Archive for the ‘Mommy’ Category

Is donor milk right for your preemie?

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

feeding in the NICUFor premature babies, breast milk can be lifesaving. It is more easily digested and provides protection against many diseases. Providing breast milk, however, can be a challenge for some moms. Many moms are not able to provide their baby with their own breast milk for various reasons, they:

  • are recovering from surgery or have certain medical conditions that make it difficult to initiate and maintain a milk supply;
  • find it difficult to pump enough milk to meet their baby’s needs;
  • have chronic conditions and need to take medications that may make their breast milk unsafe.

In these cases, donor milk may be the best option for your preemie, and a better alternative to formula.

What is donor milk and where does it come from?

A milk bank is a service that collects, screens, processes and distributes safe human milk to babies in need. All donated milk goes through a pasteurization process to eliminate bacteria while keeping the milk’s essential nutrients. The milk is then packaged, stored and ready to ship to hospitals or individual recipients at home. Lactating women who wish to donate their breast milk may do so through a milk bank.

Does your preemie need donor milk?

The nutritional needs of each baby depends on many different factors. It’s important to talk to your baby’s doctor to see if donor milk is right for your baby. Some hospitals have their own donor milk bank or have a partnership with a milk bank near them. If your baby’s doctor indicates that your baby will benefit from donor milk, he can write a prescription. For more information about the milk bank closest to you, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Can you buy breast milk from another mom who has milk to spare?

There are risks with getting breast milk from a stranger or a friend; this milk is not tested or screened for infectious diseases or contamination. A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that out of 101 samples of milk purchased online from different mothers, 74% of samples were contaminated with bacteria and 21% of samples contained cytomegalovirus (CMV) bacteria.

It’s important to be informed when making feeding decisions for your preemie. If you have any questions about donor milk or your baby’s nutritional needs, speak with your baby’s healthcare provider.

Pregnancy after a preemie

Friday, November 13th, 2015

You may know that having had a premature baby increases your risk to give birth early in your next pregnancy. No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have a premature baby. However, it is important to understand what factors may make you more likely to give birth early and understand how you may be able to reduce your risk.

When you are ready to think about having another baby after you have had a preemie, here are some things to consider:

When to get pregnant again

Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby increases your chance of giving birth early. If possible, wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This gives your body time to recover.

Manage preexisting health conditions

Having diabetes or high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk to have a premature baby. Talk to your health care provider about how to best manage these conditions before you get pregnant again. And weighing too much or too little can also be a risk factor. Try to get to a healthy weight before you get pregnant again.

Prevent infections

Having an infection during pregnancy may increase your chance of giving birth early. Always wash your hands thoroughly and practice good hygiene. This won’t prevent all infections, but it can help. Also, get tested for STDs before you become pregnant.

Treatments for preterm labor

Some women may be able to receive progesterone treatment or cerclage in their next pregnancy to reduce their chances of giving birth early again. Talk to your provider to see if these treatments may be right for you.

In the video below, Dr. Siobhan Dolan discusses who may be a good candidate for progesterone treatment:

If you are planning on getting pregnant again, make sure you talk to your health care provider about what you may be able to do to reduce your risk of premature birth. Together, the two of you can make a plan so that hopefully your next pregnancy can be closer to 40 weeks. You can also go to our online community Share Your Story to talk to other women who gave birth early and are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant again.

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Caring for yourself as you care for your preemie

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Mom holding babyGetting through a pregnancy, having a baby in the NICU, and caring for a baby with special needs at home can take a physical and emotional toll on a woman’s health. This month is a good time to remember to take care of yourself, so that you are in top form to take care of your family. Not only is November Prematurity Awareness Month, it is also National Caregivers Month.

By nature, moms tend to be wired to care for their babies. The daily routine (which goes well into the night) seems to blend into the next day and week. The 24/7 job of being a mom can often feel like a blur. Have you ever asked yourself what day it was only to be surprised when you learned that it was only Tuesday? Weekends, in the sense that most people think of them – free time, sleeping late, etc. – don’t exist. In fact, a Saturday feels much like a Tuesday in the new-mom world. It consists of the same routine: feedings, diaper changes, and caring for the special needs of your preemie.

It is not surprising then, that many moms experience exhaustion and burnout. Who wouldn’t? Every human being needs rest. Constant stress coupled with loss of sleep is a recipe for a downward spiral.

Just as moms care for others, they must learn to care for themselves. Unless you were really good at doing this before your baby was born, it may take a bit of practice. Carving out bits of time to care for yourself should be top on your list. I like to call it using “snippets of time.” Here are some examples:

  • Got five minutes? Give your best friend a call. Just hearing her voice for a few minutes will give you a lift.
  • Ten minutes may not seem like a long time to you, but that is how long it takes to take a shower and feel refreshed. You don’t need to plan a long chunk of time to do that – seize it whenever you have someone you trust watching your baby.
  • Got 30 minutes alone? A walk or yoga video will help to create the energy you didn’t know you had. (Yes, exercise creates energy.)
  • Too tired to walk? Try a quick nap (best done when your baby is also sleeping). Even 15 minutes will feel like you have been turbo charged.
  • Schedule time with your spouse. Somehow, if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t as likely to happen. If it is on the calendar, it is much more apt to become a reality. After all, if you went through the trouble to make sure someone you trust is watching your baby, then you will probably be sure you spend time together. But, again, it doesn’t have to be for hours. Even one hour out together will help to break up the 24/7 routine and give you a fresh perspective.

Somehow, your preemie caretaking will not seem so overwhelming when you get little breaks. Here are a few more ideas to help you.

How do you take care of yourself? Please share your tips.

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Postpartum depression

Friday, October 30th, 2015

contemplative woman facePostpartum depression (PPD) is the most common health problem for new mothers. For most women, having a baby brings joy and happiness but about 1 out of every 8 women experience postpartum depression. It is the most common complication for new moms. Recently actresses Hayden Panettierre and Drew Barrymore publicly discussed their struggles with PPD.

Postpartum depression is different than the baby blues. The baby blues are caused by the sudden change in hormones after childbirth. This leaves many women feeling sad or moody and is very common. The baby blues usually peak about 3-5 days after delivery. Postpartum depression is more severe and long-lasting. PPD is strong feelings of sadness that last for a long time. These feelings can sometimes make it difficult for you to care for your baby. PPD can happen any time after childbirth, although it usually starts during the first three months. PPD is not your fault. It is a medical condition and it requires medical treatment.

Causes of postpartum depression

We’re not sure what exactly causes PPD but it can happen to any woman after having a baby. We do know that certain risk factors increase your chances to have PPD:

  • You’re younger than 20.
  • You’ve had PPD, major depression or other mood disorders in the past.
  • You have a family history of depression.
  • You’ve recently had stressful events in your life.

Warning signs

You may have PPD if you have five or more of the signs below and they last longer than 2 weeks.

Changes in your feelings

  • Feeling depressed most of the day every day
  • Feeling shame, guilt or like a failure
  • Feeling panicky or scared a lot of the time
  • Having severe mood swings

Changes in your everyday life

  • Having little interest in things you normally like to do
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Eating a lot more or a lot less than is normal for you

Gaining or losing weight

  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby
  • Having trouble bonding with your baby
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
  • Thinking about killing yourself

If you’re worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call emergency services at 911 right away.


If you think you may have PPD, call your health care provider. Your provider may suggest certain treatments such as counseling, support groups, and medicines. Medicines to treat PPD include antidepressants and estrogen (estrogen is a hormone. Hormones are chemicals in your body).  If you’re taking medicine for PPD don’t stop without your provider’s OK. It’s important that you take all your medicine for as long as your provider prescribes it.

PPD is not your fault. It is a medical condition that can get better with treatment so it is very important to tell your doctor or another health care provider if you have any signs. The earlier you get treatment, the sooner you can feel better and start to enjoy being a mom.

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Eating during labor

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Woman in laborYou may have heard a news report saying that it is okay for a pregnant woman to eat a light meal during labor. In fact, they even said it may be a good idea for some women, based on new research from Canada (not yet published). But, don’t rush out for a cheeseburger on your way to the hospital; you need to know all the details.

Current medical guidelines say that a woman should not eat solid food once she is in labor. The reason is to protect her from aspirating (breathing) food into her lungs. If a woman eats and then needs an emergency C-section, she could be at risk of aspirating during the surgery. Aspiration may lead to pneumonia, too. So, not eating any solid foods during labor is a guideline to protect the mother. (It is also the rule for scheduled C-sections and other surgeries.)

Labor is physically demanding, even grueling. A particularly long labor can leave a woman totally exhausted and lacking in energy, especially for when she needs to push. A little bit of food may go a long way in boosting her energy level. And, this study found that due to medical advances in anesthesia, eating a little bit of light food would probably not have a bad effect on a woman in labor.

The Canadian review looked at 385 prior studies and concluded that anesthesiologists and obstetrical doctors (OB/GYN) should work together to identify women for whom a light meal may be beneficial. They emphasized that doctors must identify women at low risk for aspiration – this is extremely important. And, each woman needs to be assessed individually.

But what does ACOG say?

As of the writing of this blog post, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) has not changed their position on eating during labor. Their position remains that “solid foods should be avoided in laboring patients.”

How about liquids?

ACOG says “Although there is some disagreement, most experts agree that oral intake of clear liquids during labor does not increase maternal complications…modest amounts of clear liquids may be allowed for patients with uncomplicated labor.” So, if you can’t eat solid foods, clear liquids (such as broth) may help increase your energy level. But whether it is safe for you to drink anything at all is something you should discuss with your prenatal health care provider.

What’s the bottom line?

Remember, this study has not been published yet, and ACOG has not changed its guidelines.

As with all medical procedures, talk with your health care team to determine what is best for you.


Grieve, connect & share on Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Infant lossThe loss of a baby is one of the most painful things that can happen to a family. The feelings of grief you and your family may experience can be overwhelming. The March of Dimes is so sorry for your loss.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and today we are remembering all angel babies. It is important to know that parents and families are not alone in their grief. We provide resources that may help you understand what happened and how to deal with the daily pain of your loss.

Connecting with others going through the same or a similar situation can help you process your grief. We invite all families to share and connect in our online community Share Your Story. The families in our community know what you are going through and can offer support during this devastating time and in the days ahead.

We encourage you to visit our website if you are looking for resources for siblings, dealing with others while you grieve, and remembering your baby.

If you would like to receive our free bereavement materials, email us at with your mailing address.

Send an e-card

If you know someone who has lost a baby, we have e-cards available for you to send to them. Share them today on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day or any other day to let a grieving parent know you are thinking about them.

We are here for you.

World Thrombosis Day

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

pregnant woman blood pressureA blood clot (also called a thrombosis) is a mass or clump of blood that forms when blood changes from a liquid to a solid. The body normally makes blood clots to stop the bleeding after a scrape or cut. But sometimes blood clots can partly or completely block the flow of blood in a blood vessel, like a vein or artery. This can cause damage to body organs and even death. Blood clots affect 900,000 people each year and as many as 100,000 people die each year due to blood clots.

Risk factors for blood clots

Certain conditions make you more likely to have a blood clot. These include:

  • Being pregnant. Your blood clots more easily during pregnancy to help your body get ready to lessen blood loss during labor and birth. Also, blood flow in your legs gets slower late in pregnancy. This is because the blood vessels around your pelvis and other places are more compressed (narrow) and your growing uterus (womb) puts pressure on your pelvis.
  • Having certain health conditions, like a thrombophilia, high blood pressure, diabetes or being overweight or obese.  A family history of blood clotting problems also increases your chances of blood clots. If you have a family history or a personal history of a thrombophilia, make sure you tell your health care provider.
  • Taking certain medicines, like birth control pills or estrogen hormones. These medicines can increase the risk of clotting. If you’ve had problems with blood clots or thrombophilias or have a family history of these conditions, birth control pills may not be safe for you to use. Talk to your health care provider about other birth control options.
  • Smoking. Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, which can cause blood clots to form.
  • Having surgery, like a cesarean section. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that doctors help prevent blood clots in women during a c-section. This may include using devices that put pressure on your legs to help keep your blood flowing during the c-section, like compression socks.
  • Being dehydrated. This means you don’t have enough water in your body. Dehydration causes blood vessels to narrow and your blood to thicken, which makes you more likely to have blood clots.
  • Not moving around much. This may be because you’re on bed rest during pregnancy or recovering from surgery. Being still for long periods of time can lead to poor blood flow, which makes you more likely to have blood clots. Even sitting for long periods of time, like when travelling by car or plane, can increase your chances of having a blood clot.
  • Having a baby. You’re more likely to have a blood clot in the first 6 weeks after birth than women who haven’t given birth recently.

Know the signs

Make sure you recognize the symptoms of a blood clot. These include:

  • Swelling, usually in one leg (or arm)
  • Leg pain or tenderness often described as a cramp or Charley horse
  • Reddish or bluish skin discoloration
  • Leg (or arm) warm to touch

If you have any signs or symptoms, contact your health care provider right away. Blood clots can be treated with special medications.

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Reduce the risk of SIDS in your baby

Monday, October 5th, 2015

back to sleepEach year 3500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly in the U.S. These deaths are called sudden unexplained infant deaths (SUID). Most of them happen while the infant is sleeping in an unsafe environment.

SUIDs are reported as one of three types of infant deaths:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
    SIDS is the sudden death of an infant less than one year of age that cannot be explained. It can happen without warning to a baby who seems healthy. One reason a baby is more likely to die of SIDS is if he is  born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).
  • Unknown cause
    This is the death of an infant less than one year of age that cannot be explained because an investigation was not conducted. Therefore, cause of death could not be determined.
  • Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed
    Suffocation can occur if an infant is put to sleep on soft bedding or a pillow. It can also happen when a person rolls on top of an infant or when he becomes wedged between two objects such as a mattress and the bed frame. Strangulation can happen when an infant’s head and neck become caught between two objects such as crib railings.

What can you do?

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month. It is important to understand your baby’s individual risk factors, and learn safe sleep strategies including:

  • ALWAYS, put your baby to sleep on her back, in a crib without bumpers, blankets, stuffed toys or loose bedding.
  • Do not smoke. Babies of parents who smoke are more likely to die of SIDS than other babies.
  • Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime.
  • There are many myths about SIDS – learn the facts.
  • Place your baby in her own bassinet or crib to sleep near your bed, but do not share the same bed. 

The good news is that SUIDs has significantly declined – from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 in 1990 to 39.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 – as a result of safe sleep messaging. See the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep recommendations and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Safe to Sleep campaign.

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Before Rover meets Junior

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Bella sleepingAs you bring your baby home from the hospital for the first time, you want to keep her safe and healthy around your pet. You may feel anxious about how your pet will respond to your family’s newest addition.

Here are some tips to think about before bringing your baby home.


Before your baby comes home

  • If you are still pregnant, it may be helpful to teach your dog some basic obedience skills, which will help his behavior when your baby comes home. Introduce new rules as needed. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, or to jump on you when you walk in the door as you hold your baby, introduce that rule now.
  • Your schedule will drastically change once your baby is home and you may not be able to feed or walk your pet when he expects. Try changing your pet’s feeding or walking schedule beforehand. For example, if you regularly feed your pet at 7am sharp, try feeding him at a different time in the morning. Or it may be easier to purchase an automatic feeder which will dispense food at a certain time every day.
  • Take a piece of clothing or a blanket with your baby’s scent on it and put it in your pet’s bed so he can get used to the smell.

Once you and your baby are discharged

  • Have everyone else go in the door first so your pet can express his excitement at seeing people. Then put a leash on him just in case he does not have a good first reaction to your baby.
  • Slowly introduce your pet to your baby. Try holding your baby and allowing your pet to sniff her feet to get her scent.
  • Never leave your pet unsupervised near your baby.
  • Keep your pet out of your baby’s sleeping area to reduce the risk of hair or pet allergens irritating your baby’s airway.
  • Once your baby is old enough to lie outside of her crib, place her on a blanket or mat to keep pet fur and dust from irritating your baby during playtime. Keep your pet away from your baby during floor time.
  • Watch for aggressive behavior from your pet. Get help from an animal behavior expert if you see your pet acting out toward your baby.

Health Benefits

Besides your pet being a loving companion, some research suggests that a baby living in a home with a dog has fewer colds, ear infections and the need for antibiotics in their first year of life than babies raised in pet-free homes. The research suggests that homes with cats may have health benefits for babies too. However, researchers think that dogs provide more exposure to dirt and allergens, which strengthen a baby’s immune system.


Although there may be health benefits, you need to keep the negative health effects in mind, too. Furry pets and even short-haired animals are the most common and powerful causes of allergy symptoms. And cats tend to be more allergenic than dogs. My brother was mildly allergic to our dog, but he loved him so much that my parents did not want to give away our dog. We made sure to brush our dog’s fur often and vacuum frequently to decrease my brother’s exposure to the allergens.

If your child has an allergy to your pet, keep the animal out of her bedroom, sweep, dust and vacuum frequently. You can also fit your forced-air heating or air-conditioning system with a central air cleaner, which will remove a lot of the pet allergens from your home. If you are not sure whether your pet is the cause of your child’s allergy, ask your child’s pediatrician about allergy testing.

Do you have any tips to share? How did it go when you brought your baby home?

Have questions? Text or email us at A Health Education Specialist is available to answer your questions.

It’s time to get your flu shot…again

Friday, September 25th, 2015

midwife with pregnant womanInfluenza (also called flu) is a serious disease. It’s more than just a runny nose and sore throat. The flu can make you very sick, and it can be especially harmful if you get it during and right after pregnancy. Flu season is fast approaching and it’s time to schedule your flu shot now.

Who needs a flu shot?

Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop full protection against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for children over 6 months, children with special needs, pregnant women and other high-risk groups.

I got a flu shot last year, why do I need another one?

Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. This is why everyone needs a flu vaccine every season.

Are flu shots safe for pregnant women?

YES! All women who are pregnant should get a flu shot. It is safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy and it will protect you and your baby from serious health problems during and after pregnancy. However, remember that if you’re pregnant, you should not get the flu mist. It’s not safe to use during pregnancy.

Why is the flu so harmful during pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • You are more likely to have serious complications. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can be very serious and even deadly.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get the vaccine from your health care provider. Many pharmacies and work places also offer it each fall. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find where the flu vaccine is available in your area.

The flu shot is the best way to protect you and your baby from the flu. You can learn more at

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