Archive for the ‘Mommy’ Category

Buying breast milk online – is it safe?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Amy-Hair-MD-PFWToday we welcome guest blogger Amy Hair, MD, neonatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hair specializes in neonatal nutrition.

Online shopping, in many cases, seems to be the way to go; it’s faster, cheaper and more convenient for the consumer than visiting the store. But, a study published in the May 2015 issue of Pediatrics shows convenience isn’t always best, especially when it comes to your infant’s health.

There are many reasons a mother may turn to purchasing breast milk. In the case of a premature birth, mothers may not be producing enough breast milk. In addition to lower production due to an early birth, the stress and shock that a mother feels after giving birth pre-term can be exacerbated by the requirements of expressing breast milk at all hours of the day and night. In many of these cases, a mother may think to buy breast milk online.

Online human milk donation and sharing has become more popular in recent years with an estimated 13,000 advertisements popping up annually on popular seller sites. Some mothers turn to the internet to obtain breast milk because purchasing it from milk banks can be expensive. Prices often range from three to five dollars an ounce, leading some people to refer to the commodity as “liquid gold.” Although many sellers may be posting and donating altruistically, not everyone has the purest of intentions, as proven by this new study.

Researchers tested 102 samples from donor milk advertised online and found that 1 in 10 samples were contaminated with cow’s milk. Of the 11 total samples which contained bovine DNA, 10 had enough contamination to be considered non-accidental. This contamination poses a large and dangerous risk to infants who may have an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk. Additionally, the researchers found that nearly all of the bags of milk they purchased online arrived without meeting the correct temperature requirements for breast milk and that 75 percent of the samples had high levels of bacterial contamination or detectable levels of disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which would make the milk unsafe for infant consumption.

Unlike milk bank systems that follow the criteria set by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), online sharing systems do not usually include the rigorous screening and pasteurization required by HMBANA banks. Without proof of regulated and monitored screening, the risks and dangers in receiving contaminated and sometimes infected human breast milk are present.

The bottom line is that when you purchase breast milk online, you don’t know if the milk you are receiving is safe. The risks of inadequate screening and pasteurization include viral and bacterial infection and remind us about the reality that some potentially-transmitted viruses and diseases are asymptomatic. Talk to your infant’s pediatrician about if you have any questions and you are not able to produce enough milk to feed your baby. You can also consult lactation support organizations for advice. Though we often hear “breast is best,” it is safer to supplement your baby’s nutrition with formula than unscreened donor milk.

Since January 2009, all infants at Texas Children’s Hospital weighing less than 3 pounds are fed specially tested, processed and pasteurized donor breast milk if their mothers are unable to provide enough of their own breast milk. As a result of this initiative, we had a large drop in our incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating intestinal disorder, from the national average of 12% down to just 2-3%.

Whether your child is a patient in Texas Children’s NICU, a premature infant at another hospital or a healthy baby, try to take advantage of lactation support services in your area. The importance of mother’s milk to the health and development of newborn babies is priceless.

Feeling depressed when you breastfeed?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Contemplative woman with babySome women experience feelings of depression during milk letdown and the beginning of breastfeeding. This experience is called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER and is caused by a drop in dopamine, a hormone that is released in the brain. Dopamine affects your mood, behavior, and the way you think and process information.

A mom with D-MER may experience a range of feelings such as sadness, depression, anxiety, irritability, anger or restlessness. Anything that causes a milk release, whether it is breastfeeding, manual milk expression, a breast pump, thinking about your baby or just having full breasts, can generate the negative feelings associated with D-MER.

D-MER is a reflex, which means the feelings cannot be controlled and symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms may decrease over a period of months or they may continue throughout the breastfeeding experience. D-MER is not the same as postpartum depression and is not associated with breastfeeding aversion, a severe lack of interest in breastfeeding.

D-MER is a newly diagnosed condition – receiving its name in 2008; more research needs to be done to learn about it. If you think you may be suffering from D-MER, speak with your health care provider. You can also visit Share Your Story, where you may connect with other moms, and perhaps start a conversation forum.

How to establish your milk supply while your preemie is in the NICU

Monday, August 8th, 2016

kangaroo-care-23If your baby is in the NICU, you may not be able to breastfeed the way you imagined. But providing your preemie with your breast milk will give her the best start in life.

Here are some tips to help establish your milk supply:

Ask for support

Seek out the help of a Lactation Consultant. She is a person with special training to help women breastfeed. A Lactation Consultant will be the best person to assist you with your breastfeeding goals. Your partner, friends and family are also there to support you during this important time.

Pump or express your milk early

Your milk is designed to meet your baby’s needs, so even though your baby was born early, the milk you make in the early days has a higher amount of antibodies to help her fight off infection. If your preemie is too small, sick or has birth defects that prevent her from breastfeeding, pump or hand express your milk as soon as possible. Your Lactation Consultant will be able to help you find the pump that works best for you. Ask your consultant if the milk you pump can be given to your baby in the NICU.

Spend time with your baby

If your baby’s nurse says it is OK, practice skin-to-skin or kangaroo care with your preemie. Not only is this beneficial for your baby, but having her so close will help you make more breast milk. Pumping or expressing your milk right after holding your baby skin-to-skin, or just smelling your baby’s scent, is an effective way to increase your supply as well.

Keep track & increase supply

Massage your breasts before and during your pumping session to maximize your output and improve the flow of your milk. Keep track of your pumping sessions with a log or notebook. This will help you remember how often you pump and how much milk you express. New moms get very tired – a log will help you remember when you last pumped. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your consultant and discuss your pumping log.

Where’s my milk?

After you give birth, you will start to see drops of colostrum, which is incredibly beneficial for your baby. In the beginning you may find it is easier to express your colostrum by hand into a spoon to feed directly to your baby. If you pump, these drops may get stuck in your breast pump parts. Have your consultant show you the best technique. Keep in mind, if you pump, you may not see any milk during your first few pumping sessions – do not be discouraged. Keep at it and ask your consultant for help and support.

Remember to avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol. Speak with your health care provider about any medications you may be taking to be sure they are safe to take while breastfeeding.

Bottom line:

Stay positive. A pump can’t replace a warm baby at your breast, but any breast milk you supply your baby will help him get stronger and healthier each day. And soon he will be out of the NICU and in your arms!

Colostrum: why every drop counts

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

mom breastfeeding newbornI’ve heard many new moms say they “have no milk” after giving birth and are worried their baby won’t be able to feed. The good news is women have drops of colostrum after they give birth for several days until they start to see their milk come in. You may even see these drops during pregnancy; this is normal.

What is colostrum?

In the first few days after giving birth, your breasts will make a thick, yellowish form of breast milk. This liquid has nutrients and antibodies that your baby needs in the first few days of life before your breasts start to make milk.

Why is it yellow?

This is because colostrum has a higher concentration of protein and antibodies to help protect your baby in her new environment. Think of colostrum as your baby’s first vaccine.

Is it enough?

For healthy, full-term babies, your colostrum is the right amount of food in the early days. At one day old, your baby’s stomach is the size of a marble (5-7 ml), so she is not able to handle a larger amount of milk. Colostrum is easily digested and will help her pass meconium (early stools) which aids in getting rid of excess bilirubin to help prevent jaundice.

The small drops of colostrum you see in the days after birth are important for your baby, especially if she was born prematurely. So as you are bonding with your new arrival and getting acquainted with each other, know your colostrum is providing her with the best start.

Avoid mercury in skin care products

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

rubbing-nosesMost pregnant women know to avoid mercury from certain fish as it could harm a developing baby. But did you know that some skin care products contain mercury? Mercury may be found in skin creams, lotions and certain soaps. It is also found in some skin-lightening creams made outside of the U.S.

According to the FDA, “Some people – including pregnant women, nursing babies and young children – are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity…Babies may be particularly sensitive to the harm mercury can cause to their developing brains and nervous systems. Newborns who nurse are vulnerable because mercury is passed into breast milk.”

FDA senior medical advisor Arthur Simone, M.D. says “Your family might breathe mercury vapors released from these products. Your children might touch washcloths or towels that are contaminated with mercury. It could be as simple as touching someone’s cheek or face.”

How do you know if your product contains mercury?

Check the list of ingredients, and do not use the product if any of these words are listed: “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury.”

The FDA further warns that if there is no product label or list of ingredients, do not use it. They say “Federal law requires that ingredients be listed on the label of any cosmetic or nonprescription drug, so do not use a product that doesn’t have a label.”

Why is mercury dangerous?

Mercury is a metal which can damage many parts of your body, including your lungs, kidneys and nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). It also can cause hearing and vision problems. How serious the damage is depends on how much mercury you’re exposed to. Babies exposed to mercury in the womb can have brain damage and hearing and vision problems.

Where else is mercury found?

You can be exposed to mercury through your skin (lotions or creams), the air (by breathing it) and eating or drinking food or water that contains mercury. See our article for more details about where mercury may be found and ways to stay safe.

Have questions? Text or email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Sunscreen made simple

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

fun in the sunThe time has come again – to stand in front of the sunscreen aisle in search of the best bottle of protection for you and your family. The rows are filled with different brands, SPF numbers and descriptions – how are you supposed to find the best one? We’ve made it simple with our list of dos and don’ts.

Do:

  • Buy a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Only use products that have UVA and UVB protection, also called Broad Spectrum protection.
  • Apply sunscreen on dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours. Choose a bottle that is “water resistant” (effective for up to 40 minutes in water) or “very water resistant” (effective for up to 80 minutes in water) if you are going swimming.
  • Apply sunscreen every day you are outside, but especially if you are near water or sand as your risk of sunburn increases due to the reflection of the sun.
  • Generously apply sunscreen to all skin that is not covered by clothing. One ounce, the size of a shot glass, is the amount needed to cover exposed areas of your body.
  • If you or your child has sensitive skin, use a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as these products maintain their protection without being absorbed by the skin, causing less irritation.
  • For an extra layer of protection, wear a rash guard (a shirt made of spandex and nylon or polyester worn in the water to protect against sun and rash).

Remember:

Don’t use products that combine bug repellant with sunscreen. You need to reapply sunscreen often, but you don’t need to apply bug spray as much – the combo from excess bug repellant could cause toxic exposure.

Don’t choose a product with retinyl palmitate, especially if you are pregnant. This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with birth defects.

Don’t use a sunscreen that has passed its expiration date. If your sunscreen does not have a date, write one on your bottle after purchasing. Sunscreens retain their original strength for three years.

For more information on how to select a sunscreen, visit here.

Have tips to keep you and your little one safe in the sun this summer? Share what has worked for you.

Have questions? text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Help to bring postpartum depression out of the shadows

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Contemplative womanDid you know that 1 in 7 mothers experience postpartum depression but only 15% receive care? The March of Dimes is working to urge Congress to pass a bill that will bring postpartum depression out of the shadows to ensure that mothers get the proper mental health care they need. This very important legislation will make it easier for women to get the screening and treatment they need for postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common health problem for new mothers. In fact, between 9-16% of moms experience PPD in the first year after the birth of their baby.

We’re not sure what causes PPD but it can happen to any woman after she’s given birth. It’s possible that PPD may be due to changing hormone levels after pregnancy. Also, PPD can happen any time after childbirth. But it most often starts within 1 to 3 weeks of having a baby.

While we don’t know the exact cause of PPD, we do know that there are some things that may make you more likely than other women to have PPD:

  • You’re younger than 20.
  • You’ve had PPD, major depression or other mood disorders in the past. You may have been treated for these conditions. Or you may have had signs of them, but never saw a health care provider for treatment.
  • You have a family history of depression. This means that one or more people in your family has had depression.
  • You’ve recently had stressful events in your life.

If you think you may have PPD, see a health care provider right away. PPD is a medical condition that needs treatment to get better. The vast majority (90%) of mothers with PPD can be treated successfully. But first, PPD needs to be diagnosed. Getting treatment early can help both you and your baby.

Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to support legislation to increase access to PPD screening and ensure all affected women get the treatment they need. Help us to help moms suffering in silence.

Life-long effects of preeclampsia for mom and baby

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Pregnant couple with doctorPreeclampsia is serious; it affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide. And it’s the cause of 15% of premature births in the U.S.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after you give birth. It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Some of these signs include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache.

What does this mean for moms?

If a woman had preeclampsia during a pregnancy, she has 3 to 4 times the risk of high blood pressure and double the risk for heart disease and stroke later in life. She may also have an increased risk of developing diabetes. And for those women who have had preeclampsia and delivered preterm, had low-birthweight babies, or had severe preeclampsia more than once, the risk of heart disease can be higher.

These facts are scary, especially since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. But having preeclampsia does not mean you will definitely develop heart problems, it just means that this may be a sign to pay extra attention to your health.

What about babies?

Women with preeclampsia are more likely than women who don’t have preeclampsia to have preterm labor and delivery. Even with treatment, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious problems for her and her baby.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer. And some of these babies will face long-term health effects that include intellectual and developmental disabilities and other health problems.

If you had preeclampsia in the past, there are things you can do now to reduce your future risk:

  • Talk to your health care provider. She can help you monitor your health now to reduce your risk for heart disease later.
  • Get a yearly exam to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels.
  • Add activity into your daily routine. No need to run laps around the track, though. Here are some tips to help you get moving, whether you are pregnant or not.
  • Stick to the good stuff. Eat from these five food groups at every meal: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and protein. Check out our sample menu for creative ideas.
  • Ask your provider if taking low-dose aspirin daily may be right for you.
  • If you are a smoker, quit. Try to avoid second-hand smoke as well. Tobacco can raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Making vaccines easier for your child

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Mom calming crying babyIn recognition of National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), March of Dimes is participating in a blog relay to discuss the critical role vaccines play in protecting children, families, and communities against vaccine-preventable diseases. NIIW is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can follow the NIIW conversation on social media using hashtag #NIIW.

Let’s face it – getting a shot is not a pleasant experience for you or your baby. But making sure your child receives her vaccines to stay healthy is so important! Vaccines allow children to become immune to a disease without actually getting sick from the disease. It is always better to prevent an illness than to treat it after it occurs.

Here are some tips to make getting vaccinations easier:

  • Provide comfort. Keep your baby cuddled in your lap and sing to her. Here are ways to hold your baby or young child while she receives her shot.
  • Bring her favorite toy, book or blanket.
  • Make eye contact with her and tell her everything will be okay.
  • Be honest with your child; tell her the she may feel a pinch, but the shot will keep her healthy.
  • After the shot, hug and praise your child. For your baby, swaddling, breastfeeding or a bottle may offer relief.
  • Before leaving the office, ask your provider to advise you about a non-aspirin pain reliever in case your child is uncomfortable after the shot.

Keep your baby on track

It is important to keep up-to-date with your child’s vaccinations. It may seem like your baby needs many shots, but remember, receiving multiple vaccines at one time does not overload her immune system. Several vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of what your baby is exposed to every day in her environment. And your baby needs more than one dose of certain vaccines because each one builds up her immunity. Here is a complete schedule of your baby’s vaccines along with answers to many of your questions.

Off track? Use this handy tool to help you get back on schedule.

For the top 5 reasons why vaccines are important to your child’s health, see this post. Still got questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Remember: CDC strongly recommends giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two as the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles. You can learn more by visiting the CDC website. Be sure to stop by the other #NIIW relay participants’ blogs to learn about the benefits of immunization– tomorrow’s post will be hosted by What to Expect.

 

Breastfeeding can reduce your stress

Monday, April 18th, 2016

2012d032_0483It’s true, breastfeeding releases hormones that help you feel more relaxed.

Oxytocin is one of the hormones your body makes to produce breast milk. Oxytocin is responsible for your milk letdown and also helps your uterus contract to the way it was before you became pregnant. But there’s even more that oxytocin does for moms; it helps you reduce your stress.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “anti-stress” or “love” hormone and for good reason. Oxytocin is part of a complex interaction in your body that reduces stress and helps you bond with your baby. How does oxytocin do this? The hormone is associated with a decrease in blood pressure and cortisol levels (the hormone released in response to stress).  Oxytocin also increases relaxation, sleepiness, blood flow, digestion and healing. Studies have shown that moms who breastfeed also have a lower response to stress and pain.

So go ahead and take advantage of the benefits of breastfeeding. The deep relaxation may make you feel ready for a nap, so put your feet up while you nurse and take this time to refocus. After you put your baby back in her basinet or crib, take a cat nap to feel reenergized.

For even more benefits of breastfeeding, read our post.

Have questions? Email or text us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org.