Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

How vaccines work

Friday, July 31st, 2015

niam-logoVaccines protect you from diseases that can cause severe illness and even death. Vaccines work with your body’s immune system to help it recognize and fight these infections.

Usually when you are exposed to viruses or bacteria they cause infections that make you sick. To fight this infection, your immune system produces antibodies. These are special disease-fighting cells that attack the virus, destroy it, and make you better. In many cases, once you have made antibodies against a virus, you are then immune to the infection that it causes. This means that you cannot get sick from the same infection. For instance, if you had chickenpox as a child, you are immune to it later in life because your body has produced antibodies against the varicella virus (the virus that causes chickenpox). If you are exposed to the virus again, your antibodies recognize it and destroy it before it makes you sick.

Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to certain diseases. A vaccine uses a small piece of the virus or bacteria that causes the infection. Usually this virus is greatly weakened or it is killed. But it looks enough like the live virus to make your body react and make antibodies to attack the virus in the vaccine. This allows you to become immune to the disease without having to get sick first. For example, after you get the chickenpox vaccine, you will develop antibodies against the varicella virus, but you will not get chickenpox first. This factsheet from the CDC explains the body’s immune response to disease and how vaccines work in much more detail.

There are two main types of vaccines: weakened, live virus or inactivated, killed virus.

Vaccines that use weakened, live viruses include measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, flu mist, and chickenpox (varicella). Natural viruses reproduce thousands of times when they infect an individual. But weakened viruses can only reproduce about 20 times. This is not enough to make you sick, so they can’t cause disease. But even a few copies of the virus will cause your immune system to react and to make antibodies against the disease. The advantage of live, weakened vaccines is that typically you only need one or two doses (or shots) to provide immunity. However, live, weakened vaccines cannot be given to people with immune systems that don’t work as well as they should, because even such a small amount of virus could make them sick.

Vaccines that use inactivated or killed viruses include polio, hepatitis A, and the flu shot. The inactivated virus cannot reproduce and therefore cannot cause disease. But the immune system still makes antibodies to protect you against disease. The advantages of inactivated viruses are that the vaccine cannot cause the disease at all, and the vaccine can be given to people with weakened immune systems. The limitation of this method is that several doses of the vaccine are required before you are immune to the disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness month. It is important for people of all ages to protect their health with vaccines. In the upcoming weeks, we will be posting more information about vaccines for women who are thinking about getting pregnant, pregnant women, and babies.

Questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Baby it’s hot outside

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

heatExtreme heat can be dangerous. High temperatures, especially coupled with humidity, can cause heat related illnesses. If you live in the northeast, you are familiar with the brutally hot weather we have been experiencing.

Here is what you need to know to stay safe, especially if you are pregnant, have a medical condition, or have a baby or young children.

Know the signs of heat illness and what to do:

Heat cramps

  • Symptoms: Muscle cramps in legs or abdomen (stomach area), with or without sweating.
  • To do: Get the person out of the heat – into an air conditioned room, if possible. Gently massage the cramped muscles. Sips of water are ok unless the person is nauseous.

Heat exhaustion

  • Symptoms: Sweating; clammy but cool skin; cramping; dizziness; nausea and/or vomiting; fainting; weak pulse.
  • To do: Bring the person into a cool room with air conditioning. Let them lie down and sponge them with a cool, wet cloth. Let them sip water slowly. If they continue to vomit, get medical attention.

Heatstroke or sunstroke -This is the most serious of heat illnesses. Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

  • Symptoms: confusion nausea; dizziness; a fever; headaches; difficulty breathing; rapid pulse; hot, dry skin, sweating or both. Take steps to cool the person off by loosening or removing clothing, going inside an air conditioned room, or cooling them down with a sponge bath. Do not give water or fluids.
  • To do: Seek medical attention immediately.

Avoid heat illness by being prepared -an ounce of prevention goes a long way:

  • NEVER leave a person of any age or a pet in a parked car, even if the windows are open a little. Children die needlessly this way every year. Do not leave them in a car even for a minute!
    Here are potentially lifesaving tips for never leaving your child in your car.
  • Stay inside, in an air condition room. If you must go outside, do so in the early or late hours of the day when it is cooler. Wear sunscreen. Keep outdoor stays brief.
  • Drink plenty of water all day. Limit drinks containing sugar or caffeine and avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Eat light foods which are easier to digest.
  • If you must be outside, take time to relax in a shady area or go inside a cool building often.
  • Wear lightweight clothing. This is very important for children – if overdressed, their body temperature can rise to over 105 degrees Fahrenheit in a very short time.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.

Here are more tips on how to keep your child cool and safe in extreme heat, from the AAP.

With a little planning and care, you can stay safe and avoid a serious problem.

Banking your baby’s umbilical cord blood–should you do it?

Friday, July 17th, 2015

newborn-2The umbilical cord connects your baby to the placenta. Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells, which may be used to treat certain diseases. Because of this, many people consider storing or banking the cord blood so that it may possibly be used in the future.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells can grow into specific kinds of cells in your body and may be used to treat some diseases, like cancer. In healthy people, bone marrow makes stem cells. But sometimes a person’s bone marrow stops working and doesn’t make enough healthy stem cells. For people with conditions like cancer, treatments like chemotherapy or radiation can kill healthy stem cells.

If a person needs new stem cells, he may be able to get a stem cell transplant from cord blood. New stem cells from the transplant can go on to make new, healthy cells.

Storing cord blood

There are two options for storing cord blood:

Public cord blood bank: This option is appropriate for most families and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Cord blood donation is used for research or to help others. There’s no cost to you to donate. If you or a family member ever needs cord blood, you can’t use the blood you donated, but you may be able to use cord blood donated by others. Several cord blood banks participate in this program.

Private cord blood bank: This may be a good option for you if you have a child or family with a health condition that may need to be treated with a stem cell transplant. Depending on the bank you choose, the cost is about $2,000, plus a yearly fee of about $125. The chance that your baby or a family member may need to use your stored cord blood is very low – about 1 in 2,700.

Planning for cord blood collection

If you decide to store your baby’s cord blood (through either a public or private bank), you will need to plan ahead of time and make sure your provider is aware of your choice. Between your 28th and 34th week of pregnancy, talk to your provider about your decisions and learn if you meet the donation guidelines.  Put your decision about cord blood on your birth plan. The March of Dimes birth plan includes a question about storing umbilical cord blood.

Your provider usually uses a collection kit that you order from the cord blood bank. To collect the cord blood, your provider clamps the umbilical cord on one side and uses a needle to draw out the blood. The blood is collected in a bag and then sent to the cord blood bank. Your provider can collect cord blood if you have either a vaginal delivery or a C-section.

According to Be the Match, each year in the United States, more than 10,000 people are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases that may be treated with a stem cell transplant. When a patient with leukemia, lymphoma or other life-threatening disease needs a transplant, cord blood may be an option. Today, 15% of transplant patients receive cord blood that was generously donated to a public cord blood bank.

Questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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.