Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Monday, September 15th, 2014

family playing soccerThere are many things you can do at home to help your child lead an active, healthy life. September provides an opportunity to raise awareness and to get your family moving. Whether your child is at school or home, you can look for ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your entire family.

Small changes can make a huge impact. Try things like keeping TVs and computers out of your child’s bedroom or choosing a video game that encourages physical activity instead of one that allows him to sit on the couch. You can also encourage your child to be active by taking a family walk after dinner. Incorporating these small adjustments into your family’s daily routine can make a big difference in your child’s health and well-being.

Things you can do at home:

• Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit foods high in fat and sugars, and prepare family meals at home instead of eating out.

• Serve your family water.

• Pack your child a well-balanced lunch for school.

• Limit computer/TV time to no more than one to two hours hours per day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Less screen time means more play time.

• Try to keep your child on a sleep schedule; sleep loss can lead to fatigue and increased snacking.

• Look for events happening in your community that promote healthy eating or physical activity.

• Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns. Although they account for very few cases, certain metabolic disorders or hormonal imbalances can cause weight gain.

For more information on what you can do to decrease childhood obesity, visit here.

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

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Why vitamin K is important for your newborn

Friday, September 12th, 2014

YourBabyRightAfterBirth_rdax_50Your baby will receive a shot of vitamin K soon after he is born. The vitamin K shot protects your baby from developing a rare, serious bleeding problem that can affect newborns.

Babies are not able to make vitamin K on their own and they are born with very small amounts in their bodies. Vitamin K is a very important nutrient which is needed for blood clotting so that bleeding stops. We get vitamin K from food and it is also made by the healthy bacteria that live in the intestines.   However, when a baby is born, his intestinal tract does not have enough healthy bacteria to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is not easily transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy either. And although he can receive some vitamin K from breast milk, it is not enough.  It takes a while for your baby to start producing his own vitamin K. Therefore, receiving a shot of vitamin K immediately after birth helps your baby’s blood to coagulate and clot. This assists in protecting against possible abnormal bleeding in the body.

If a baby does not receive a vitamin K shot soon after birth, he may be at risk for a condition called Vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB. This occurs when a baby does not have enough vitamin K and his blood cannot clot. Not getting enough vitamin K puts your baby at risk for bleeding into his intestines or even brain. Babies who do not receive the vitamin K shot after birth are actually at risk for VKDB until they are six months old.

What you need to know about enterovirus D68

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

child with coldRecently children in a number of states have become very sick with a severe respiratory illness. The cause of these infections, in many cases, has been found to be enterovirus D68. Enteroviruses are actually quite common. They are typically seen in the summer and fall and usually peak in mid-September, right as kids are heading back to school.

Most of the time people who are infected with enteroviruses do not even get sick. Or they may have mild symptoms, similar to the common cold. However the strain of enterovirus that is currently making the rounds seems to be causing more severe respiratory illness. Children are being admitted to hospitals and some are even ending up in intensive care units (ICUs).

Anyone can become infected with enterovirus D68. However, infants, children, and teenagers are most often at-risk because they have not been exposed to the virus before and have not built up immunity yet. Also children with asthma or a history of wheezing can be very vulnerable.

There is no specific treatment for enterovirus D68. Doctors treat and manage the symptoms. Since this is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. There are also no vaccines available that can prevent the infection. The best thing to do is to protect yourself and others from getting the virus in the first place. There are three things that you can do to protect yourself and your family from enterovirus D68:

• Make sure you are washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Monitor young children while they are washing their hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. This includes kissing, hugging, and sharing utensils.

• Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces that may be contaminated.

Colds and viruses are very common at this time of year. However, if your child has a cold and has difficulty breathing, begins wheezing, or her condition changes in any way, it is important to contact her health care provider right away. This is especially true for children with asthma and/or allergies.

The CDC will continue to monitor the situation closely and help those states with affected children. You can find updated information on their website.

September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month

Friday, September 5th, 2014

newborn-screening-picture1September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month. All babies in the United States get newborn screening. These tests look for rare but serious and mostly treatable health disorders. Babies with these disorders often look healthy. But unless the condition is diagnosed and treated early, a baby can develop lasting physical problems or intellectual disabilities, or may even die.

How is newborn screening done?

Newborn screening is done in 3 ways:
1. Most newborn screening is done with a blood test. Your baby’s provider pricks your baby’s heel to get a few drops of blood. The blood is collected on a special paper and sent to a lab for testing. The lab then sends the results back to your baby’s health provider.
2. For the hearing screening, your provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
3. For heart screening, a test called pulse oximetry is used. This test checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood by using a sensor attached to his finger or foot. This test is used to screen babies for a heart condition called critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).

When is newborn screening done?
Your baby gets newborn screening before he leaves the hospital, when he’s 1 or 2 days old. Some states require that babies have newborn screening again about 2 weeks later.

If your baby is not born in a hospital, talk to your baby’s provider about getting newborn screening before he is 7 days old.

How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?
Each state decides which tests are required. The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 31 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early.

Today all states require newborn screening for at least 26 health conditions. The District of Columbia and 42 states screen for 29 of the 31 recommended conditions. Some states require screening for up to 50 or more. You can find out which conditions your state screen for here.

September is food safety education month

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

keep bacteria awayWhen preparing food for yourself or your family, it’s important to practice safe food handling to prevent foodborne illnesses. The Partnership for Food Safety Education is spreading the word about the dangers of bacteria, an invisible enemy that you cannot smell or feel. Bacteria can invade areas and surfaces in kitchens and on foods. There are easy steps for you to take to keep your family away from harmful bacteria.

What’s the best way to clean food?

• Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

• Wash all fruits and vegetables. Use a scrub brush. If you can’t get the skin clean, peel it off. This can help remove dirt and chemicals, like pesticides. A pesticide is a chemical used to keep bugs and other pests away from crops. Wash all fruits and vegetables, even if the package says it’s already been washed. Dry everything with a paper towel or clean cloth.

• Cut away damaged sections of fruits and vegetables.

• Wash utensils and cutting boards with hot soapy water after each use. Don’t use cutting boards made of wood. They can hold more germs than other kinds of cutting boards.

• After preparing food, clean countertops with hot soapy water.

What’s the best way to separate food?

• Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a different board for fruits and vegetables.

• When you’re shopping, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices separate from other foods.

• Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers so that their juices don’t get on other foods.

What’s the best way to cook food?

• Use a food thermometer. It can help you cook food—especially meat—to a safe temperature. You may not be able to tell if a food is fully cooked by how it looks, so use these temperature guidelines here.

• When using the microwave, cover the food. Stop cooking to stir the food and rotate the dish to ensure the food’s warm all the way through.

• When reheating sauces, soups and gravies, bring them to a rolling boil.

What’s the best way to chill food?

• Keep the refrigerator at 40 F or below and the freezer at 0 F or below. If you don’t think your temperature is correct, use an appliance thermometer to check it. You can buy this kind of thermometer at hardware or home-supply stores.

• Refrigerate all fruits and vegetables that have been cut or peeled.

• Refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours after eating. Use shallow containers so that the food cools quickly. When you’re ready to use the leftovers, eat them within 2 hours of taking them out of the refrigerator.

• Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink.

• Don’t crowd the refrigerator. This may make it hard to keep food cool and safe.

For more information on food safety, visit our website and the Partnership for Food Safety Education.

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Keeping your child’s eyes safe

Friday, August 29th, 2014

eyeDid you know that August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety month? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “nine out of ten eye injuries are preventable, and almost half occur around the home.” Here are some safety guidelines from AAP to help prevent eye injuries:
• Make sure that any chemicals, such as detergents and cleaning fluids, are kept out of reach of children.
• Take a look at your children’s toys and watch out for sharp parts, especially for very young children.
• Teach your children how to hold scissors and pencils properly when they are young. That way as they get older, they will maintain these good habits.
• Looking directly into the sun can cause severe eye damage. And make sure that they never look directly at an eclipse of the sun.
• If you are working around the house with tools, either your child should not be in the area, or she should wear safety goggles.
• Keep your child away from power lawn mowers. These can launch rocks or other objects, making them dangerous projectiles.
• If your child is playing sports, make sure she is wearing eye protection that is appropriate for the sport.
• Children should be kept far away if you are lighting fires. And your child should NEVER be near fireworks of any kind.

Typically if dust or other small particles get in the eye, tears will actually clean the eye and wash them out. However, if a more serious eye injury occurs, make sure you call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room right away. For more information, you can read our previous post about healthy eye care for your baby and child.

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Vaccines and your baby

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

hapy babyIn the first 2 years of life, your baby gets several vaccines to protect her. Most parents dread watching their baby get these shots. But rest assured, vaccinations (also called immunizations) can be more painful for you than for her! She may be uncomfortable for a minute, but these important shots help protect her from some serious childhood diseases like polio, chickenpox, measles, mumps and the flu.

All children should be vaccinated for their own health and so they don’t spread infections to others. This schedule shows each vaccine your baby gets up to 6 years. It also shows how many doses she gets of each vaccine and when she gets them.

How do vaccines work?
Tiny organisms (like viruses and bacteria) can attack your body and cause infections that make you sick. When you get an infection, your body makes special disease-fighting substances called antibodies to fight the organism. In many cases, once your body has made antibodies against an organism, you become immune to the infection it causes. Immune means you are protected against getting an infection. If you’re immune to an infection, it means you can’t get the infection.

Vaccines usually contain a small amount or piece of the organism that causes an infection. The organisms used in vaccines are generally weakened or killed so they won’t make you sick. The vaccine causes your body to make antibodies against the organism. This allows you to become immune to an infection without getting sick first.

Some vaccines have a live but weakened organism. These are called live-virus vaccines. While live-virus vaccines are usually safe for most babies and adults, they’re not generally recommended for pregnant women.

All childhood vaccines are given in two or more doses. Your baby needs more than one dose because each one builds up her immunity to that particular disease. A second or third dose is needed to fully protect her. These doses work best if they’re spread out over time.

Are vaccines safe for my baby?
Vaccines are one of the best ways to avoid serious diseases caused by some viruses or bacteria. For vaccines to be most successful, everyone needs to get them.

Most babies don’t have side effects from vaccines. If they do, they usually aren’t serious. Some vaccines may cause a low fever, a rash or soreness at the spot where the shot was given. Although your baby may seem like he’s getting sick after a vaccination, these reactions are good signs that his immune system is working and learning to fight off infections.

Your baby should get vaccinations and boosters regularly, all the way through age 18. (Adults need vaccinations, too. You can read more about adult vaccinations before, during or after pregnancy, here.) If you have any questions about vaccinations, ask your baby’s health care provider for more information.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

roller-coaster-rideAll children have their highs and lows, but for children with special needs, the extremes tend to be more extreme.  The typical ups and downs of childhood have higher highs and lower lows.

The lows

It is hard to watch your child be frustrated because she can’t do the things that her peers can do. Your child’s frustration may take the form of crying, meltdowns or sadness (depending on your child’s age). When you stop to think about it, it seems very reasonable. Adults react much the same way. But, with toddlers or children, they don’t have the maturity to understand their condition, or the patience to wait until they acquire certain skills. In many cases, they may never acquire the same skills as their peers. Thus, the lower lows.

Along with the lower lows come the “two steps forward and one step back” type of progress that is so common among children with special needs. This is so frustrating – for a parent and especially for the child. You tend to feel like you are on a roller coaster ride – no sooner do you get up in the air and are so happy about progress, when you take a bit of a plunge and feel low again.

The highs

On the flip side, the highs are much higher. When your child achieves a milestone that she had been struggling with (that comes easily to her siblings or her peers), the happy dance is much more jubilant! You celebrate each and every accomplishment, no matter how small. The small steps are big steps to a child with special needs. In fact, every step is a big step. The joys of watching your child inch forward has a much more intense meaning.

Progress is a wiggly line

What has helped some of the parents I know who have children with special needs is realizing that it is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to pace yourself and look at this as one long journey. You may get lost or a little off track now and again, and even need to take breaks to re-fuel or get new directions. But, overall, you will stay on your path and get to your child’s unique destination…eventually. It is important to remember that you need to look at progress as a kind of wiggly line. Look at the overall progress, not minute to minute progress.

Bottom line

Remember that this path has its uniqueness and gifts, too. After all, if we were all the same, this world would be so boring. Try to look past what your little one can NOT do, and focus on what she CAN do. Then, all of the prospects for her future brighten up considerably.

 

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. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Do you have your measles vaccination?

Monday, August 18th, 2014

vaccinationMeasles is a disease that is easily spread and causes rash, cough and fever. In some cases, it can lead to diarrhea, ear infection, pneumonia, brain damage or even death. Measles spreads through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will most likely get the disease. Measles can cause serious health problems in young children. It also can be especially harmful to pregnant women and can cause miscarriage or premature birth.

This year the U.S. is experiencing a record number of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that between January 1 and August 1, 2014, there have been 593 confirmed measles cases reported. This is the highest number of cases since the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated from this country in 2000.

The majority of the people who get measles are unvaccinated. Children under 5 and adults over 20 are at higher risk for getting complications from the measles virus, including hospitalization and death.

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.

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you’re protected against measles. If you need to get vaccinated, get the MMR vaccine before pregnancy. Wait at least 1 month before trying to get pregnant after getting the shot. The MMR vaccine is not recommended if you are already pregnant.

To read more about vaccines before, during and after pregnancy, click here.

If you have further questions on measles or vaccines, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Eye care for your child

Friday, August 15th, 2014

baby-eyesTaking care of your eyes is very important at all ages. Visual information helps children develop and to process the world around them from the time they are babies. Difficulty seeing can result in problems in learning as well as relating to the outside world. Most vision problems can be treated and corrected, but it is important to identify them as early as possible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend regular vision checks:

Newborns
The first vision exam should occur before your baby even leaves the hospital nursery. Newborns should have their eyes checked for infections, structural defects, cataracts, or congenital glaucoma.

Premature infants will need a special eye exam done by a pediatric ophthalmologist. A pediatric ophthalmologist is an eye doctor trained and experienced in the care of children’s eye problems.  Preemies are at risk for a condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). ROP happens when a baby’s retinas don’t fully develop in the weeks after birth. The retina is the nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye. ROP usually affects both eyes. If your baby has ROP, getting treatment right away is very important.

Six months
Pediatricians should screen infants during their well-baby check-ups to make sure they have proper eye alignment. This means that their eyes are working together. They should continue to look for signs of eye disease.

Three to four years
At this age, both the eyes and vision should be examined by your child’s health care provider for any abnormalities that may cause a problem with educational development. Concerns will result in a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Five years and older
Regular screening of visual acuity and other eye functions should be completed every year during the well-child exam. The visual acuity test is used to determine the smallest letters you can read on a standardized chart or a card held 20 feet away. There are other ways to check vision in very young children if they do not yet know their letters or numbers.

Although routine eye exams are important, as a parent you may notice signs that your child is having difficulty seeing. According to AAP, some of the signs that a child may have a vision problem include:
• sensitivity to light
• poor focusing and poor visual tracking (following an object)
• abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes (after 6 months of age)
• persistent (lasting more than 24 hours) redness, swelling, crusting, or discharge in the eyes
• excessive tearing of the eyes
• frequent squinting
• drooping of one or both eyelids
• pupils (the center circle of the eye) of unequal size
• eyes that “bounce” or “dance”
• inability to see objects unless they are held close
• a white pupil instead of black in one or both eyes
• any cloudiness in the eye

If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure you contact your child’s health care provider right away. If caught early, many eye problems can be treated and corrected.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.