Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

Breastfeeding on demand vs. on a schedule

Monday, June 29th, 2015

breastfeedingWe often receive questions from new moms asking when they should start their newborn’s next feeding. If they breastfed their baby at 2pm, they wonder if they should wait to feed their baby until 5pm. The golden rule is to feed your baby when she’s hungry, called “on-demand” feeding. It is more important to watch your baby for cues that she’s hungry rather than worry about the timing of her feeding.

If you have ever gone to a party, the hostess usually will offer you food or a drink without first asking “are you hungry?” She offers you the food and then you can decide if you want to eat. The same should go for your baby. If she seems unsettled, try breastfeeding. If she is hungry and feeds, you made a good guess; but if not, then you know you can try to settle her in another way (rocking, walking, etc.)

Newborns may eat between 8 and 12 times over 24 hours, which is about once every 2 to 3 hours. If that seems like a lot, it is! Feedings may last about 15-30 minutes. But each baby is different and your baby may need to feed more often or for longer amounts of time.

Will you have enough milk for all these feedings?

The amount of milk a woman can produce and store varies greatly and is not determined by the size of her breasts. As your baby sucks on your nipple, she stimulates your hormones to send a message to your brain telling your body to produce milk. Your hormones, along with your baby’s suckling causes your breasts to “letdown” and provides the milk to your baby’s mouth. Letdown may also occur when you think about your baby, or hear her or even another baby cry.

The more often you nurse, the more milk your body will produce. Your milk production will slow between feedings when milk accumulates in your breast and will speed up when the breast is emptier. Your body is producing milk all the time, the only thing that changes is the speed of production. Your breasts do not need to feel “full” in order to produce enough milk for your baby. The key to breastfeeding on demand is to feed your baby when she wants for as long as she wants. Ignore the clock!

Still not convinced? Here’s the science behind milk production

Your body produces two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. The hormone prolactin tells your body to use its proteins, sugars and fat from your blood supply to make breast milk. The oxytocin tells your body’s muscles to contract and push the milk into your ductal system and into your nipple as your baby sucks. As your baby continues to suck, your body releases more prolactin which triggers your body to make more breast milk. Between feedings your body’s prolactin levels off, but once you start feeding again, your milk production restarts. So, if you want to produce more milk, you will need to breastfeed or pump more often.

Tips to keep in mind

• If your baby feeds more often than every two hours, it does not mean there is a supply problem.
• For most babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula. This is why a breastfed baby may feed more often than a formula fed baby.
• You do not need to wait for your breast to ‘refill’ before your baby’s next feeding.
• Certain factors can affect your letdown reflex such as being tired, being stressed or having pain in your breast. Seek support when you need it. 
• Read about common breastfeeding myths in Breastfeeding myths debunked -part 1 and part 2.
• Remember, any breast milk you provide your baby is beneficial. It’s important to find the methods and solutions that work best for you and your baby.

Worried if your baby is getting enough to eat? Visit our page.

Have questions? Email us at Askus@marchofdimes.org.

The safer choice

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

saferchoice labelWhen I go to the store to buy cleaning products, I often find myself standing in the aisle looking at all the different bottles not knowing which one to buy. There are different brands, colors, scents and a different product for each room in your house. It’s hard to know which one to buy and which products are safe.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come out with a new labeling system that may make decisions easier. The new product label will help you select products that have safer chemical ingredients with an option for fragrance-free, and maintain a high standard for quality.

What does the label mean for pregnant women?

It is EPA’s mission to protect your health while also helping to protect the environment. EPA’s new labeling system will make it easier for you to choose products that do just that. If you see their label on a bottle, it means that product meets EPA’s Safer Choice Standard and has passed rigorous human health and environmental criteria. The new label means each ingredient is among the safest and the packaging is environmentally friendly. Under the Safer Choice label, all ingredients must be included on the product or on the manufacturer’s website (other manufacturers are not required to list their ingredients or make them public.)

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s important you choose cleaning products that are safe for you. Products that have the label are safer for fish and other aquatic life, do not pollute the air or water and do not add harmful chemicals to the land. The ingredients in these products have also been tested to see if they are associated with causing cancer or reproductive harm, and if the chemical can accumulate in human tissue or the environment.

Where to find Safer Choice products

About 2,250 products qualify for the new label. You can find Safer Choice products in most of the stores where you already purchase cleaning and household products.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

World Sickle Cell Day

Friday, June 19th, 2015

mom and newbornSickle cell disease (also called SCD) is an inherited condition that affects the red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of your body. In a healthy person, red blood cells are round and flexible. They flow easily through the body’s blood vessels. However, a person with SCD has red blood cells that are shaped like a sickle (the letter C). These sickle-shaped cells are stiff and can stick to the walls of blood vessels. These sticky cells can cause a blockage that slows or stops blood flow which causes pain, infections and, sometimes, organ damage and strokes.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among people whose ancestors came from Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. In the U.S., the exact number of people living with SCD is unknown. However, it is estimated that SCD affects 90,000 to 100,000 Americans.

Cause and diagnosis of SCD

SCD is inherited. This means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. To have SCD, you have to inherit a gene change for sickle cell from both parents. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have sickle cell trait. This means that you have the gene change for SCD, but you don’t have SCD. When this happens, you’re called a carrier. A carrier has the gene change but doesn’t have the condition. Sickle cell trait cannot become SCD.

In the United States, testing for SCD is part of newborn screening. This allows babies who have SCD to be identified quickly and treated early. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

Complications and treatment of SCD

The complications of SCD are different for each individual. Some children with SCD may be healthy but others may have problems. Pain episodes are one of the most common complications of SCD. They happen when sickle cells block blood flow. Pain can occur in organs and joints and it can last a few hours, a few days or even for weeks. Most children with SCD are pain free between these episodes, but adolescents and adults may have ongoing pain.

Although the body is always making new red blood cells to replace old ones, sickle cells do not live nearly as long as normal red blood cells. So the body has difficulty replacing red blood cells fast enough. A person with SCD doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of his body. This is called anemia. Treatment depends on your child’s symptoms and may include antibiotics and blood transfusions.

Poor oxygen delivery over a lifetime can also result in damage to organs, such as the spleen, brain, lungs, and eyes.

A few children with SCD have been cured through stem cell transplant. However this is not an option for all people with SCD. In general, treatment options vary and depend on the specific symptoms.

Early diagnosis and regular medical care to prevent complications is very important. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, you can talk to your health care provider about blood tests to determine if you and your partner are carriers for SCD.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Rotavirus vaccine drastically reduces childhood hospitalizations

Friday, June 12th, 2015

tired-toddlerA colleague was recently telling us about the time her 18 month old daughter was hospitalized for two days due to severe dehydration. She had been experiencing diarrhea and vomiting for a few days and it unfortunately progressed to the point where she needed medical intervention. Her illness was caused by rotavirus. Fortunately since 2006 a vaccine has been available that prevents rotavirus and new research shows how effective the vaccine has been at reducing hospitalizations.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every year prior to the rotavirus vaccine being available:
• More than 400,000 young children had to see a doctor for illness caused by rotavirus,
• More than 200,000 had to go to the emergency room,
• 55,000 to 70,000 had to be hospitalized, and
• 20 to 60 died.

A study that was recently published shows that since the vaccine has been available, there has been a significant drop in the number of young children hospitalized with diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. After vaccination began, hospitalization rates for rotavirus fell by 70 percent in 2008, 63 percent in 2009, 90 percent in 2010 and 94 percent in 2012.

While the vaccine protects individual children from getting rotavirus, herd immunity also plays an important role. According to the study’s researchers, “Herd immunity occurs when a child’s chance of coming into contact with a germ drops because so many other people are also immune to the bug, and are therefore not passing it on.” Since infants are routinely vaccinated against rotavirus, the virus is no longer as common as it once was. As a result, children who cannot be vaccinated because of allergies or underlying medical conditions are protected from getting the virus as well.

The rotavirus vaccine is given in either two or three doses at 2, 4, and 6 months (if necessary) of age. Your baby should get the first dose of rotavirus vaccine before 15 weeks of age, and the last by age 8 months. Although the vaccine prevents diarrhea associated with rotavirus, it will not prevent diarrhea or vomiting caused by other germs. So proper hand-washing is still important.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Monday, June 8th, 2015

hand, food and mouthThe cold weather is over, along with those winter viruses, hurrah! But not so fast- you may still need to keep an eye out for hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), a viral infection most common in the summer and fall. There isn’t a vaccine to prevent the disease and there are limited treatment options, but you can take steps to reduce your family’s risk.

HFMD is caused by the Coxsackie virus. It is most often seen in infants and children younger than 10 years of age.

Signs and symptoms of HFMD include a fever and small painful sores in your child’s mouth, on the tongue and inside the cheeks. You may also see a rash, often with blisters on the hands and soles of the feet. Your child may experience headaches and loss of appetite, too.

Some children may have the virus and not show any symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus on to others. HFMD can be spread through coughing, sneezing or contact with feces, especially when changing diapers.

What to expect

Your child’s provider will conduct a physical exam and evaluate your child’s symptoms. The provider may test specimens from the throat or stools and may test your child’s blood or urine to see if your child has the virus.

There is no specific treatment for HFMD, however medications such as acetaminophen may be taken to manage HFMD symptoms. Usually your child’s fever will last 2 to 3 days and the mouth sores will heal in 7 days. The rash on the hands and feet can last 10 days and will then start to peel. It is important for children with HFMD to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Your child may be dehydrated if she has fewer than six wet diapers in 24 hours, sunken eyes, or lack of tears when crying.

Nearly all patients recover from HFMD in 7 to 10 days without medical treatment. On occasion, complications do arise, which may become serious quickly. Call your child’s provider if you think your child is dehydrated, has a fever for more than 3 days or if you think her symptoms are getting worse.

Protection and prevention

• Make sure you and your family wash your hands frequently, especially after changing diapers.
• Avoid contact with anyone who is infected with the virus.
• If your child does get HFMD, keep her out of school, day care and swimming pools for the first few days of her illness.
• Be patient. It will only be a matter of time before your child is back to enjoying her summer.

Caring for your sick baby

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

soothing crying babyRecently, one of our health education specialists received an email from a new mom asking what she should do for her four month old daughter who was crying, not feeding and seemed hot to the touch.

The Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center has been answering questions from the public for nearly two decades. We provide scientifically based responses to questions on pregnancy (including preconception, complications and postpartum care), prematurity, birth defects, infant and young child care, delays and disabilities, and other health related topics.

In the case of this new mom, the health education specialist recommended that the mom take her baby to see her health care provider. Babies can get sick very quickly, and the only one who can make the judgment as to what is going on, is a medical professional who examines the baby.

But, often a mom needs information about a condition, and that is where our website can be an enormous help.

 Well and sick baby care is on our website

We provide tons of info on what to do if you suspect that your baby or child is not well. You will

Here’s a sampling of other topics that you’ll find on our website:

Croup
Ear infections
Cytomegalovirus
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Roseola
Reflux
Thrush
Teething

There are many more conditions -take a moment to look through and familiarize yourself with our website. It is rich with information.

Birth defects and special needs

You can also find information on various birth defects and disabilities, from autism spectrum disorder to thalassemia. You can learn how to get services for your baby after the NICU, too. Once you review the information, if you are not sure about how to care for your child, or would like more information about a particular health condition, send an email to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We will be happy to provide an answer to your question within two business days.

If you are unsure, or it is a problem that cannot wait, always contact your health care provider or take your child to the nearest emergency room.

For other posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

Birth announcements for your preemie

Monday, June 1st, 2015

birth announcementThe birth of your baby is such an important and joyous time in your life. Many moms want to commemorate the birth by sending out birth announcements to friends and family. I remember when my nephew was born, my sister-in-law put together a small photo shoot in her living room in order to have the perfect picture to include on the birth announcement. Many parents, however, don’t anticipate giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU. If your baby was born weeks or even months ahead of schedule, how should you announce your baby’s birth?

As your baby is being cared for in the NICU, you may feel like you are riding an emotional rollercoaster. You don’t have to send out birth announcements right away. Your first priority is taking care of your baby (and yourself). Birth announcements are typically mailed out anywhere from a few days to a few months after the arrival of your little one, so wait until your baby’s health stabilizes and you feel ready to focus on it.

What if your baby was born weighing 3 pounds, or less – should you include the weight on the announcement?

This is totally up to you. If you feel uncomfortable sharing that information on a birth announcement, you don’t need to include it. Many parents of full-term babies often leave their baby’s weight off the announcement. You can include your baby’s name and date of arrival, which are the details family and friends really want to know.

Your baby’s birth may not have gone as planned, but as your rollercoaster ride starts to slow, you will want to give your child the welcome celebration that she deserves.

Vaccine during pregnancy protects your baby after birth

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Mom kissing her babyToday we welcome guest blogger Melissa Gambatese, MPH, Research Analyst in the Perinatal Data Center here at the March of Dimes. She offers an update on how a vaccine during pregnancy can keep your baby healthy when she is born.

 

When a new baby is born, we are so careful to protect her in every way. We wash our hands before holding her, tip toe past her room so as not to wake her, and swaddle her to keep her warm from the cold. However, one protection we may not think of is as simple and quick as a vaccination before she is even born.

Vaccines help protect us from diseases throughout life, from infancy to adulthood. But did you know that mothers can pass on the protection from some vaccines to their new baby before birth? The Tdap vaccine is one of them.

What is the Tdap vaccine?

The Tdap vaccine protects you from three diseases called tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Tetanus is caused by bacteria that attacks the nervous system. You can get tetanus through a break in your skin, like a cut or a splinter, but not from another person. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and diphtheria are highly contagious diseases caused by bacteria that are spread through coughing and sneezing.

Babies who get whooping cough can become very sick, and in rare cases, may die. The number of cases of whooping cough has been increasing since the 1980s. In 2012, more than 48,000 cases were reported. There is currently an outbreak in Washington state. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your new baby from getting the disease.

Who should get the Tdap vaccine?

Pregnant women

If you’re pregnant, you should get vaccinated during the 3rd trimester of your pregnancy. Get the vaccine every time you are pregnant, even if you’ve been vaccinated before. The protection from a previous vaccine can wear off over time, and a blood test cannot determine if you are still protected from a vaccine received earlier in your life.

Recently, the CDC published that, in 2011, only 55.7% of women in 16 states reported they received the Tdap vaccine before, during, or after their most recent pregnancy. Women who started prenatal care earlier were more likely to report they received the vaccine.

The Tdap vaccine is safe to receive during pregnancy; a recent study found that women who received the vaccine during pregnancy did not experience any increase in poor pregnancy outcomes than unvaccinated women. Talk to your health care provider-the best time to get the vaccine is during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy. This ensures that you pass your protection on to your baby, which will help keep her safe until she is able to get her own pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age.

Brand new moms

If you did not get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, you should get the vaccine immediately after you give birth, before you leave the hospital or birthing center. It will take your body two weeks after receiving the vaccine to build up protection. You will then be less likely to pass whooping cough to your baby. New moms should get vaccinated even if you’ve been vaccinated before, because the protection from a previous vaccine wears off over time.

Relatives, close friends, and caregivers

Anyone who is around babies should get the Tdap vaccine, especially adults living in the same household as your baby. This includes grandparents, siblings, and other caregivers.

Whether you’re pregnant, a new mom, relative, close friend, or caregiver to a baby, talk to your health care provider about the Tdap vaccine. It’s just one more way we can protect our babies.

 

Summer safety

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

keeping-your-baby-safe-in-the-sun_rdax_50Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. If you are pregnant or have little ones at home, there are a lot of safety concerns to think about as the warmer weather approaches.

Food:

Keep these safety tips in mind when preparing foods that are frequently associated with food-borne illness:
• CLEAN: Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. And wash fresh fruits and vegetables carefully.
• SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate!  When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
• COOK: Cook to proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles. After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.
• CHILL: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying

Sun:

Sunscreen is important for everyone! During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.

And a baby’s skin is thin and burns much more easily than an older child’s skin. This is especially true for babies younger than 6 months.

Here’s how you can stay safe in the sun:
• Do your best to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If your baby is younger than 6 months, it is best to keep her in the shade and out of direct sunlight.
• Make sure that both of you wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that have 99 percent UV protection.
• Dress everyone in lightweight clothes that cover arms and legs.
• Wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. And reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. If you are at the beach or the pool, reapply more frequently. Water and sand increase sun exposure due to the reflection of the sun off these surfaces.

Water:

Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old? And it’s the third leading cause of injury-related death among children 19 and under. Here are some tips for keeping your baby safe around the water:
• Never leave your child unattended around water. Babies can drown in as little as one inch of water.
• Avoid all distractions—including your cell phone! Young children need all of your attention when they are near or around water.
• Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices (life vests). For kids younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support.
• Learn CPR. It is a great skill to know. You can usually find programs in your community.

Remember these summer safety tips and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Preparing homemade baby food safely

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Feeding baby homemade foodI was visiting my friend this past weekend while she was making her baby’s food for the week. Sweet potatoes and avocados were her son’s favorite. She’s a busy working mom and tries to make the food in bulk on the weekends to put in the freezer until she needs it. It seemed like she had her baby food making process perfected. Some parents buy baby food, others feed their babies homemade baby food. Some parents switch back and forth between the two. Whatever you decide, choose healthy foods and if you make your own baby food, learn how to safely prepare it.

Where to start

• The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfed babies get only breast milk for the first 6 months of life, but some babies may be ready for solid foods between 4 to 6 months. Look for cues to know when your baby is ready for solid foods.
• Give your baby one new food at a time and wait 2-3 days before starting another. Watch for allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting.
• At each meal, your baby should be eating 4 ounces, or the amount of one small jar of baby food.
• Your baby’s diet can include: Breastmilk and/or formula, meats, cereal, veggies, fruits, eggs and fish.

Keep foods safe

• Make foods soft and easy to swallow; do not serve any food that requires chewing.
• Avoid added salt, sugar, fat, seasonings or preservatives.
• Read our blog post on feeding your baby organic vs. non-organic foods.
• Wash all fruits and veggies with water before you cook them – even those with a peel.
• Remove all pits, seeds and skin before use, as these may cause your baby to choke.
• Make sure all of your kitchen counters and food utensils are clean. Always wash your hands before handling foods and feeding your baby.

Do not feed your baby these foods

• Beets, turnips, green beans, squash, carrots and spinach. These foods may contain a high amount of nitrates, which are chemicals that can cause methemoglobinemia, a type of anemia in young babies.
• Honey, which may contain Clostridium botulinum spores, is not recommended for children under 1 year of age.
• Raw or partially cooked eggs, due to the risk of Salmonella.

Food preparation

• Cook all veggies and fruits thoroughly so your baby can digest them better. Some foods such as avocados, bananas, plums, ripe papaya, peaches and apricots don’t need to be cooked.
• Use fresh produce within a day or two of buying them to maintain vitamins and minerals. Or try frozen or canned vegetables and fruits. Make sure to read the label to avoid added sugar and salt.
• Use a blender or food processor or mash soft foods with a fork before serving.
• Reheat foods to body temperature. The AAP recommends that if microwaving is used, to stir the foods thoroughly to even out the temperature and taste test before serving to your child.

Do’s and don’ts

• Do steam, microwave, bake or broil as cooking methods for your baby’s food, but don’t boil or fry.
• Do save time by making more than just one meal.  Don’t use leftover food to make homemade baby food. For information on putting leftovers in the fridge and freezer, read our web article.
• Do give your baby single ingredient meals, whether home-made or store bought.
• Do throw out any leftovers from your baby’s dish. Saliva from your baby’s feeding spoon can spoil the food left on the dish or in the jar.
• If you have concerns about the foods your child is eating or you are wondering if he is gaining enough weight, DO contact your baby’s health care provider.

Have questions about preparing food for your baby? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.