Archive for the ‘Mommy’ Category

Measles outbreak continues

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Measles picture from the Public Health Image LibraryAre you and your family immunized against measles?

On my way to work today, I heard that the number of measles cases in the United States has continued to rise. At last count, there were 78 cases in 11 states. Most of those cases originated at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Visitors who went to the parks in December 2014 who were infected with measles spread it to people who were unvaccinated.

What should you do?

If you or your child have not been vaccinated against measles, or if your child is under 12 months old, you need to take precautions. According to the California Department of Public Health: “Any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated. It is absolutely safe to visit these places, including the Disneyland Resort, if you are vaccinated.”

The only way to protect against measles is through immunization. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against the measles disease, as well as the mumps and rubella diseases. Your baby gets the MMR vaccine in two doses: the first between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years. Adolescents and adults should be up to date on vaccinations. If you are not sure if you have had the vaccine, talk with your health care provider.

Measles and pregnancy

If you are thinking of having a baby, and are not sure if you have been vaccinated, speak with your health care provider. A simple blood test can tell you what vaccines you may need. If you need to get the MMR vaccine, make sure you do so before becoming pregnant. Wait at least 1 month before trying to get pregnant after the shot. If you are already pregnant, get the MMR vaccine after you give birth.

Measles on the rise

Last year, the U.S. had a record number of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states there have been 644 confirmed measles cases reported for 2014 in the United States. This is the highest number of cases since the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated in 2000. Measles is still common in other parts of the world. International travelers may carry it to the U.S. where they can spread the disease to other people who have not been vaccinated.

As many as one in 20 children with measles develop pneumonia. This is the most common cause of death from measles in young children, according to the CDC. For every 1,000 children with measles, one or two will die.  Children under 5 and adults over 20 are at higher risk for getting complications from the measles virus, including hospitalization and death.

Symptoms of measles typically start to appear one to two weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include a runny nose, watery eyes, cough, a high fever and finally a rash. Measles is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will most likely get the disease.

Special thanks to the CDC and the Public Health Image Library for permission to use the above photo of a boy’s face after three days with measles rash.

Preparing your home for your preemie

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Preemie going homeWe often receive questions about “preemie-proofing” from parents who are preparing for their preemie’s homecoming. You may have waited a long time for this day, but bringing your baby home, and leaving his team of doctors and nurses behind can be overwhelming for many parents. Here are some tips to help ease the transition:

Before your baby comes home:

• Speak with the NICU staff at your baby’s hospital. They are very knowledgeable about what your baby may need when going home.

• If you clean your home before your baby’s arrival, (or if you want to brighten up your preemie’s nursery by painting it) do so before he comes home. This way you can avoid any strong smells that may linger.

• Clean your house of dust and germs. Vacuum and dust often, take out the garbage and keep your kitchen and bathroom clean. Also, tell your baby’s health care provider if you have any pets. Pet hair can track in dirt and dust.

• If your baby needs oxygen, carefully observe the cleaning requirements, particularly for the humidifier, and understand the safety recommendations.

Once your baby is home:

• Your baby should not be exposed to smoke, aerosol sprays or paint fumes. These irritants can cause wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

• Maintain a smoke-free household. Post signs around your house if you need to so family and friends are aware of your smoke-free home.

• The guidelines for cleaning and storing bottles, nipples, pacifiers, breast pump equipment and milk or formula are the same for preemies as term babies.

• If your baby is on an apnea monitor, be sure you can hear the alarm from every room in your house.

• Wash hands after blowing your nose, diapering your baby or handling raw food. Don’t let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to illness, near your baby.

Visit our website here for more great resources for parents after they bring their baby home from the NICU.

What do you remember being helpful when you brought your preemie home? What tips would you recommend to new parents?

Breastfeeding and returning to work

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Lactation room small photoMy girlfriend just returned to work last week after having her baby. I went to visit her yesterday to catch up and see how things were going. While she was glad to be back at work, she was stressing about how she was going to be able to continue breastfeeding. As a Certified Lactation Counselor, I happily told her that breastfeeding after returning to work can be a challenge, but it can be done successfully. Here are some tips to make things a little easier:

Before you return to work

• Talk to your employer and let them know what you need to continue breastfeeding. Employers with more than 50 employees are required to give you reasonable time and a private space (that is not a bathroom) for pumping when you go back to work. If there are less than 50 employees, your employer may still be willing to work with you to enable time and space for pumping breast milk.  It is best to familiarize yourself with the federal and state laws as they pertain to your company, and your specific job (exempt or non-exempt). Here are creative solutions to help you and your employer find ways for you to continue breastfeeding. You can search by industry to find the best solution.  Nursing moms who get support from their employer miss less work and are more productive and loyal to their company.

• Whether you have insurance through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or private insurance, take the time to learn about your coverage. Here is a great tip sheet from the American Academy of Pediatrics that explains the federal guidelines, the differences in health plans and how it affects breastfeeding. This is a must read! Scroll down to the end for a helpful diagram.

• Start back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday. Consider working a few hours a day at the beginning. Having a shorter work week will allow you to get used to your new schedule and figure out your pumping, milk storage and new daycare routine.

• Get a breast pump. If you need help deciding if you should buy or rent one, read our blog. In many cases, breast pumps are covered through your insurance plan, so be sure to inquire. Proper cleaning of the pump is a must; follow the manufacturer’s directions.

• You will need somewhere to keep your breast milk cold. Make sure you have a small cooler with ice packs to bring to work if there’s no refrigerator, or a bag to keep in the fridge. Have labels handy to mark your bottles with the date you expressed the milk.  Learn guidelines for storing and thawing breast milk, here.

Once you have returned to work

• Express milk during the times you would normally feed your baby.
• Keep breast pads handy in case your breasts leak.
• Pump more on the weekends to increase your milk supply.
• Take care of yourself: get as much rest as you can, eat healthy foods and stay hydrated.

Keep talking with your employer about your schedule and what is or is not working for you.  Share the online resource above, and let them know you’d like to continue working together to make a plan that benefits you both.

Going back to work after having a baby can be a difficult transition for many women. Visit our website to learn tips on how to plan for and manage the transition.

Antiviral medications and the flu

Monday, January 12th, 2015

mom and babyAntiviral medications have the ability to lessen flu symptoms, shorten the duration of the illness, and prevent serious complications.

As you may have already heard, this year’s flu season is being described by the CDC as “severe.” We are only about half-way through flu season and there have already been 26 pediatric deaths. The main strain of flu this year is H3N2, which unfortunately is a nastier flu virus than the other viruses. It typically leads to more hospitalizations and deaths than other strains of the flu.

The CDC is now recommending that doctors prescribe antiviral medications to high-risk patients suspected of having the flu even before the diagnosis is confirmed.

People at high-risk include:
• Children younger than 5 years of age and especially kids younger than 2 years old
• Children of any age with long-term health conditions including developmental disabilities
• Children of any age with neurologic conditions.
• Pregnant women 
• Individuals over the age of 65

How do antiviral medications help?

Antiviral medications work because they help to prevent the flu virus from multiplying in your body. These medications should be started as soon as possible after signs of illness develop —ideally within 48 hours. The most common flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Children may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.

There is almost no age at which someone is too young for antiviral medications. There are two antiviral drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating the flu in children. One of these can be used in children as young as two weeks old, while the other can be used to treat those 7 years and older.

Dr. Frieden of the CDC says “Antiviral flu medicines are underutilized. If you get them early, they could keep you out of the hospital and might even save your life.”

And believe it or not, it is not too late to get your flu shot. Although this year’s vaccine is not a good match for the H3N2 strain causing most of the illness this year (about 2/3rd of the H3N2 viruses are different than what is in the vaccine), it may still offer some protection, especially against the other strains of flu.

The bottom line:

• This year is a severe flu season, especially for those who are considered high-risk for complications.
• The CDC is urging doctors to prescribe antiviral medications for high risk patients when flu is suspected, even before the diagnosis is confirmed.
• If your baby or child has flu-like symptoms, contact your pediatrician right away and ask if antiviral medications may be appropriate.
• It is still not too late to get your flu shot.

Your daily folic acid dose

Monday, January 5th, 2015

folic acid vitaminIf you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, folic acid is important to help prevent certain birth defects. But did you know that even if you are not trying to get pregnant, folic acid is still good for your body?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth. Your skin, hair and nails make new cells every day. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. Some studies even show that folic acid may help protect you from heart disease.

Folic acid can be found in its natural form (called folate) in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. But it is really hard to get the amount you need from food.

The manufactured or synthetic form of folate is called folic acid. There are many synthetic forms of folic acid: fortified grains, pastas and breakfast cereals. “Fortified” means that folic acid has been added to the food. However, the easiest way to get your recommended folic acid dose, is to take a multivitamin containing at least 400 mcg of folic acid per serving (or 600 mcg if you are pregnant) every day.

As this week is National Folic Acid Awareness Week, it is a good time to check your diet and vitamin pills to be sure that you are getting the recommended amount of folic acid.

If you are like me, and don’t like swallowing pills, you can find a variety of chewable and gummy multivitamins at your local grocery, pharmacy or discount store to suit your tastes and needs. Just be sure to read the labels – some serving sizes, particularly the gummy vitamins, require you to take two tablets to meet your daily recommended dose.

So even if you are not planning on becoming pregnant anytime soon, with so many benefits, you have all the reason you need to start getting your daily recommended folic acid fix.

Cheers! with alcohol-free alternatives

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Mocktails for the holidayTis the holiday season, and often that means lots of parties and gatherings, usually involving alcohol. But if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you need to steer clear of alcoholic beverages. However, here are some delicious substitutions.

One of the easiest drink alternatives is simply mixing a fruit juice with seltzer water. If you use cranberry or pomegranate juice, you’ll have a “mocktail” with a festive red color. Add a twist of lime, and serve it in a martini glass or champagne flute. This is one of my favorite drinks every day. You can really play around with this basic recipe, changing juices and garnishes to your specific taste—and cravings.

Also, there are so many flavored seltzers available that you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching juices and seltzers to create some really unique combinations. If you freeze the fruit juice in ice cube trays, you can then add them to your favorite flavored seltzer. The combinations are really endless. And when it is time to ring in the New Year, ginger ale or sparkling cider make great alternatives to a glass of champagne. You can read our past post on Bodacious Beverages for some more great recipes.

Although alcohol may not be on the menu this holiday season, you can still share a toast with family and friends. Cheers!

Traveling this winter? Be prepared

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

winter blizzardThe holidays are upon us and I’m spending them with friends and family near and far, well, mostly far. I’m starting to plan for my upcoming trip and today I realized the pressure in my tires was low. Thankfully I keep a tire pump in my car so I was able to put air in my tires and be on my way. It’s important to make sure you and your family are ready to hit the roads this holiday season and to be prepared for all kinds of winter weather. Here are some tips to help get you on your way safely.

Prepare your car

• Service the radiator
• Check your antifreeze level
• Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
• Check the tire pressure or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
• Try to maintain a full tank of gas to avoid ice in the tank and long fuel lines.

Keep a winter emergency kit in your car that contains:

• Blankets
• Food and water
• Tire pump, booster cables, map, a bag of sand or cat litter for traction
• Flashlight
• Phone charger
• Snow shovel, brush and ice scraper
• Extra baby items, such as diapers, wipes, food, toys and extra clothing

If you are pregnant

• It is important to stay hydrated and have healthy snacks on hand in case you get hungry. Traveling during wintertime can cause unexpected delays, so keep extra water and snacks in your car  to help you make it through any traffic holdup.

If you have little ones

• Before you head out, make sure you strap your little one in his car seat properly. Buckle up and follow our guide to make sure your child is safe and secure.

Check the weather forecast and stay in touch

• Check the weather forecast before your travel so you can dress appropriately. Knowing the temperature and wind chill can help you and your little one avoid hypothermia, frostbite and wind chill. If a storm is coming, try to minimize your travel.
• If you do have to drive somewhere, let someone know when you leave your house and when you expect to arrive. Bridges and overpasses ice over first, so try to stay on main roads and avoid shortcuts.

Whether you are traveling near or far this winter, being prepared will help you travel and arrive safely.

Chickenpox, vaccinations and Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

VaccineAngelina Jolie coming down with chickenpox is a good reminder for all of us to keep our vaccinations up to date! Chickenpox, also called varicella, is caused by a virus. Its symptoms include an itchy rash, blisters and fever. And before the varicella vaccine, people usually got chickenpox during childhood. Now, most kids get the vaccine in the first few years of life.

As a kid, I remember getting chickenpox along with several others in my kindergarten class. And as itchy and uncomfortable as I was, I still didn’t get it as bad as my little sister did years later – in fact, she got it twice, but that’s rare! Come to think of it, my sister was slammed three times by the virus when she got shingles last year. That’s right – the virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles later in life.

For most of us who were “lucky” enough to catch chickenpox in childhood, we probably don’t have to worry about getting chickenpox in adulthood, like Mrs. Pitt. But if you’ve never had chickenpox or aren’t sure, talk to your provider about getting the varicella vaccine, especially if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Having chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome, a group of birth defects. Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, so it’s best to get the varicella vaccine before getting pregnant.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Angelina has a speedy recovery!

Deck the halls…carefully

Monday, December 15th, 2014

holiday lightbulbsTis the season. Whether you are going to rock around your Christmas tree with bright lights and shiny ornaments, light up a menorah, or get ready for a festive New Year’s party, it is important to remember how to keep it safe for you and your family.

Every December, at this time, my family and I bring out the storage bucket filled with coils of holiday lights. This year we went through each of our many coils to check for broken or burned out bulbs and frayed wires. The last thing you want is to be half way up the tree with your strand of lights and realize a bulb has been shattered. Or worse, to have a defective strand of lights on your tree which could pose a risk of fire.

Here are some tips to decorate safely

Lights

Check your new and old holiday lights to make sure they are in good condition. If you see any broken bulbs, cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, discard those strands. Use no more than three sets of lights per extension cord. Remember to turn off all of your holiday lights when you go to bed or leave your house as they can short out and start a fire.

Christmas trees and wreaths

Some trees and wreaths contain small mold spores that may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms and are irritating to the nose and throat. If your child is prone to allergies or asthma, you may want to purchase a fire resistant artificial tree to use during the holidays.

“Real” trees can dry out quickly causing needles to fall off easily. Not only does this make a mess on your floor, but it is also a fire hazard. Try to buy as fresh a tree as possible, and check your tree every day to make sure it always has enough water.

Trimmings

Decorate your tree with your child in mind. Ornaments are not only sharp and breakable, they can be a choking hazard. Put all of your fragile, small ornaments and decorations that look tempting to a toddler or young child towards the top of the tree to keep them out of reach. If you decorate with artificial snow sprays, they can irritate little lungs if inhaled. To avoid this, make sure you read all labels and directions on how to properly use the snow.

Plants

Holiday plants spice up any room, but keep them out of reach from your small children and pets. Plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe berries, holly and Jerusalem cherry can be poisonous if chewed or eaten.

Candles

Although lit candles are warm and welcoming, they are a fire hazard and dangerous for children to be around. Instead, consider purchasing battery operated candles. They look and flicker like “real” flames! You can even find ones with timers so that they turn on and off by themselves. But if you do use “real” candles, remember to keep matches and lighters in a safe place away from your little ones, and keep lit candles away from your Christmas tree.

Batteries

Check all the batteries in electronic holiday toys or ornaments to make sure they are secure and hidden. Button batteries are a choking hazard if they get into a curious toddler’s hands.

Take a couple of seconds before you start decking your halls to read all instructions and warning labels on products. With just a few extra moments of care, you and your family can decorate safely, and enjoy the holidays.

If you have any questions, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

Are you ready to have another baby?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

pregnant woman and toddlerEveryone has a different opinion about how far apart in age their children should be. Some people like to have their babies very close together, while others like a little more time between each child. But there may be more to consider than just personal preference. A recent study found that women who wait less than 18 months between pregnancies are more likely to give birth before 39 weeks.

The study found that mothers who had less time between pregnancies were more likely to give birth before 39 weeks when compared to women whose pregnancies were 18 months apart or more. Women with pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months were more than twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) when compared to women whose pregnancies were at least 18 months apart.

“Short interpregnancy interval is a known risk factor for preterm birth, however, this new research shows that inadequate birth spacing is associated with shorter overall pregnancy duration” states  Emily DeFranco, Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and co-author of the study. She adds: “This study has potential clinical impact on reducing the overall rate of preterm birth across the world through counselling women on the importance of adequate birth spacing, especially focusing on women known to be at inherently high risk for preterm birth.”

So if you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns you may have as well as the time between your pregnancies.  Also, if you have had a premature baby in the past, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.