Ask the Experts Q&A: November 2019


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: Is it normal that my baby snores?

A: Noisy breathing can develop at various times throughout infancy and childhood, and thankfully most cases are not dangerous. A small amount of mucous or narrowing can cause noisy breathing. As babies grow, their nostrils and airways grow, and their breathing tends to get quieter. Commonly a snoring baby has mucous blocking their nostrils and nasal saline drops and bulb suction can be helpful. If your baby’s snoring is not improved with nasal saline and bulb suction, it may be helpful to video your baby’s noisy breathing (particularly if it is intermittent) and see your pediatrician.

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





Women’s Health

Q. What are some of the best natural ways to induce labor?

A: In many pregnancies, labor induction may be necessary. Many times, labor induction is recommended because of potential complications for the mother including conditions such as preeclampsia, diabetes or hypertension. Induction of labor may also be recommended because of potential complications for the baby such as poor growth, low amniotic fluid or non-reassuring fetal monitoring. Sometimes, labor induction is chosen for non-medical reasons and in that case, should not be performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy.

The goal of labor induction is to stimulate uterine contractions that allow for a vaginal birth. This process may also involve ripening or softening of the cervix prior to stimulating contractions. Labor and the changes leading to latent and active phase labor are a process that can take several days. If there is concern about the well-being of the mother or the baby, labor induction should be done with careful monitoring of both.

In some instances, natural methods of labor induction may be appropriate. None of the methods, however, are recommended without detailed consultation with your obstetrical provider. It is important to note that there are no natural methods of labor induction that have been proven to be effective. Some natural methods of labor induction that may be effective include stripping of the membranes and nipple stimulation.

Membrane stripping is done by your healthcare provider. With a gloved hand, the membranes are gently swept away from the uterine wall. This can release prostaglandins which can stimulate labor. This cannot be performed in many pregnancies, however, including but not limited to a placenta previa, vasa previa, low-lying placenta and closed cervix. This can cause some discomfort during the exam. Nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin from the pituitary gland. Oxytocin then binds to receptors on the uterus and causes contractions. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to control the amount of oxytocin release with nipple stimulation. If contractions, however, are too frequent, last too long or are too strong, this can be dangerous for the baby.

Before considering any methods of labor induction, please meet with your obstetrical provider to discuss your options. Many factors need to be evaluated before the induction of labor that are important to the well-being of the mother and baby.

Barbara Head, MD
OB-GYN Maternal-Fetal Medicine





Mental Health

Q: How can I support a friend that is experiencing postpartum depression?

A: Thank you so much for your question! It makes my heart so happy when I hear that women are supporting each other and want each other to succeed. Research has shown that more than 80% of women have experienced significant disturbances in the mood due to baby blues. 1 in 5 will have symptoms and be diagnosed with postpartum depression or another mental health disorder within the first year that the baby is born.

What you can do: Be there to support her. Ask her directly what she needs (she may be trying to be polite and tell you that she doesn’t need anything). Be specific in what you can do. Offer to take older kids to the park so she has bonding time with the baby. Offer to clean her house one day. Sit with her outside so she can get some sunlight and fresh air or put the baby in the stroller and walk with her around the neighborhood. If she is not sleeping, offer to stay the night with her and take care of some of the feedings. If resources allow, hire and pay for a postpartum doula or night nurse. You would be amazed what a night of restful sleep can do for a new mom. Let her know that she isn’t alone. She is not to blame. With support and treatment, she will be well.

Local resources in the area: Postpartum Support Charleston offers peer support and online or in-person meet-ups. Revive Yoga on Daniel Island has yoga classes and support groups specifically for new moms. Postpartum Support International has warm lines and statewide coordinators who can get moms and families connected to support groups and/or therapists. MUSC has a walk-in clinic for mom who may need some support with medication.

People can also reach out to me at Sweetgrass Counseling to schedule a free consultation to see if we may be a good fit. I also network with many therapists in the area, so I can make a referral to other providers as needed.

Amy Jackson
Licensed Professional Counselor
Sweetgrass Counseling





Oral Health

Q: Do you need to have wisdom teeth removed before getting braces?

A: Most often it is not necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed prior to getting orthodontics. “Wisdom teeth” is a term popularly used for our third molars. This third set of molars typically come into the mouth in our late twenties/early thirties when we are, in theory, wise. Most people do not have enough room for these teeth to fit properly in the mouth. Some will even have them get stuck or impacted. Our western diets are much softer and less gritty than our ancestors and don’t require as much chewing force. It’s widely thought that this softer diet has contributed to smaller jaw sizes reducing the space available for these late erupting teeth.

There is a theory floating around that wisdom teeth “cause” the teeth to become crowded after the braces come off. Although this has never been proven, there are certain wisdom teeth abnormalities that may contribute to orthodontic relapse. If you ***WEAR your retainer***, your teeth will absolutely not shift- no matter how your wisdom teeth come in. And YES you will have to continue wearing your retainer after the wisdom teeth are extracted. Wisdom teeth are often not ready for extraction until after high school or even college… which isn’t exactly the most ideal time for braces.

If you have any questions about your teeth and/or wisdom teeth, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free exam and consult.

Dr. Katie Bullwinkel
Board Certified Orthodontist
Bullwinkle Orthodontics






Q: What is the smartest thing someone can do if they get a sizable tax return?

A: The specific answer is going to vary for every person, but the idea is to use your tax return to invest in your financial future rather than going out and buying a new tv. Some smart ideas would be to:
1. Pay off debt.
2. Add to your emergency fund.
3. Contribute to college savings.
4. Life Insurance to protect your assets.
5. Invest for retirement.

Putting a chunk of money towards debt can help free up cash flow that can be used in other avenues to help achieve your financial goals. Please reach out to us for a free consultation so we can help you review your financial goals and recommend how you can best use your tax return.

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

New York Life, Charleston





Q: Homework is a big struggle in our house and causes a lot of arguing between my middle schooler and I. How can I help make homework more “enjoyable” or at least a bit easier on everyone?

A. We were shocked to hear that middle schoolers do not like doing homework! Though the majority of students would not cite homework as one of their favorite activities, there are things you can do to help your child use this time wisely and effectively. Parents of children elementary to high school can promote good homework habits using some simple methods…

Firstly, talk with your child and ask them why they think they are struggling with homework. Also, talk with your child’s teacher to see if he or she can recommend creative ways to tackle assignments. Armed with that knowledge, try some of these tips.

Make Homework a Priority. Set clear expectations for homework. Let your child know that you value homework along with the effort your child puts into completing it. Explain to them the purpose of homework-to help them enhance their mastery of the subject. Explain to your middle-schooler that homework is his or her responsibility, and if it isn’t done there will be consequences at school. (You then have to be willing to let your child receive those consequences.) By middle school, parents shouldn’t be going over their child’s work problem by problem. Students should be moving toward more independence.

Use sports and extra-curriculars as rewards for getting work done. One of our experts said that her parents wouldn’t let her go to soccer practice unless she finished her homework. “I loved soccer, so that was all the motivation I needed,” she says.

Planning. Provide structure for homework time. Develop a homework routine and stick with it. Assess your child’s need as you set your routine-some kids may need time to play outdoors (use a timer!) after school while others may like to come straight home, eat a snack, and complete their work. Ideally, homework should come before after-school activities and sports so that the student isn’t staying up late, which means they are missing much-needed sleep and likely not doing their best work.

Keep a calendar in a visible location. This is particularly helpful for long-term assignments and projects. When your child receives an assignment, have them put it on the calendar and set a timeline to determine how to complete the assignment by the due date. Hint: if you have more than one child, color code the calendar.

Pacing. Sometimes, homework can seem overwhelming to a student. To help alleviate anxiety, sit with your child and break the work into smaller chunks that can be tackled one by one. As we like to say at Mason Prep, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; by the yard, life’s hard.” Many students benefit from getting the homework for their most challenging subject done first. Incorporate a timer. Set a goal of working math problems for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is over, the child can take a break and tackle the next task. For younger children, a timer can be helpful in learning how short (or long) 15 minutes is. When they understand that, they can better gauge how to use their time. Make it a practice to study each subject 5-10 minutes each day, whether or not there is an assignment; if your child can establish this routine, assessments will be much less stressful.

Environment. Provide a designated space for homework that minimizes distractions and helps your child focus. This can be a private space away from distractions OR perhaps a more public spot in your home where you can keep an eye on their progress. Remove electronics from the study space. Phones, especially, are huge distractions for children. Use these instead as a reward for finishing an assignment.

Methods. Children love digital methods for learning and studying. Activities like Quizlet can be great tools to test one’s knowledge or practice skills. Ask your child’s teacher for suggestions of online resources to support the subject matter.

Know that this is a process of trial and error. You may need to try multiple techniques to see what works best for your child, but building good homework and study habits will have an amazing impact on your child’s success in school and confidence in their abilities.

Joanne Stemple
Director of Communications
Mason Prep School





Oral Health

Q: My toddler HATES getting her teeth brushed. How can I 1-make sure they’re brushed well and 2-how can I stop the squirming and screaming?

A: First, this is normal behavior for toddlers so hang in there! Here are a few suggestions to help you along the way:

1. Attempt brushing after bath time. Once their bath is complete place the child in your lap and leave them wrapped in the towel to minimize ability for them to reach or grab. Brush from behind. Start brushing and have fun discussing what you’re doing with the child as you are brushing.
2. If after bath time isn’t an option lay them down on a changing table or bed. Place toys in their hands to help minimize their ability to grab the toothbrush. Brush from behind.
3. Toddler’s love to do things themselves so let them brush first then parents go can second. Let them hold a second toothbrush to participate.

Keep in mind that practice makes perfect and it won’t magically happen overnight. But trust us, the more you try, the better it will get. Combine these tips with bi-annual visits to Kids Teeth for a healthy smile at any age.

Want to see these tips in action? Watch our brushing video

Dr. Mike & Dr. Will

Board Certified Pediatric Dentists
Kids Teeth





Newborn Care & Postpartum Support

Q: How can you tell when it’s time to drop a nap from your baby’s schedule?

A: Great question! Naps are a very important part of your baby’s growth and development. In addition, good naps directly effect how well your baby will sleep at night. Many parents believe that if their baby doesn’t sleep well during the day for nap time, they will be really tired at night and sleep so much better. This idea or myth couldn’t be further from the truth.

Generally the number of naps your baby will take during the day depends on their current age and the daytime sleep requirement. Below are my typical nap recommendations:

*2 weeks – 3 months= 3 naps and 1 catnap
*4 months – 7 months= 2 naps and an optional catnap
*8 months – 12 months= 2 naps
*12 months – 15 months= 1 nap
(Catnaps are in the evening and are shorter than normal naps)

Sometime between 12-15 months, your baby will drop down to 1 nap a day. You will know that it is time to drop down to one nap when you have more bad naps days than good nap days for 2 weeks. You will also find that the afternoon nap will be less predictable. The one nap should last anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 3 hours. Do not allow naps to extend past 4 pm.

Nap Time Essentials:
1. White noise
2. Dark room
3. Low stimulation (no mobiles)
4. Cool room temperature
5. Consistent nap schedule

For more nap time advice or a customized schedule based on your family’s specific needs, please email [email protected]

Liz Price
Nurse at Night





Adolescent & Family Therapy

Q: What steps can you take if your spouse doesn’t want to do marriage counseling?

A: Thank you so much for your question. It’s not uncommon for each partner to have different views about how to address or even acknowledge that there are relationship concerns. Since you are feeling that counseling may best address your needs, there are a few ways to help discuss this with your spouse…

Barriers. Some of the most common barriers to counseling are: fear, embarrassment, a belief they cannot be helped, or belief they can handle the situation without the guidance of a counselor. Have a conversation about your belief for the need for counseling. Provide your partner with as much detail about your own emotions towards counseling. Are you also nervous about starting counseling? Tell them! By connecting on similar emotions, your partner may feel more comfortable to seek counseling with you.

Explanation. Let your partner know why you want to seek counseling. Discussing your hopes for counseling (i.e. stronger communication, a more trusting relationship, better ways of encouraging each other, etc.) may help them understand why this is important to you. Sometimes, people feel that the suggestion for therapy is an “attack on their character” and if that is the case, make sure they understand what your intentions and goals are. Use this as an opportunity to talk about goals for your relationship. See if they feel there are strategies outside of counseling that will help achieve these goals. If they have suggestions, it may be worth trying them to show you are taking their concerns seriously as well.

Resistance. There’s a chance that after all this discussion your spouse still does not want to attend therapy. It can still beneficial to attend therapy individually. Through individual counseling you will be able to gain a broader perspective of your own concerns and learn strategies to address them. The use of strategies may allow you and your partner to become closer and, possibly, start counseling together. If one of your spouse’s barriers was fear or embarrassment, your (hopefully positive) experience may encourage your spouse to attend future sessions.

Ultimately your spouse will have to make their own decision whether to attend counseling. While it is tempting to try to coerce your spouse to attend with you, sometimes this can create additional tension and resentment. It is best to be open and honest with your feelings and goals for why you want to attend therapy in hopes of helping them overcome barriers. Remember that both members of the couple need to feel comfortable with the therapist they chose. Most therapists will do a free consultation and trying a consultation first may lead to scheduling an initial session. It is okay to “shop around” and make sure that you both find the best fit to help you reach your goals. I wish you two the best of luck as you continue on your journey!

Ashlin Blum
Executive Director
Empowered Family


Want to ask one of our local experts a question?

Have a question for one of our local parenting experts or just want to learn more about them? Ask your question and it will be featured in next month’s Q&A!