Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

Join the blog-a-thon for NIIW

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

niiw-blog-a-thon-badgeThis week is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), a time to talk about vaccines.

Do you remember mumps? How about chicken pox? For so many children, these are diseases they never had or will never get. But I remember them well – the incredible pain and swelling from mumps, the constant itching and scars from chicken pox, not to mention the many days of school that I missed. I knew kids who were hospitalized due to complications from both mumps and chickenpox.

Even my kids had chicken pox – one more severely than the other – as the vaccine was not yet available. How I wish they could have avoided that disease!

Rotavirus is another potentially very serious condition that most babies and children can avoid today. My daughter ended up in the hospital for two days due to complications from rotavirus – a very scary experience!

But perhaps the one that hits home the most for me is polio. The March of Dimes would not be here if it were not for this devastating disease. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted this paralyzing disease, he called on our organization to raise money in order to fund research to develop a vaccine. The March of Dimes is named for the dimes that were “marched” to Washington from countless people to fund research into finding a vaccine in time to spare any more men, women, children and babies from getting this crippling disease.

We were successful. The polio vaccine was rolled out to the public in 1955 as a result of the pioneering work of March of Dimes’ funded researchers Drs. Salk and Sabin.

Due to the development of this vaccine, polio is practically a part of world history. It no longer exists in America, and is almost totally eradicated in other parts of the world. When you stop to think about it, that is really AMAZING. This little vaccine prevents lifelong paralysis and pain in millions of people.

What started with combating polio has led March of Dimes to continue working hard to ensure all babies get a fighting chance for a healthy start in life.

But vaccines are not just for babies

As important as it is for babies and children to receive their vaccines, it’s also critical that adults who come in contact with children stay up-to-date with immunizations. For example, pertussis (whooping cough) can be fatal for a baby. When parents and caretakers get the vaccine, they are ensuring that their baby will be protected until he is old enough to be immunized. In fact, it is so important to get this vaccine that all pregnant women are recommended to receive the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.

There’s no doubt about it -even adults need vaccines. And women need them before, during and after pregnancy.

It would be a very different world without the lifesaving vaccines that have spared us from so many diseases. NIIW is a time to highlight the importance of protecting babies and children from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in the U.S.

We’re a healthier nation and world because of them.

Please share your support for childhood immunizations by participating in this week’s blog-a-thon. Here are the details.

 

Sleep soundly knowing your baby is sleeping safely

Monday, April 17th, 2017

back to sleepNewborns sleep a lot, about 16 hours a day. It’s safe to say that sleeping is a big part of your baby’s life. So as your baby drifts off, dreaming of your cuddles, be sure she’s sleeping safely. Safe sleep can help protect your baby from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Here are some tips:

  • Back to sleep: always put your baby to sleep on her back on a flat surface.
  • Share a room with your baby but don’t share a bed. Make sure your baby has her own crib or bassinet to sleep in.
  • Besides your baby, the bassinet or crib should be empty. Crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and stuffed animals can be dangerous and lead to suffocation.
  • After you and your baby have established breastfeeding (around 4 weeks) give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. If your baby doesn’t want a pacifier, don’t force it. If the pacifier falls out while your baby is sleeping, that’s OK.
  • Thinking of a cardiorespiratory monitor? These monitors track a baby’s heart rate and breathing, and in rare cases a baby may need this kind of monitor for medical problems. But there is no evidence these monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies.
  • Dress your baby in light sleep clothes. A blanket sleeper, a kind of clothing just for sleeping, can help keep your baby warm without covering his face or head. If your baby is sweating or her chest feels hot, she may be overheated.

If you are worried about your baby’s sleep, talk to her health care provider.

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

Developmental screenings are helpful for early diagnoses

Monday, April 10th, 2017

doctor-and-babyBefore your baby leaves the hospital, he receives a series of tests called newborn screening. These tests look for serious but rare conditions, including blood, hearing and heart disorders. If a problem is discovered through newborn screening, your baby may receive treatment and often avoid a more serious health problem. Early diagnosis is critical in detecting certain medical conditions.

Other screenings occur after your baby is home from the hospital

Between birth and age 3, your baby goes through incredible changes. He is growing and developing every day. To be sure that your baby is “on track,” your baby’s healthcare provider will check his developmental milestones at each well-baby visit.

These milestones are the major achievements in your child’s life. They include smiling, babbling, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, reaching grabbing, talking, walking and other accomplishments. Parents can check milestones, too. Here is a list of behaviors to look for at specific ages.

If either you or your baby’s provider are concerned that your baby is not progressing well, you can request a developmental screening. It is free as part of the federally funded early intervention program. Similar to newborn screening, this screening helps to identify potential health or developmental problems early.

If your child qualifies, the early intervention program may include services such as speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, or even a special preschool setting. Early intervention can be enormously helpful in helping your child improve. And, the sooner you begin intervention, the sooner your baby can reach his full potential.

One example of a diagnosis where early intervention is particularly important is Autism. April is autism awareness month, a time to remember that this developmental disorder affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S. Officially called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, it is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication and behavior challenges – from mild to severe. This is why it is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder.

ASD can be difficult to diagnose because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to give a definite answer as to whether your child has it or not. Usually, children with ASD start showing signs or symptoms of the disorder in their toddler or preschool years, and some babies show signs in their first year of life. For this reason, taking your child for regular visits with his healthcare provider is particularly important so that his development can be monitored. If your child needs early intervention services, getting it early is key in helping him progress.

Bottom line

There is a wide range of “typical development” for children. But, if you are concerned about your child’s progress or feel he is delayed in reaching his milestones, talk to his healthcare provider sooner rather than later.

You can find more information in our series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

Remember – don’t delay with delays.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

What causes gas in breastfed babies?

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Dad calming babyEveryone has gas, adults and babies alike. Gas is a result of both swallowing air and the digestion process. If your baby has a lot of gas though, you probably have concerns about the cause and more importantly, how to fix the problem.

So what can cause gas in your baby?

  • Anything that could cause your baby to swallow air: This includes crying, sucking a pacifier and eating from either the breast or a bottle.
  • A forceful letdown: If you’re nursing and have an oversupply of milk, your baby may take in too much milk at one time and swallow air. Changing positions, nursing frequently or expressing some of your milk before latching can help.  Reach out to a Lactation Consultant for assistance.
  • An intolerance to proteins in your diet: Most breastfed babies do not have allergic reactions to their mom’s milk. However, if food allergies run in your family, you should discuss this with your lactation consultant. The proteins from foods such as cow’s milk and peanuts pass through breast milk.  Also, be sure to watch your baby for any allergic reactions such as green, mucus-like stools with signs of blood.

What can help your baby’s gas?

  • Change your position while feeding: Tilt your baby up so her head is higher than her stomach. This will allow air to come up and out and milk to go down more smoothly.
  • Burping more often: Try burping during as well as after a feeding. If you are switching breasts, try burping before moving your baby over to your other side.
  • The bicycle: Lay your baby on her back and move her legs in a bicycle motion. Tummy time can also help put pressure on your baby’s stomach to relieve gas.
  • There are over-the-counter medications that may help relieve your baby’s gas. Ask your baby’s provider for a recommendation.

If your baby has excessive gas, there may be other reasons why it is happening. Reach out to your baby’s provider or your Lactation Consultant for an evaluation.

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

Zika and sperm – a new concern

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

spermThe latest news about the Zika virus is that there is a potential risk that some semen donated to sperm banks in South Florida might be contaminated with Zika.

Here’s why:

  • Zika can remain in semen for several months;
  • men who donated semen may not have shown signs or symptoms of Zika yet they could have been infected with the virus;
  • semen is not tested for Zika, unlike blood and tissue donations.

Therefore, it is possible that an infected man may have unknowingly donated semen contaminated with the Zika virus.

Where is the risk?

Although the Zika virus has been identified in Miami-Dade County, the risk of it spreading to other neighboring areas is possible, since individuals in this part of the state often travel to and from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

CDC says “This analysis has led to CDC identifying that since June 15, 2016, there has been a potential increased Zika risk for residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties because of local travel to areas of active transmission in Florida and challenges associated with defining sources of exposure.” The increased risk in the overall numbers of people exposed to the virus means that donor sperm may be at risk, too.

What does this mean to women trying to become pregnant by donor sperm?

Semen contains sperm, which is necessary for a woman to become pregnant. Although the risk of Zika transmission is small, if a woman wishes to become pregnant or currently is pregnant by donor sperm from these areas in Florida, she should speak with her healthcare provider. There have not been any confirmed cases of the Zika virus infecting a pregnant woman from donor sperm, but the possibility exists that it could occur.

The CDC emphasizes that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause brain problems, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of conditions in the baby that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

See our website for more information on Zika during pregnancy, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome.

The CDC website offers detailed guidance for people living or traveling to South Florida.

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

 

March is Trisomy Awareness Month

Monday, March 13th, 2017

chromosomesWhat is trisomy?

Babies with trisomy are born with an extra copy of a specific chromosome in most or all of their cells. This means that they have three copies of this chromosome in each cell rather than the typical number, which is two. Health conditions that may be associated with trisomy include heart defects, vision or hearing problems, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Chromosomes are the structures in cells that contain genes. Each person normally has 23 pairs of chromosomes, or 46 in all. An individual inherits one chromosome from the mother’s egg and one from the father’s sperm. When an egg and sperm join together, they normally form a fertilized egg with 46 chromosomes.

Sometimes a mistake in cell division occurs before a woman gets pregnant. A developing egg or sperm ends up with an extra chromosome. When this cell joins with a normal egg or sperm cell, the resulting embryo has 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

Common trisomy conditions

Although trisomy can occur with any chromosome, here are the conditions that are most often associated with an extra chromosome:

  • Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome: Down syndrome is one of the most common birth defects. In the US, about 6,000 babies (or 1 in 700) are born with Down syndrome each year. Most affected individuals have intellectual disabilities within the mild to moderate range. Although health conditions such as heart defects and vision and hearing problems are associated, most of these can be treated, and life expectancy is now about 60 years.
  • Trisomy 18 is also called Edward syndrome: Trisomy 18 occurs in about 1 in 5,000 live births each year. Affected individuals may have heart defects, significant intellectual and developmental delays, and other life-threatening medical problems.
  • Trisomy 13, also known as Patau syndrome: Trisomy 13 occurs in about 1 in 10,000 to 16,000 live births each year worldwide. Individuals with trisomy 13 often have heart defects, brain or spinal cord abnormalities, severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, and multiple physical problems in many parts of the body.

It is important to understand that every individual with a trisomy is unique and not all of them will have the same symptoms. The severity of the condition and the associated problems depend on:

  • Which chromosome is duplicated: An extra copy of certain chromosomes, like chromosome 1, is not compatible with life and the embryo will not develop.
  • How much of the extra chromosome is present: If only part of the chromosome is present, symptoms may be milder. If the complete chromosome is present, the symptoms may be more severe.
  • How many cells have the extra chromosome: If the copy of the extra chromosome is in only a few cells (mosaicism), the symptoms are usually less severe than if all of the cells in the body are affected.

In the past 10 years, the March of Dimes has invested over 15  million dollars into research for chromosomal conditions, including trisomy. And many March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. This important research should improve our understanding of how genes and other factors affect the development of a baby.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Why do we have World Birth Defects Day?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

wbddlogoIn a day and age when many cures exist for diseases and conditions, it may seem hard to believe that birth defects still occur. Yet, unfortunately they do.

Every year, millions of babies around the world are born with a serious birth defect. In many countries, birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in babies and young children. Babies who survive and live with these conditions are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and other health problems.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or how the body works.

There are thousands of different birth defects. The most common are heart defects, cleft lip and palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Our website has a list of common birth defects as well as examples of rare birth defects.

We don’t know all the reasons why birth defects occur. Some may be caused by the genes you inherit from your parents. Others may be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to harmful chemicals. Some may be due to a combination of genes and environment. In most cases, the causes are unknown.

Why #WorldBDDay?

The goal of World Birth Defects Day is to expand birth defects surveillance, prevention, care, and research worldwide. Naturally, the goal is to raise awareness, too.

You can help.

  • Lend your voice! Register with your social media account and Thunderclap will post a one-time message on March 3rd. The message will say “Birth defects affect 3-6% of infants worldwide. It’s a major cause of death/disability. Lend your voice!”
  • Join the Buzzday on Twitter, March 3, 2017 by using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.

With your help, we’ll raise awareness, which is the first step in improving the health of all babies.

What we’re doing

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Our research grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects. These discoveries may one day lead to interventions so that some birth defects can be prevented.

The March of Dimes offers information about how to have a healthy pregnancy on our website and this blog.

We answer health questions from the public through AskUs@marchofdimes.org, and promote messaging on our Twitter handles, @modhealthtalk, @nacersano (in Spanish) and @marchofdimes.

We welcome your comments and questions.

Rare Disease Day is February 28th. What makes a disorder rare?

Monday, February 27th, 2017

rare-disease-dayAny disease, disorder, illness or condition affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. is considered rare. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) says there are about 7,000 rare diseases and disorders which affect roughly 30 million Americans. That’s 1 in 10 people, and more than half of them are children.

Why is rare disease awareness so important?

It is often very hard to diagnose a rare disease and it can take a long time for a correct diagnosis to be made.

Then, even if someone receives a diagnosis, 95% of the conditions have no treatment or cure (which means that only 5% of affected people have a treatment option). As a result, many infants or children die from rare disorders.

Individuals living with a rare disease move through life without getting answers to their most basic questions.

Here are a few examples of rare diseases:

Agenesis of Corpus Callosum (ACC)

This rare disorder is present at birth. The corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain, is partially or completely absent. The cause of this condition is usually not known but it can be inherited. Symptoms include delays in reaching developmental milestones, seizures, feeding problems and impairment of mental and social development. Treatment is based on supporting an individual’s symptoms, such as therapies that focus on left/right coordination. Early diagnosis and interventions offer the best chances of improvement.

Klippel-Feil syndrome (KFS)

KFS is a skeletal disorder with an abnormal union of two or more bones in the spinal column within the neck. This can cause some affected individuals to have an abnormally short neck with restricted movement. KFS seems to occur randomly for unknown reasons, although in some cases it may be inherited. Treatment is based on an individual’s specific symptoms, and may include surgery and physical therapy.

Progeria, or Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS)

According to NORD, progeria is a fatal, genetic condition of childhood that resembles premature aging. In most cases, it is not passed down in families. The gene change that causes the condition is almost always a chance occurrence that is extremely rare. “In 2012, the results of the first-ever clinical drug trial for children with progeria revealed that Lonafarnib, a type of farnesyltransferase inhibitor (FTI) originally developed to treat cancer, was shown to be effective for progeria. Other than Lonafarnib, which is not FDA-approved and thus only available through clinical drug trials, the treatment of HGPS is directed toward the specific symptoms that are apparent in each individual.”

Tay-Sachs

This condition is an inherited disease that affects a baby’s central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The central nervous system controls how the body works. There is no cure for Tay-Sachs, and a baby with Tay-Sachs usually dies by the time he is 4 years old. We have information about this disease on our website.

NORD provides information on many rare diseases.

#RareDiseaseDay

Rare Disease Day is always on the last day of February each year. This year it’s on February 28th and the focus is on research. The slogan is “With research, possibilities are limitless.” And it’s true, research can help discover treatments and in some cases cures. Research can give hope to people living their day-to-day lives in search of answers.

See rarediseaseday.us or NORD for more info.

Why reading aloud to your baby is so important

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

AA baby mom dad brother in NICU.jpg.resizedDid you know that reading to your baby helps promote language skills? Science has shown that reading to your baby helps build vocabulary, speech, and later reading comprehension, literacy and overall intelligence. Yet, less than half of children under the age of 5 are read to every day.

Reading aloud to your child is such an important aspect of language development that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidance on how to read to your child, including book suggestions for every age.

But what if your baby is in the NICU?

Even if your baby is in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it is still incredibly valuable to read to him. The March of Dimes is partnering with Jack and Jill of America, Inc. to provide books to families who have a baby in a NICU. Parents are encouraged to choose books and read to their babies as often as they can.

In this resource, the AAP explains “Why it is never too early to read with your baby.” They say: “When parents talk, read, and sing with their babies and toddlers, connections are formed in their young brains. These connections build language, literacy, and social–emotional skills at an important time in a young child’s development. These activities strengthen the bond between parent and child.”

Why start reading today?

Today is World Read Aloud Day, a perfect time to start a new routine of reading to your child.

If you’re not sure what to read, you can ask your local librarian in the children’s room. You can also acquire books for a home library at second hand stores or even recycling stations. The “dump” in the town where I raised my kids has a book shed where you can drop off or pick up used books for free. And don’t forget, garage or yard sales are great places to get books for nickels. Having a mini-library at home has been shown to help children get off on the right academic foot.

But perhaps the best reason to read to your child is because it brings you together. The snuggles and cuddles, laughter and silliness that may result from reading a wonderful book, brings happiness to both parent and child.

Whether it is in the NICU or at home, reading aloud to your child is one of the most powerful things you will ever do. So grab a book, snuggle up, and enjoy!