Q&A with Dr Ranj on childrens' mental health, postpartum depression and childhood obesity
We chatted with ITV1's This Morning and Good Morning Britain's health expert, Dr Ranj to get his thoughts on kids' mental health, travelling with baby and childhood obesity
Being the only TV doctor who specialises in children, young people and families gives Dr. Ranj a unique and valuable viewpoint.
We sat down with the health guru to get his thoughts on everything from children's health and childhood obesity to post partum depression and parenting trends to avoid, ahead of his appearance at This Morning Live event.
What would you recommend packing when travelling for the first time with baby?
'That’s a tough one and will probably be slightly different for each child! As a general rule: pack the usual nappies and baby toiletries.
Grab some hand sanitiser in case you’re somewhere without access to clean washing facilities. Pack some pain and fever medication.
Pack sunblock if travelling to a hot or sunny destination. Pack some oral rehydration solution sachets in case they get a tummy bug. Pack some anti-allergy medicine, and some plasters and bandages.
Obviously, always read the instructions!'
What advice would you give to expectant mums about to give birth for the first time?
'Make sure you feel as confident as you can. That means talking to your midwife, or GP, or hospital doctor about any expectations and fears.
Prepare yourself for the big day and make sure you pack a bag in advance so it is ready in case things happen unexpectedly.
And always carry your notes with you – you never know when you might need them!'
How do you know if low mood is actually post-partum depression?
'It’s not unusual for your feelings and mood to be all over the place after birth – your body and mind have just gone through some major experiences!
However, if your mood is persistently low, or it is affecting your ability to care for your child, or other people are worried about you, then make sure you speak to someone.
It’s important to get help early so things don’t get worse.'
Where do new mums who suffer from postpartum depression find help?
'There are lots of people to approach: your midwife or health visitor, your GP or an online platform such as a support group.
Friends and family, as well as partners, can also be a great source of support.'
Would you recommend a first aid course for parents?
'I think all parents should know a bit about the basics: what to do with common injuries, how to prevent and deal with choking, and what to do if you child isn’t breathing.
These skills are actually quite simple, but have to be regularly reinforced as they are so important.'
With today’s spotlight on children’s mental health, what help is out there specifically for parents who have a child suffering from a mental health issue?
'As well as the usual sources of help, like medical professionals or CAMHS services, there are many charitable organisations that provide advice and support.
These include organisation like Young Minds that also provide a parent support help line. The NHS Choices website has lots of links to help.'
There’s so much in the news recently about early childhood obesity. What do you think is the cause of the increasing epidemic?
'It’s all down to us eating the wrong things and not moving enough.
We need to promote healthier eating in children from a young age, and encourage them to think of physical activity as a normal part of life.'
What are your thoughts on campaigns like Jamie Oliver’s #AdEnough?
'There is no doubt that the food industry needs to take more responsibility about their contribution to the current obesity epidemic in children and young people.
That includes looking and food advertising, but is not limited to that. Also, there is no point making junk food more expensive, if healthier food is still too costly. That won’t help anyone,'
How should parents nip picky eating in the bud early on?
'It’s not always that easy, but remember the 5 Ps:
Patience (it can take a long time to sort out), persistence (you’re going to have to try many times), preparation (get kids involved in preparing food), presentation (try different and more interesting ways of presenting meals), and portion sizes (don’t expect them to eat as much as you and don’t ever force them). If you’re really struggling there is a 6th P: professional help.'
Why do you think the rate of breastfeeding in the UK is so low?
'There are lots of reasons for this, and they can vary across different parts of the country. Some of them are cultural beliefs and expectations.
Some people are unable to for a medical reason either in mum or baby. Some people simply choose not to, and that choice should be respected provided they make an informed decision.
For a large proportion, I think it’s because we have a serious lack of postnatal feeding support and that means it is harder for new mums who may want to breastfeed, but don’t have the support they need.
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy!'
The ongoing discussion over whether baby jabs are necessary or not is still raging on. Can you give us a definitive answer on this? What should parents choose to do?
'All of the respected medical bodies and organisations, as well as the vast majority of medical professionals across the world, all agree that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
There is a huge amount of scientific evidence that immunisation is safe and effective for the vast majority of children, and is one of the best ways to protect their health and the health of those around them.
The problem is that is our online world, there are lots of misleading sources of information too and that make things difficult for everyone. Unfortunately, there is no conspiracy theory here. The truth is that vaccination works.'
How can you tell if your baby isn’t well? What are the early signs you shouldn’t ignore?
'It’s impossible to go through every sign, but one of the most important is to trust your instinct.
If you are worried, then speak to a medical professional. If you are still worried, then go back and get a review.
Things can change over time and sometimes the sings of a serious illness aren’t always apparent straight away.
There are other specific things that we advise all people to look out for, including a high fever in babies, fevers that persist for longer than 5 days, a rash that doesn’t fade when you press it, fits and convulsions, but this is not an exhaustive list.
It’s important for all parents to also familiarise themselves with the signs of sepsis (see the great guides from the UK Sepsis Trust).'
What remedies or feeding routines can help to alleviate colic?
'There are lots of remedies on the market, but sadly not much evidence that they actually work! What does work is time and patience.
We don’t know what causes colic, but we do know it is harmless (albeit quite distressing). Try different things such as massage, bathing, cradling and rocking.
There’s a great colic guide on the NHS Choices website. If you are really struggling then please ask for help.'
Make sure you book tickets to This Morning Live this weekend to see Dr Ranj at the Beauty & Wellbeing stage.
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