Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

Spending holidays in the NICU

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Parents in NICU If your baby is currently in the NICU, this may not be how you envisioned spending your holidays. The realization that your baby is not home for Hanukkah, Christmas or the start of the New Year can be a real jolt. But, with a little creativity, an open mind and a willingness to adapt, you can still make your holidays bright. Here’s how:

• Although no two NICUs are exactly alike, many will allow you to decorate your baby’s bed space (but ask first). You may be able to attach pictures or tiny holiday decorations on the side of the incubator or warmer bed.

• Engage your other children if you have them. You can take a photo of them and pin it up on the side of your baby’s bed (if allowed). Likewise, take a photo of your baby and bring it to your child or children at home to decorate. They can make a Christmas ornament out of it and hang it on the tree or draw a picture around it and set it up next to the menorah. This way, your littlest one is always present at your home in a physical way.

• If your baby is healthy enough, see if you can put him in a special holiday outfit. A snowman, Santa or elf onesie would be adorable! (But be sure to check with the head nurse or doctor first.)

• Depending on the health of your baby and NICU rules, perhaps Dad can pose as Santa and take a photo with your baby. (Be sure the Santa outfit is squeaky clean please!)

• Place a tiny “Charlie Brown” tree, menorah or other symbolic decoration on the windowsill or counter next to your baby.

• If appropriate, see if you can play soft holiday music when visiting your baby. Humming or singing to your baby may be soothing to him and in this way you can introduce him to his first Christmas Carol or Hanukkah song.

• Make a clay impression of your baby’s foot as a keepsake. There are kits that you can buy that are easy to prepare. Or, if you have a creative streak in you, you can make the “dough” yourself. Search the internet for recipes.

• Enjoy your New Year’s toast together as a family in the NICU with your baby, even if you do it well before midnight to accommodate bedtimes of your other children.

Spending your holidays at the NICU is not something you planned on. But, hopefully, the New Year will be one of improved health, weight gain for your preemie, and a soon-to-be united family at home.

 

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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.

Wind chill, hypothermia and frostbite, oh my

Monday, December 8th, 2014

snowstorm1Outdoor activities during this season can help you and your family beat the winter blues. The days are getting colder and the sun is going down earlier, but if you’re busy having fun, you may hardly notice. Last week I talked about keeping you and your baby warm during the winter. But even if you and your little one are bundled, things like wind chill, hypothermia or frostbite can still happen.

Wind Chill

• Wind chill is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop.
• Always be aware of what the wind temperature is before you or your children go outside. If you are unaware of the wind chill, it could be only a matter of time before frostbite and hypothermia set in.

Frostbite

• Frostbite is when the skin and outer tissues of the body have become frozen. This can happen on fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may appear pale, gray and blistered. Your child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.
• Frostbite can happen quickly. The risk is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among those not dressed properly for extremely cold temperature.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say a victim is usually unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
• If frostbite occurs, bring your child inside and place the frostbitten part in warm (not hot) water or apply warm washcloths to the area. Call your child’s health care provider if numbness continues for more than a few minutes.

Hypothermia

• Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. This can happen when your child is playing outside in extremely cold weather, if his clothing gets wet or if he is not dressed appropriately for the weather.
• Hypothermia is most likely to occur at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) if you become chilled from rain, sweat or submerged in cold water.
• Signs of hypothermia include shivering, becoming lethargic or clumsy and slurring speech. Infants will become bright red, have cold skin and very low energy.
• If you notice any of these signs in your child, contact his health care provider immediately or call 911. Take your child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes until help arrives.

With a little knowledge and some advance preparation, you and your child will enjoy the cold, winter season without any problems. Click here for more information on how to stay warm and safe this winter.

 

Keeping you and your baby warm in winter

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Staying warmDecember is here and the temperatures in many parts of the country have turned from cold to freezing. Sipping hot chocolate under a blanket and ice skating at the local rink are some of my favorite activities during this month. But, staying warm and healthy this season is my top priority. Here are some tips to help keep you and your little one safe and warm.

Brrrrrrrr, it’s cold outside! Dress for the weather.

Listen to weather forecasts -

Before you or your child gets dressed to go outside, especially for outdoor activities, it is important to know the weather conditions. Dressing for 20 degree weather is different than dressing for 40 degree weather.

Layer it on -

Dress your little one in several thin layers, such as a T-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater or sweatshirt and a winter jacket, preferably waterproof and wind resistant. Your child should also have warm socks and waterproof boots, gloves or mittens and a hat. For older babies and young children, dress them in one more layer of clothing than you would wear in the same conditions.

Limit time outside-

Snow is fun and great to play in, but your little one should come inside frequently to warm up and change out of wet clothes, if needed. Wet clothing chills a body rapidly. If your child starts sweating while playing outside, remove an extra layer of clothing. Excess perspiration can increase your child’s heat loss. And remember, if you see your child shivering, that is a sure sign to go indoors and warm up.

Stay healthy through the cold weather-

The low temperatures outside can cause your home to become colder and dryer. You may find your skin feels much more dry than usual. Many pediatricians feel that bathing an infant 2 or 3 times a week is enough for the first year. Bathing more frequently may dry out your baby’s skin, especially during this cold season.

As the temperatures drop at night, you may be tempted to put a warm blanket over your infant, but keep all blankets, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding out of your infant’s crib. Instead dress your baby in a warm onesie sleeper.

Keeping hands clean is also important to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. Make sure your family frequently washes their hands to keep viruses like colds and flu from spreading.

December is a great time to take your children out for fun winter activities, but make sure they are dressed appropriately and take precautions to keep your whole family healthy this winter. With a few extra steps, everyone in your family will be warm and healthy despite frigid temperatures.

These and other tips may be found on the CDC website.

The NICU–what you need to know

Friday, November 21st, 2014

in-the-NICU_jpg_rdax_50Having a baby admitted to the NICU can be frightening and confusing. There is a lot of information to learn and understand very quickly. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. But understanding what is going on and knowing what to expect can help lessen anxiety and make you feel more confident about being a parent in the NICU. We have many resources available online that can help you.

As you probably learned very quickly, the NICU is a busy place. The babies need 24-hour care from a number of different medical professional. Here’s a list of NICU staff and what they do. Some or all of these people may be part of the NICU team at your hospital.

There are a number of conditions that babies may develop while they are in the NICU. It is important to know that every baby is different, and your little one may not have any of these complications or may have only one or two. However, here you can read an overview of some common conditions that may be treated in the NICU. If you have more specific questions about a certain medical condition, please email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and we will do our best to get you the information you need.

One of the most intimidating factors of the NICU can be seeing all the different machines that are hooked up to your baby. Here is a guide to some of the common equipment you see in the NICU. Once you understand the purpose of the machines, what they are doing, and how they are helping your baby, you may feel a little more comfortable. You can also read our post about understanding your preemie’s cues, to help you better understand her expressions and reactions.

You have probably already realized that there are many tests your baby will have while she is in the NICU. Blood draws, ultrasounds, eye exams, and weight checks…there is a lot to keep track of during her stay. These tests help diagnose any problems and help determine how they should be treated. They also help to monitor your baby’s progress. If you have any questions about what tests are being done, or the results of any testing, make sure you talk to your baby’s doctor or NICU nurse.

Our NICU Family Support Program offers comfort and materials to NICU families during their baby’s stay. The March of Dimes currently partners with over 120 hospitals in the US. You can ask the head nurse of your NICU whether your hospital is a NICU Family Support Partner.

Finally, one of the most important resources that you can access is Share Your Story.  Reaching out to other parents who understand exactly what you are going through can be very helpful. Giving and receiving comfort, support, and advice can help you to stay positive during your baby’s time in the NICU.

Nearly 5 million Graco strollers recalled

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Parents – here’s another big recall you want to pay attention to. Graco® is recalling nearly 5 million of its strollers because of a problem with the side hinges used to fold the strollers. The hinges may cause harm to children’s hands and fingers, in some cases even cutting fingers off.

The recall includes 11 Graco stroller models made between August 2000 and September 2014 and sold in retail stores nationwide as well as Canada and Mexico. The models include:
• Aspen
• Breeze
• Capri
• Cirrus
• Glider
• Kite
• Literider
• Sierra
• Solara
• Sterling
• TravelMate

If you have any of the recalled strollers, please contact Graco for a free repair kit at www.gracobaby.com or call (800) 345-4109, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. EST. In the meantime, please take great caution when folding and unfolding the stroller. Be sure the hinges are firmly locked before placing your child in the stroller.

For more information about the Graco stroller recall, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

Understanding preemie cues

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

preemie handFor parents, seeing your little one in the hospital, hooked up to tubes and machines can be scary and overwhelming. We want the best for our children, and it can be unbearable to wonder if your baby is in pain or uncomfortable. Worrying comes naturally, especially when your baby can’t talk and tell you how she is doing. But did you know that babies have certain expressions and behaviors or “cues” that can tell you a lot about how she is feeling? By observing your preemie, she will give you signals that tell you if she is happy, sleepy, in pain, or ready to interact with you.

Learn your baby’s behaviors

Here are a few cues that may help you understand your baby better:

• Happy and content – A calm baby will have relaxed arms, legs and face, stable breathing, an even skin color, and may look around.

• Stressed – Her fingers may splay out wide, she will frown or grimace. Her breathing may increase and her skin become blotchy or pale. She may arch her back or neck, cry and even suddenly become limp or fall asleep.

• Self-soothing – Your baby will try to soothe herself by sucking on her fingers, grasping something (like your finger or a blanket), put her hands on her face or clasp her hands together.

Your preemie’s cues will tell you what she needs. For example, if your baby is stressed, she may be getting too much stimulation. The stimulation can come from too much sound, light or even the combination of being touched AND spoken to at the same time. According to authors Linden, Paroli and Doron in Preemies – the Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies, 2nd Edition, “a premature baby is less able to shut out stimuli and to calm herself down after being disturbed.”

What can you do?

Ask the NICU nurse how to comfort your baby. For example, if your baby arches her back, hold back or change your touch. See whether she calms when you cup her head and feet with your hands.

If your baby turns toward you, offer her eye contact or a gentle voice — or both. If she turns away when you talk but toward you when you sing, she’s showing a preference for that kind of voice. Keep in mind that some preemies can only process one stimulus at a time. She may like and respond to touch but not touch in combination with your voice.

Your premature baby’s cues will change as she gets older. As you get to know your baby, you will be amazed at how well you interpret her movements and expressions, and understand how she is feeling or what she wants.

By knowing infant cues, you can learn how to connect with your baby, and respond to her needs. Hopefully, knowing how your baby is feeling will help you to relax and not worry so much.

Source: Preemies- The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies, 2nd Edition, by Linden, Paroli and Doron, 2010.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view the Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Time to chat about World Prematurity Day

Friday, November 14th, 2014

globeCome one…come all tweeters for the #WorldPrematurityDay 24-hour Twitter Relay beginning on November 13 at 7 PM EDT and ending November 14 at 8 PM EDT.  Join 28 global partners and friends from around the world, including member organizations from our World Prematurity Network, to commemorate World Prematurity Day and drive awareness to the issue of preterm birth.

The March of Dimes will tweet about preterm birth @modhealthtalk by hosting an hour on November 14 at 1 PM EDT on “Parenting in the NICU.”  Please join us, retweet, offer your tweets about your activities for #WorldPrematurityDay and help us surpass this year’s goal of reaching over 30 million people on Twitter!

Diabetes and premature birth: know the facts

Monday, November 10th, 2014

speak to your health care providerDid you know that having diabetes during pregnancy is a risk factor for preterm labor and premature birth? Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. November is prematurity awareness month and we want to make sure you’re aware of the risks diabetes can have on your pregnancy.

About 9 out of 100 women in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life.

Some women also develop diabetes during pregnancy, which is called gestational diabetes. Four out of every 100 pregnant women (4 percent) develop this type of diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Having diabetes or gestational diabetes can cause you to go into preterm labor, before 37 weeks gestation. Babies born this early can face serious health problems including long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities.

How can you find out if you have diabetes?

If you are not pregnant yet, speak with your health care provider about your concerns. He will ask you about your family health history, and evaluate your present health. He can give you a glucose tolerance test and measure your blood glucose levels to see if you have diabetes.

If you are pregnant already, you may get a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, or earlier if your provider thinks you’re likely to develop gestational diabetes. You may have heard of other pregnant women having to drink an 8oz cup of a thick syrupy drink – this is part of the glucose tolerance test, along with measuring your blood glucose levels.

Who is at risk for developing gestational diabetes?

You may be more likely than other women to develop gestational diabetes if:

• You’re 30 years old or older.
• You’re overweight or you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
• You have a family history of diabetes. This means that one or more of your family members has diabetes.
• You’re African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. These ethnic groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes than other groups.
• You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
• In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.

What else can you do?

It’s important for you to take care of yourself, but especially if you have diabetes or a risk factor for gestational diabetes. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about taking a glucose tolerance test. Getting diabetes under control could help prevent preterm labor and premature birth. Being active, eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and losing weight may help reduce your chances of developing diabetes later in life.

Learn more about managing pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes.  And, as always, visit your health care provider before and during pregnancy.

 

Safe sleep for babies

Friday, October 24th, 2014

cropped sleeping babySafe sleep can help protect babies from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related dangers, like suffocation (not being able to breathe). Newborns sleep about 16 hours a day, so it’s important to make sure that where and how they sleep are safe.

Here are some things you can do to help keep your baby safe when she sleeps:

Where to put your baby to sleep
• Put your baby to sleep on her back on a flat, firm surface—a crib is best. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib so there are no spaces between the mattress and the crib frame.
• Keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and other soft objects out of your baby’s crib. They put babies in danger of getting trapped, strangled or suffocating. This is important even as your baby gets older. A study recently published in Pediatrics showed that “rolling to prone [stomach], with objects in the sleep area, is the predominant risk factor for older infants.”
• Share your bedroom with your baby but not your bed. Co-sleeping means that babies and parents sleep together in the same bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that babies should not co-sleep with their parents and studies have shown that bed-sharing is the biggest risk factor for SIDS in children under four months. Instead, put your baby to bed in her own crib and keep it close to your bed during the night. This will allow you keep an eye on your baby and to breastfeed her easily.
• Don’t put your baby to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or other soft surface. “Of nearly 8,000 infant sleeping deaths in the United States, researchers found that about 12 percent were sofa-related. And nearly three-quarters of those infants were newborns.”

How to put your baby to sleep
• Put your baby to sleep on her back every time, until she’s 1 year old. It’s not safe for babies to sleep on their side or tummy. Most babies will roll over both ways by the end of the 7th month; but start them out on their backs.
• Dress your baby in light sleep clothes. Keep the room at a temperature that’s comfortable for you. If your baby is sweating or her chest feels hot, she may be overheated.
• Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. Don’t hang the pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach the pacifier to your baby’s clothing or a stuffed animal.
• Don’t use products, such as special mattresses or wedges, that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that they do.

Mom and baby care
• Feed your baby only breast milk for at least 6 months. Continue breastfeeding your baby until at least her first birthday.
• Don’t smoke and don’t let anyone smoke in your home or around your baby.
• Take your baby to all her well baby visits and make sure she gets her vaccinations on time.
• Give your baby tummy time every day. Tummy time helps your baby develop her neck, shoulder and arm muscles.

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