Ask Dr. Bell Part of my work as chief of the Division of General Pediatrics is to make sure that pediatricians CHOP-wide stay up-to-date on the latest medical news. As part of that mission, I am an associate editor for NEJM Journal Watch Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, an online journal published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Journal Watch is like one-stop reading for busy clinicians: It summarizes some of the most important new research findings from more than 250 medical journals.

In my role, I read the journal Pediatrics every month and select studies to summarize that I believe are most relevant to physicians caring for children and teenagers in their practices. While my audience is clinical staff, I also come across many topics that are of interest to parents. In this issue of Children’s View, I want to share with you some of the studies you may find useful.

Sugar-sweetened beverages cause weight gain, even in young children

While sugar-sweetened sodas, juices and other beverages have been linked to heavier weight in older children and adolescents, a new study last fall showed that even in children ages 2 to 5, sugary drinks cause unhealthy weight gain. The lesson: Start early on healthy eating and drinking habits.

TV time can negatively impact children’s sleep

A study of preschoolers ages 3 to 5 found that certain TV-watching habits led to more sleep problems. Among those sleep-sabotaging habits: watching TV after 7 p.m. or watching violent or scary programs at any time of day. Ten percent of the 612 kids studied had TVs in their bedrooms, which increased the likelihood both of sleep disturbances and tiredness during the day.

Bottom line: A “no TV after dinner” rule for young children — and “no scary shows ever” — might just make everyone in your home sleep better. Instead, use that time for nightly rituals like dancing to music, reading a book or making up stories together.

Carpooling parents should remember booster seats

The majority of people use child safety seats when driving with their own children, yet two-thirds of parents also transport 4- to 8-year-old children other than their own. And with guest passengers in the car, booster seat use is spottier, putting those kids at risk.

Only half of the parents who always put their children in booster seats in their own cars also require them when their child rides with others. Review the latest car seat guidelines anytime at

Infant sleep machines could damage babies’ ears

Many new parents use devices that play soothing music or nature sounds to help infants get to sleep. However, a study published in March found that of the 14 sleep machines tested, all but one produced sounds that exceeded the recommended maximum decibel levels for babies’ ears.

Until we understand whether or not these machines damage babies’ hearing, the authors recommend placing the devices as far as possible from the crib (and never on the crib rail), playing them on the lowest volume setting and using them only for short durations.

Vaccines — get them!

Finally, as we are in the thick of flu season, it’s a good time to emphasize the benefits and safety of vaccines. A newly published systematic review of dozens of vaccine safety studies has shown that side effects from vaccines are rare — and do NOT include any increased risk for autism.

The risk of not getting vaccinated, however, can be seen in needless illness and even some fatalities. Make sure your child is up to date with the vaccines recommended by his or her pediatrician, and help protect yourself and everyone around you by getting your own annual flu shot.