience with my first child and am pregnant with my second now and have some anxiety about delivering. I know very likely I will be fine and I won’t have a repeat of that first time, but I can’t help reliving that first time. I guess I just want some help in reassuring myself and being confident about birthing my second child?

A: Thank you so much for your question. I am so sorry you experienced a traumatic birth. I am so grateful that the birth community is starting to become aware of birth traumas and the impact it has on moms. You have every right to be disappointed and upset about your experience and it is completely normal that you are having anxiety now that you are pregnant again!

I hear all the time that women feel like their power was taken away from them during labor and delivery and that is absolutely not ok! I would recommend connecting with either the hospital or birthing center to see if they have any childbirth education courses. Another option is to check out doulas so you have someone there with you who knows your preferences and their job is to support you. Interview more than one to see who is going to be a good fit for you.

Trauma often leads to anxiety and it is normal and expected that you would feel anxious about giving birth again. I would challenge you to begin noticing when your mind starts replaying the events of the first birth. Notice when you make the jump to “it’s going to be this way for the next time.” What other things do you notice? Do you have a pit in your stomach? Are your shoulders tight? Do you find yourself talking really fast or isolating from friends family members? You are doing two things- you are stopping your mind from predicting the future and going down the “what if” dark hole. You are also bringing yourself back to the present. What is true here and now? You can’t control your thoughts, but you can control how you reactions when you notice those thoughts.

Amy Jackson
Licensed Professional Counselor
Sweetgrass Counseling




Oral Health

Q: What are some of the best ways to prevent teeth staining while you have braces?

A: Regularly brushing your teeth is the best way to prevent staining with braces. When we talk about brushing teeth, we don’t mean just sticking a toothbrush in your mouth for a hot second! When you brush your teeth, you should be CLEANING all the food, and build-up otherwise known as “plaque” off of your teeth.

Think about cleaning windows… you can use a paper towel, a special cloth or squeegee, but no matter WHAT you use, you must use your EYES to see if all the fingerprints and smudges have been removed. The same thing goes with your teeth. Look to see that all the plaque is off of the teeth and braces. The teeth should like shiny and not fuzzy (teeth don’t like sweaters). Electric toothbrushes are great, but you can’t miss this important step in examining your teeth. There are several products that will actually turn plaque different colors so that it is easier to see. We LOVE Plaque HD toothpaste at Bullwinkel Orthodontics because it turns the plaque green.

Frequent cleanings with your dentist during orthodontics is absolutely essential to clean and healthy teeth with braces. For patients that really struggle with keeping their teeth clean, we recommend cleanings every 3-4 months instead of every 6 months. It may seem like a lot, but it only adds 4 extra cleanings during a typical 2-year plan. Well worth it to avoid staining and tooth decay!

Dr. Katie Bullwinkel
Board Certified Orthodontist
Bullwinkle Orthodontics





Q: My husband and I are working on getting our finances in order this year as part of our resolution. We are working to create a budget, be more diligent about saving and want to focus on setting goals for tackling debt and making some home improvements. What are some general steps we can take or checklists we can use to get the process of a financial game plan started?

A: Everyone’s goals are going to vary. Generally, a good place to start is by making a budget. Begin by tracking what you spend every month, then go through and see where you can save money. Maybe you are paying for subscriptions you don’t use. Or maybe you spend a lot eating out and could focus on cooking at home more often. Once you find areas that you can save, that extra money can be allocated towards saving for your goals.

The next step is to identify your goals. Be clear in identifying what they are, when you want to reach them and how much you need to save. If your goal is to save $12,000 by the end of the year, break it down into monthly goals of saving $1000 each month. That’s $250 a week. It is important to pay yourself first. When paying your bills every month be sure to include moving money to savings. We recommend having a separate savings account. If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it.

Be sure to hold yourself accountable. Share your goals with someone else so they can check in on your progress. Remember that you have to start somewhere. If $1000 sounds like a big number to you, then start with $200 a month and work your way up. Be sure to reward yourself when you reach your goals. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy but treat yourself to a nice dinner to reward your hard work.

If you want to discuss a custom-tailored plan to help you reach your goals feel free to reach out to us. We specialize in debt management and financial planning and offer free consultations.

Caroline Mahoney, Financial Services Professional
Steven Fazio, Financial Services Professional
Riley Knudsen, Financial Services Professional

New York Life, Charleston



Q: My second grader is struggling with reading and I’m not sure how or where to start at home to help him stay interested and keep up with his classmates. Are there any methods or programs I can use from home or any tips to help him stay confident?

A. It’s wonderful that you are making reading a priority. Supporting the lessons from the classroom at home will have such a positive impact on your child’s reading ability and desire to read.

A good first step would be to talk with your child’s teacher to better understand why he is having trouble. Is it phonetics? Comprehension? Fluency? Your child’s teacher will be able to guide you toward activities that will help with the specific challenge. It’s a team effort!

That being said, there are several things you can do at home to support your child and boost his confidence.
Take a trip to the library to find a book series. Don’t worry about the books being at the “appropriate” reading level. These books should be about something he is interested in and excited about. Does he enjoy fiction, science, animals? Choose books that grab his attention.
Read these books together. You can read some, then he can take a turn. If he struggles with a word, help him with it and move on. This exercise is about getting him to enjoy reading. Interesting stories and spending special time with you will do the trick.
Ask him questions about the content every page or two to keep it interesting.
Read in all aspects of life. When you go out to eat, let him read the menu. Point out signs as you drive around town and have him read them. Make a game of it – give points for the number of signs he reads each time you go out and see if you can beat your score with each outing. As the point count goes up, so will his confidence.
Read for enjoyment in front of your child.
Get him a subscription to a great child-friendly magazine.
Write and illustrate a book together as a family.
Ask him to read to siblings and grandparents, as well as to pets and stuffed animals (these last two won’t mind if he needs to take a little time to figure out a word!)
Get him his own library card.
Keep track of your child’s progress with reading. Try not to compare him to his peers.

These may seem like simple exercises, but they are effective. Reading with your child is one of the best things you can do. It not only supports his reading skills but also shows him that reading is fun and puts him on the path to becoming a lifelong reader.

Joanne Stemple
Director of Communications
Mason Prep School



Oral Health

Q: Is thumb sucking or pacifier use really a big concern for kids who still have baby teeth?

A: Pacifiers and thumbsucking are natural reflexes for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects tend to make babies feel secure and happy. And if we’re being honest these items can make parents pretty happy as well! The truth is that pacifiers can affect the teeth especially those children that vigorously suck their thumbs or pacifiers for a prolonged period of time. That’s why Dr. Will and Dr. Mike at Kids Teeth suggest eliminating the pacifier by the age of two.

Continuing pacifier use after the age of two can cause a “narrowing palate” – this refers to the narrowing of the roof of the mouth. A narrow palate can affect the way your child bites down as well as cause speech issues. When your child is first seen by a Pediatric Dentist (around the age of 12-18 months), it’s important to disclose this type of habit so the doctor can keep a close eye on it and watch the mouth development over time. We understand habits are hard to break for children and their parents. Therefore, we provide realistic suggestions and expectations for helping eliminate habits.

Dr. Mike & Dr. Will

Board Certified Pediatric Dentists
Kids Teeth




Adolescent & Family Therapy

Q: I am preparing for my husband to be deployed with the military for the first time since having our now two children. They are still fairly young, but they have missed their dad during his more brief times away from home. He will be gone for 6 months this year and my concern is how to explain his long absence and how to help them adjust when he does come home. My kids are two and three.

A: Prepare yourself. It may be very difficult to manage your own fears and sadness, but keep in mind that your kids will take their cues from you. Children at 2 and 3 do not understand the concept of war but will feel the absence. You don’t want to pretend that nothing is wrong, but you also don’t want to become so upset that your children feel they need to take care of you. Take time alone with your partner, other relatives, or close friends to express your feelings and get support so you can communicate more calmly to your children about what’s going to happen.

Make a plan to stay connected. If possible, explain how they can talk to Dad through phone calls, email, and webcams. A great way for the kids to see Dad when they want is to make a videotape reading a favorite bedtime story so it can be replayed in his absence. Once the deployed parent has gone, set aside time regularly take photos, make videos, and create care packages to send to your loved one. Many military families use a calendar to mark the days that someone is away. A popular item that has been recently publicized is “Daddy Dollies” – dolls made with uniform fabric and an ironed-on image of Daddy’s face. Your children can carry them anywhere they want.

Maintain basic routines. The stress of separation can disrupt family schedules. But routines make kids feel safe. As much as possible, continue the same mealtimes, bedtimes, activities, and play dates for your child. This will also help when Dad re-enters the home as the schedule can be maintained.

Reach out to your community for support. Attend church or other spiritual services, if you are religious/spiritual. Join support groups of military families, such as “family readiness groups” organized by the military.

Other Resources
Military Child Education Coalition
American Academy of Pediatrics Military Child Support
National Military Family Association

Ashlin Blum
Executive Director
Empowered Family



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