Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

Is donor milk right for your preemie?

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

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

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

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

What is donor milk and where does it come from?

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

Does your preemie need donor milk?

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

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

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

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

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUNecrotizing enterocoloitis, also known as NEC, is a condition of the intestinal tract that almost only affects premature babies. It often begins 2 or 3 weeks after birth and appears in preemies who seem to be getting better. NEC occurs when the lining of the intestine becomes inflamed. Most of the time, the damaged section of the intestine will heal on its own. But in some cases, the tissue dies. When this happens, that part of the intestine no longer works the way that it should. This damage may cause the intestine to tear. The bacteria in the intestine can then enter the blood and this can then lead to infection throughout the body.

What causes NEC?

Researchers are still not exactly sure what causes NEC. But in premature infants, it is probably related to the immaturity of the baby’s intestine. Some other factors that may contribute to NEC include:

  • An injury to the immature intestine
  • Reduced blood flow to the intestine
  • Growth of bacteria in the intestine that damages the intestinal wall

What are the signs of NEC?

NEC can be difficult to diagnose. The early signs can be similar to other infections or to problems caused by feeding difficulties often seen in preemies. However, NEC can get worse very quickly. Some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite, not tolerating feedings
  • Red, painful, and swollen belly
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Decreased activity
  • Body temperature instability (may be lower than normal or fluctuate)
  • Episodes of low heart rate or apnea
  • Sometimes greenish vomit

Doctors can diagnose NEC with an X-ray of the belly.  When they examine the X-ray, they are looking for tiny gas bubbles inside the walls of the intestine. They can also see if air has leaked out of the intestine through a tear or hole.

How is NEC treated?

Early diagnosis and intervention is very important. Typical treatment includes:

  • Stopping oral (mouth) feedings and replacing with IV nutrition to give the bowel time to rest,
  • Inserting a tube through the nose and into the stomach to remove air and other secretions from the intestine,
  • Giving broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat and prevent infection,
  • Continuous monitoring using X-rays, blood and urine cultures,

If these interventions work, NEC typically lasts 2-3 weeks, although the critical stage is often over after a few days. Usually doctors will continue IV feedings until the intestines heal and the pockets of gas have been gone for 5 or more days. They will then start to gradually re-introduce oral feedings.

Surgery may be necessary for those babies who do not respond to the treatments above. In that case, the surgeon will remove the damaged section of intestines.

How can NEC be prevented?

Researchers are trying to better understand NEC so that they can prevent it. However, here are some things that seem to be beneficial:

  • It is important to start oral feedings early. The introduction of tiny amounts of milk to the digestive system may help the intestine to mature faster and possibly reduce the chance of your baby developing NEC.
  • Early feeding with colostrum and breast milk may be beneficial. It is easy to digest, supports the growth of good bacteria in the intestine, and helps to build your baby’s immune system.

If your baby has NEC or had it in the past, please go to Share Your Story where you can connect with other families and find comfort, support, and advice.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Skin to skin contact helps your baby AND you

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Skin to SkinResearch has shown that skin to skin holding, also known as “kangaroo care,” is one way to help stabilize your baby’s body temperature and help his heart rate become regular. It is comforting to your baby, and may help him gain weight. Even very sick or fragile babies can usually benefit from kangaroo care.

It’s good for parents, too. It helps you bond with your baby, which boosts your spirits. For moms, it encourages your breast milk supply, too.

What is skin to skin holding or kangaroo care?

It is when you hold your baby, skin to skin, bare chest to bare chest, in an upright position. Your baby is wearing only a diaper.

Does it have other benefits?

Yes. For your baby…

Skin to skin holding may help lower the risk of infection, improve survival rates, and encourage your baby to spend more time in deep sleep (which is important for growth and good health). It may also lessen your baby’s pain and help with brain development. Kangaroo care may help your baby spend more time being quiet when awake, and less time crying.

For you and dad…

Skin to skin increases the feeling of intimacy between the baby and parent, helping the mom or dad feel connected. Often dads are fearful of holding their baby – skin to skin may promote a sense of empowerment and confidence. It may decrease anxiety, fear and depression and encourages attachment. Parents say it is the most comforting activity they experience in the NICU.

One mom told us she wrote in her journal “Today I feel like a mother for the first time” – that was the first time she held her twin boys skin to skin, 5 weeks after they were born!

Should you ask to hold your baby?

Yes! If you have not yet held your baby skin to skin, ask if you can. Often, the NICU staff is just so busy with other important duties that they don’t think to offer it. Typically, your baby must be medically stable before he is ready for kangaroo care. But, you can do it even if your baby is hooked up to machines.

How much kangaroo care should you do?

The more you can do, the better. It has been shown that skin to skin contact should take place for a minimum of one hour, but several hours at a time are better. It takes a while for a baby to transition from the isolette to chest and back, so you must take that into account. In some countries, parents are encouraged to do kangaroo care round the clock – that’s how good it is for babies!

Still wondering if skin to skin holding is for you?

Watch this video.

Did you experience kangaroo care in the NICU? Please tell us about it.


Have questions? Email or text We are here to help.

RDS and BPD – breathing problems in preemies

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

NICU sign 1If your baby was born prematurely, you are probably concerned about his lungs. A baby’s lungs are not considered to be fully functional until around 35 weeks of pregnancy. If your baby was born before that, it is possible that he may struggle with breathing.



A serious breathing problem called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is the most common illness in the NICU. But, the good news is that due to medical advances, babies with RDS have a 99% survival rate.

Babies with RDS struggle to breathe because their immature lungs do not produce enough surfactant, a protein that keeps small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990. Since then, deaths from RDS have been reduced by half.

Babies with RDS also may receive a treatment called C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure). The air may be delivered through small tubes in the baby’s nose, or through a tube that has been inserted into his windpipe. As with surfactant treatment, C-PAP helps keep small air sacs from collapsing. C-PAP helps your baby breathe, but does not breathe for him. The sickest babies may temporarily need the help of a mechanical ventilator to breathe for them while their lungs recover. Learn more about the differences between C-PAP and a ventilator, as well as causes, symptoms and treatment of RDS.


BPD (bronchopulmonary dysplasia) is a chronic lung disease common in preemies who have been treated for RDS. These babies may develop fluid in the lungs, scarring and lung damage. Medications can help make breathing easier for them. Usually babies with BPD improve by age 2 but others may develop a chronic lung condition similar to asthma. Learn about asthma, including questions to ask your child’s health care provider and how to help your child understand his breathing problems.

Even though the outlook for babies born prematurely has improved greatly, many babies still face serious complications and lasting disabilities. Many March of Dimes grantees seek new ways to improve the care of these tiny babies, while others strive to prevent premature delivery.

Have questions?  Email or text We are here to help.


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

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Send an e-card

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

We are here for you.

NICU parents can develop PTSD due to stress and trauma

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

parents in the NICUParents of NICU babies have been found to be at risk for developing stress disorders, according to research. It is very scary for parents to see their infant hooked up to monitors or undergoing serious medical procedures. Every parent’s reaction to the NICU journey is different and what is overwhelming or traumatic for one person might not be for another. But for some parents, it is possible for feelings of fear, grief, helplessness and continued anxiety to result in a stress disorder.

What is a stress disorder?

Stress disorders include ASD (acute stress disorder) or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). These can develop in anyone who has seen or lived through a crisis or terrible event. You may have heard about PTSD in the news – many military veterans returning from active duty have developed it. The prolonged stress of deployment or the witnessing of traumatic events can trigger debilitating symptoms. But, PTSD can occur in anyone who has gone through a traumatizing event, including a NICU experience.

Every parent comes to the NICU with varying coping mechanisms, and react or handle the situation in their own, unique way. According to Stanford University researcher Dr. Richard Shaw, the NICU experience can be so traumatic that almost 60% of NICU parents were found to be at risk for PTSD. In some cases, the stress disorder continues for years after the baby’s birth.

It might seem logical that the longer a baby stays in the NICU, the more traumatic the experience may be for the parents. However, research shows that the impact of a shorter NICU stay, even less than two weeks, can lead to a parent developing ASD or PTSD. A stress disorder can occur along with postpartum depression (PPD), too.

How do ASD and PTSD differ?

ASD and PTSD share many of the same symptoms. The biggest difference between the two is when a parent’s symptoms begin.

  • ASD refers to symptoms that begin during the period from 2 days following an event up to 4 weeks post trauma. (The “trauma” in this case is the baby’s experiences in the NICU.) Symptoms usually start to occur while the baby is still in the NICU. ASD is a good indicator that the parent may later develop symptoms of PTSD.
  • PTSD symptoms occur later than ASD, starting from at least 4 weeks post trauma, and can last for years.

Both ASD and PTSD include symptoms such as trouble sleeping or staying awake, avoiding reminders of the event, and experiencing flashbacks, dreams/nightmares.

Additional symptoms of ASD include a lack of emotional responsiveness – you feel numb and like you’re in a fog.

Other symptoms of PTSD symptoms include physical responses (like a racing heartbeat or sweating) when reminded of the event, a depressed mood, persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself, little interest in activities, irritability, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance and startling easily.

What can lessen the likelihood of developing a stress disorder?

Researchers have found that NICU parents cope better when they:

  • feel involved with their baby’s care, such as reading to their baby, practicing kangaroo care (skin to skin bonding), decorating the isolette, taking the baby’s temperature, etc.
  • feel heard – they feel free to ask questions and fully understand what is happening to their baby in the NICU.
  • take care of themselves.
  • reach out and receive support from other NICU parent graduates who have been in their situation. March of Dimes offers an online community, Share Your Story, which is specifically designed to provide support and comfort to parents of babies in the NICU.
  • understand that the feelings of fear, anxiety, sleep interruption or loss of appetite might pop up unexpectedly once they go home.

Bottom line

The NICU experience can be difficult and even traumatizing. If you or someone you know has a baby in the NICU, please share this post with them so that they get the help they need. Parents suffering from ASD or PTSD can receive treatment from a healthcare provider who is trained in stress disorders (such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist).

Have questions? Text or email them to

See other posts on how to help your child including how to transition from the NICU to Early Intervention services.

Reduce the risk of SIDS in your baby

Monday, October 5th, 2015

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

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

Have questions? Text or email us at

Before Rover meets Junior

Monday, September 28th, 2015

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

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


Before your baby comes home

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

Once you and your baby are discharged

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

Health Benefits

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


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

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

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

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

It’s time to get your flu shot…again

Friday, September 25th, 2015

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

Who needs a flu shot?

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

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

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

Are flu shots safe for pregnant women?

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

Why is the flu so harmful during pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

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

Where can I get a flu shot?

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

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

Have any questions? Email or text us at


March of Dimes NICU Family Support® program offers services to over 90,00 families every year

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Nurse and mom in NICUNow in its 14th year, this unique program offers comfort, support and information to families who have a baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at over 120 hospitals across the U.S.

Babies in the NICU may have been born too small, too soon, or with a medical condition that requires intensive care. Throughout the NICU experience, parents can be involved in their baby’s care in a variety of important ways. The March of Dimes developed the NICU Family Support program to help support NICU families during their baby’s time in the NICU. The program also educates NICU staff about the best ways to support babies, families, and each other.

Specialized materials for long and short NICU stays

Hospitals with a NICU Family Support program are able to offer their families relevant, NICU-specific materials including a keepsake booklet, a guide for parenting in the NICU, and a NICU guide and glossary. As part of the program, hospitals also receive information for extended family members such as grandparents and siblings.

There are also materials for families whose babies stay in the NICU less than 14 days, a common experience that can also be very frightening and stressful.

Families can access March of Dimes NICU resources online from any device with an internet connection, in both English and Spanish. Topics include medical care, understanding equipment, how to hold and feed your baby in the NICU, becoming an informed parent, and many other important subjects.

Hospital staff education

NICU Family Support also provides ongoing education for hospital staff. This education focuses on best practices in supporting families, and the benefits of appropriate family-centered care for NICU babies at every stage of development. Training for staff is based on best practices and evidence based care, to help support them in their important role.

Parent to Parent online community

Support from other parents can be found on our online community, Share Your Story where current and “graduate” NICU parents reach out to help guide and comfort one another. Parents can log on and post a comment or question to join this warm and inviting group.


Have questions? Send them to

See other posts on how to help your child including how to transition from the NICU to Early Intervention services.