Breastfeeding 101

11
Aug
Posted by Lauren

If you’re breastfeeding or thinking about breastfeeding, you’ve come to the right place. This post is your one-stop-shop for all things breastfeeding. Stop in for a quick glance or stay for a while and browse the different blog posts below. We’ll keep adding new ones as they are published. If you have questions, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We are here to help.

• Breastfeeding myths debunked
• Breastfeeding myths debunked part 2 
• The do’s and don’ts of bottle-feeding 
• Breastfeeding your baby in the NICU can be challenging 
• Breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip/palate  
• Breastfeeding and returning to work 
• Formula switching, what you need to know 
• Alcohol and breastfeeding 
• Breastfeeding on demand vs. on a schedule 
• Keeping breast milk safe
 “Can I continue breastfeeding now that I am pregnant again?”

• Breastfeeding and hair treatments

 

Thinking about pregnancy? Think about vaccines.

10
Aug
Posted by Sara

VaccineVaccines aren’t just for children. Adults need to get vaccinated too! And if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that your vaccines are up-to-date.

Vaccines help protect your body from certain diseases. During pregnancy, you pass this protection on to your baby. This is very important because it helps to keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he can get his own vaccinations.

Here are some vaccines that are recommended before pregnancy:

  • Flu. Get the flu shot once a year during the flu season (October through May). It protects you and your baby against both seasonal flu and H1N1. If you come down with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV. This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
  • MMR. This protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella. Measles can be harmful to pregnant women and cause miscarriage.
  • Tdap. This vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, ask your provider about getting the Tdap vaccine.
  • Varicella. Chickenpox is an infection that causes itchy skin, rash and fever. It’s easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had chickenpox or received the vaccine, tell your provider.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  1. Flu vaccine if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy
  2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Do not get these vaccines during pregnancy:

  • BCG (tuberculosis)
  • Memingococcal
  • MMR
  • Nasal spray flu vaccine (called LAIV). Pregnant women can get the flu shot, which is made with killed viruses.
  • Typhoid
  • Varicella (chickenpox)

You should wait at least 1 month after getting any of these vaccinations before you try to get pregnant.

Important: If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine before or during pregnancy, you can get it right after you give birth. Getting the Tdap vaccine soon after giving birth prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby. This vaccine is also recommended for caregivers, close friends, and relatives who spend time with your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses.

Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations you need before, during or after pregnancy. And remember, getting vaccinated doesn’t just protect you–it protects your unborn baby as well.

Questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

“Can I continue breastfeeding now that I am pregnant again?”

07
Aug
Posted by Lauren

pregnant woman and toddlerThis is a question we often receive from moms who are breastfeeding their child when they find out they are pregnant again. And the answer is yes, you can still breastfeed throughout your pregnancy depending on your medical history, your older baby’s responses, your milk supply and your own feelings. There is no documented danger to mother or fetus when a mother breastfeeds through a healthy pregnancy. There are some things however to keep in mind and consider as your pregnancy progresses.

Talk to your health care provider

There are a few medical reasons why a pregnant woman should consider weaning during pregnancy. Speak to your provider about continuing breastfeeding if you have:

• Uterine pain or bleeding
• Miscarried in the past
• A history of premature delivery
• lost weight during your pregnancy

Changes to your breast milk

After the first few months of pregnancy, your milk supply may decrease. As your milk changes to colostrum in preparation for birth the taste will change. These two things may lead your child to wean on his own. If your child continues to breastfeed though, make sure he goes to all his well-baby visits with his health care provider to ensure he is gaining enough weight throughout your pregnancy.

Make adjustments

As your body continues to change, you may experience emotional ups and downs with breastfeeding. Nipple tenderness, caused by hormonal changes, is one of the first symptoms of pregnancy and may make breastfeeding uncomfortable. As pregnancy continues, and your belly grows, it may also become difficult for your child to reach the nipple. It may help to experiment with different nursing positions, such as lying on your side while nursing.

Take care of yourself

Pregnancy and breastfeeding both require extra energy. Make sure you get plenty of rest. Putting your feet up while breastfeeding your child may also allow you to get some much needed relaxation. It is important that you gain the appropriate amount of weight during your pregnancy, eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of water. It may be necessary to consume extra calories while breastfeeding during pregnancy. Speak with your provider about what is right for you.

Stay positive

Take your pregnancy and breastfeeding day by day. As emotions and your comfort level continue to change, try to avoid expectations about how breastfeeding will go. Being flexible is the key to making breastfeeding during pregnancy a positive experience. If you need extra assistance and support, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Speak with your provider, a lactation consultant or a peer counselor to help you through your pregnancy. You can also look for a breastfeeding support group in your area. Read our web article for more information.

Thinking about maternity leave

06
Aug
Posted by Sara

pregnant woman with ipadHave you heard that Netflix is offering unlimited paid parental leave to their employees? During their first year as new parents, Netflix employees can take as much time off as they choose while still earning their normal salary. This is really an amazing policy. If you’re working and pregnant, you probably have thought a lot about maternity leave. Over the past 30 years, the participation rate in the labor force of women with children under age 3 has risen from 34.3% in 1975 to 60.9% in 2011. Half of all mothers work during pregnancy and return to work after their baby is born. And among women who worked during their pregnancy between 2005 and 2007, 58.6% returned to work 3 months after giving birth and 72.9% returned to work 6 months after giving birth. It is important to know what options are available to you so that you can plan ahead.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employees can take time off from work without pay for pregnancy- and family-related health issues. The act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that you can keep your health insurance benefits during the leave. To qualify, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months, and worked at a location where the company has 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

In addition to the FMLA leave, your employer may have its own maternity leave policies. Talk to your boss or someone from human resources (also called HR). Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Does your employer offer paid maternity leave? Some employers offer paid time off for the birth of your baby. Talk with someone from HR to find out if you have paid maternity leave.
  • Does your health insurance continue while you’re on maternity leave? If you get your health insurance through your employer, your HR person can tell you about what your insurance plan covers. You may need to change your health plan after your baby’s born to make sure he’s covered, too.
  • Does your employer offer flex time or telecommuting for when you’re ready to go back to work? For example, can you work fewer hours each week or work from home at the beginning? And then increase your hours or your time in the office little by little over a few weeks?
  • Are there other programs or services that your employer offers to new moms? If you’re breastfeeding, find out if your employer has a lactation room. This is a private space (not a bathroom) that you can use to pump breast milk. Employers with more than 50 employees must provide this space for breastfeeding moms.

Finally, choosing a child care provider that works best for you can be tough. Try to explore your options and finalize your plans before your baby arrives.  If you can organize childcare before you deliver, it will make your time at home with your baby more relaxing and enjoyable.

Breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip or cleft palate

05
Aug
Posted by Barbara

cleft lipBreastfeeding can be challenging for any mom. But, for the mother of an infant with a cleft lip or cleft palate, it can be daunting.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I am featuring a very helpful post on breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip or cleft palate, written by our March of Dimes blogger and Lactation Counselor. Thank you Lauren, for this post filled with useful, practical tips.

 

A cleft lip is a birth defect in which a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening. A cleft palate is a similar birth defect in a baby’s palate (roof of the mouth). A baby can be born with one or both of these defects. If your baby has a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both, he may have trouble breastfeeding. It is normal for babies with a cleft lip to need some extra time to get started with breastfeeding. If your baby has a cleft palate, he most likely cannot feed from the breast. This is because your baby has more trouble sucking and swallowing. You can, however, still feed your baby pumped breast milk from a bottle.

Your baby’s provider can help you start good breastfeeding habits right after your baby is born. The provider may recommend:

• special nipples and bottles that can make feeding breast milk from a bottle easier.

• an obturator. This is a small plastic plate that fits into the roof of your baby’s mouth and covers the cleft opening during feeding.

Here are some helpful breastfeeding tips:

• If your baby chokes or leaks milk from his nose, the football hold position may help your baby take milk more easily. Tuck your baby under your arm, on the same side you are nursing from, like a football. He should face you, with his nose level with your nipple. Rest your arm on a pillow and support the baby’s shoulders, neck and head with your hand.

• If your baby prefers only one breast, try sliding him over to the other breast without turning him or moving him too much. If you need, use pillows for support.

• Feed your baby in a calm or darkened room. Calm surroundings can help him have fewer distractions.

• Your baby may take longer to finish feeding and may need to be burped more often (2-3 times during a feed).

• It may help to keep your baby as upright as possible during his feeding. This position will allow the milk to flow into his stomach easier, which will help prevent choking.

How breastfeeding can help your baby:

• His mouth and tongue coordination will improve, which can help his speech skills.

• His face and mouth muscles will strengthen, leading to more normal facial formation.

• If your baby chokes or leaks milk from his nose, breast milk is less irritating to the mucous membranes than formula.

• Babies with a cleft tend to have more ear infections; breast milk helps protect against these infections.

If your baby is unable to breastfeed: 

• Feed your baby with bottles and nipples specifically designed for babies with clefts. Ask your baby’s health care provider for recommendations.

If you are concerned if your baby is getting enough to eat, or if he is having trouble feeding, speak with a lactation counselor, your baby’s provider or a nurse if you are still in the hospital.

If you have any questions about feeding your child with a cleft lip or palate, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Breastfeeding in public is getting easier

04
Aug
Posted by Barbara

Alcohol and BreastfeedingIf you are a mom who is breastfeeding your baby, you may feel that your social life is sometimes curtailed. Breastfeeding every two to three hours, can make it very difficult to go out to public places if you can’t find a clean, safe place to feed your baby when she is hungry.

Now, take me out to the ballgame just got a little bit easier.

Thanks to lactation rooms and breastfeeding pods which are popping up in all sorts of places, nursing moms can escape to a quiet, private place to breastfeed and not miss any of the fun.

Breastfeeding pods (portable enclosed spaces designed specifically for breastfeeding or expressing milk) are already at somebreastfeeding pod airports, making travel much easier for a mom on the go. They are also popping up at ball parks. Recently, Fenway Park in Boston, MA, added a breastfeeding pod, so baseball enthusiasts need never miss a game.

Before you head out of the house to a public place, call ahead and ask if they have accommodations for breastfeeding moms. You may not have ever noticed or seen a lactation room or pod at the venue. But if you know it is there, you may feel more comfortable bringing your baby along. You will enjoy yourself without missing a feeding. You can also go to the Mamava pod website or use their app to locate a pod.

Another option is to use the Moms Pump Here lactation room locator. It tells you where you can find quiet, clean, safe places to breastfeed or pump. Use their website or download their app for info on the go.

So much has changed from the days when women would breastfeed their babies in a ladies room (ugh) or worse yet – stay home and miss special events. With the known benefits of breastmilk, it is logical that more accommodations are being made for lactating moms, so that they can feed their babies when they are away from home.

Keeping breast milk safe

03
Aug
Posted by Lauren

mom breastfeedingThere are a few things you need to take into consideration if you are breastfeeding or pumping your breast milk, in addition to
avoiding alcohol while breastfeeding.

Caffeine

Consuming coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas in moderation is fine if you are breastfeeding or pumping. If you find that your baby is fussy or irritable when you consume a lot of caffeine (usually more than 5 caffeinates beverages per day) you should consider decreasing your consumption. Keep in mind that caffeine can be found in:

• Coffee and coffee-flavored products, like yogurt and ice cream
• Tea
• Soft drinks
• Chocolate and chocolate products, such as syrup and hot cocoa
• Medications used for pain relief, migraines and colds

The amount of caffeine in different products varies as well, depending on how it was prepared and served (such as an espresso or latte beverage.) Make sure you check packaging for the number of milligrams of caffeine in one serving.

Mercury

You probably knew during your pregnancy to avoid eating fish that contains high amounts of mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. The same is true while you are breastfeeding. Including fish in your diet is a good way to get protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so eat fish that contain less mercury, like canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, Pollock and catfish.

Medications

Some prescription medicines, such as those to help you sleep, painkillers and drugs used to treat cancer or migraine headaches, aren’t safe to take while breastfeeding. Others, like certain kinds of birth control, may affect the amount of breast milk you make. Read our post on medications and breastfeeding and speak with your provider about any over-the-counter and prescriptions medications you are taking.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can make breastfeeding unsafe for your baby. These include:

• If your baby has galactosemia, a genetic condition where your baby can’t digest the sugar in breast milk.
• If you have HIV.
• If you have cancer and are getting treated with medicine or radiation.
• If you have human T-cell lymphotropic virus. This is a virus that can cause blood cancer and nerve problems.
• If you have untreated, active tuberculosis. This is an infection that mainly affects the lungs.
• If you have Ebola, a rare but very serious disease that can cause heavy bleeding, organ failure and death.

Smoking and street drugs

Don’t smoke. Nicotine, a drug found in cigarettes can pass to your baby through breast milk and make him fussy and have a hard time sleeping. It can also reduce your milk supply so your baby may not get the milk he needs.

Don’t take street drugs, like heroin and cocaine. You can pass these substances to your baby through breast milk.

Tell your provider if you need help to quit smoking or using street drugs.

Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need support, read our article on how to receive help with breastfeeding.

 

 

How vaccines work

31
Jul
Posted by Sara

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.

Tips for family travel with your child with special needs

29
Jul
Posted by Barbara

air travelIt is the end of July already, and many summer programs or camps are beginning to wind down. Some families like to take a few days or more to spend together. But, often traveling with a child who has complicated or special needs can be difficult.

Here is a blog post on how you can vacation with your child with special needs. It includes tips on what to do ahead of time, how to enhance communication while on your trip, and how to implement a positive reward system to help encourage desired behaviors. This post also includes travel ideas, such as the best places for your family to go with your child.

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs reviews special offerings and assistance available in many theme parks, sports stadiums and ball parks as well as hotels, pools and restaurants, thanks to the ADA. Even airlines will let individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities pre-board flights, to make life easier for you and your child.

There is no need to stay home when you and your family can get a change of scene and pace with just a little pre-planning and inquiring. vacation-family-carHopefully, these posts will give you the tools you need to make it work for you and have an enjoyable vacation.

If you have had a good experience at a particular destination, we’d love to hear about it. Please share.

 

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

See other posts in the Delays and Disabilities series, here.

Severe bleeding during pregnancy can be placenta previa

27
Jul
Posted by Lauren

contemplative pregnant woman During my mom’s pregnancy with me, she was diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits on the top of the vagina. If you have placenta previa, when your labor starts, your cervix begins to thin out and dilate (open up), and the blood vessels connecting the placenta to your uterus may tear. This can cause severe bleeding.

My mom remembers the day I was born, like it was yesterday. She remembers my Aunt running down the hall to get towels for her while she stood in the bathroom bleeding during her third trimester. She was rushed to the hospital and had an emergency Cesarean section (C-section) performed. My mom says she can still remember what the pressure felt like on her lower abdomen during the procedure.

We don’t know what causes placenta previa, which happens in about 1 in 200 pregnancies. If you have placenta previa early in pregnancy, it usually isn’t a problem. However, it can cause serious bleeding and other complications later in pregnancy.

Diagnosis and symptoms

The most common symptom of placenta previa is painless bleeding from the vagina during the second half of pregnancy. If you have spotting or bleeding during pregnancy, it’s important you call your provider right away. But, not all women with placenta previa have vaginal bleeding. In fact, about one-third of women with placenta previa don’t have this symptom. An ultrasound can usually pinpoint the placenta’s location to determine if you have placenta previa.

Is there treatment?

Treatment depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy, the seriousness of your bleeding and the health of you and your baby. The goal is to keep you pregnant as long as possible, but at any stage of pregnancy, a C-section may be necessary if you have dangerously heavy bleeding or if you and your baby are having problems.

How can I reduce my risk?

We don’t know how to prevent placenta previa, but you may be able to reduce your risk by not smoking or doing illicit drugs such as cocaine. If you have a healthy pregnancy, and there isn’t a medical reason for you to have a C-section, it’s best to let labor begin on its own. The more C-sections you have, the greater your risk of placenta previa.

As soon as my mom held me in her arms, she said she forgot all about the scary hours beforehand. She was so grateful that she had gone to the hospital when she did.

Remember, if you have spotting or bleeding at any point in your pregnancy, call your provider right away or go to the emergency room.