Turning 2 – Thank YOU!

31
Dec
Posted by Barbara

2 year old birthday cakeAs the News Moms Need’s blog series on Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child turns 2 years old next month, I just want to take a moment to thank all the parents who read this blog and send in comments or questions. It is a privilege for me to write it, but, without you, there would not be this blog series…so, thank you. Parents of kids with special needs are unique, and we all need one another to spur us on and help our kids. I look forward to sharing ideas and thoughts as we slide into the new year.

May 2015 bring good health, progress and success to all of you.

Happy New Year everyone!

Cheers! with alcohol-free alternatives

29
Dec
Posted by Lauren

Mocktails for the holidayTis the holiday season, and often that means lots of parties and gatherings, usually involving alcohol. But if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you need to steer clear of alcoholic beverages. However, here are some delicious substitutions.

One of the easiest drink alternatives is simply mixing a fruit juice with seltzer water. If you use cranberry or pomegranate juice, you’ll have a “mocktail” with a festive red color. Add a twist of lime, and serve it in a martini glass or champagne flute. This is one of my favorite drinks every day. You can really play around with this basic recipe, changing juices and garnishes to your specific taste—and cravings.

Also, there are so many flavored seltzers available that you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching juices and seltzers to create some really unique combinations. If you freeze the fruit juice in ice cube trays, you can then add them to your favorite flavored seltzer. The combinations are really endless. And when it is time to ring in the New Year, ginger ale or sparkling cider make great alternatives to a glass of champagne. You can read our past post on Bodacious Beverages for some more great recipes.

Although alcohol may not be on the menu this holiday season, you can still share a toast with family and friends. Cheers!

How to combat holiday fatigue

26
Dec
Posted by Sara

tired santaHoliday season is in full swing—we just have to make it to New Year’s Eve. I am exhausted. Traveling, family, kids, parties—it all adds up to a lot of late nights and early mornings. And if you are pregnant, you may be more tired than usual. This is especially true during the first and third trimesters, when your body is producing new hormones and getting ready for the many changes that will be coming soon.

 

So what can you do to try to relieve your holiday fatigue? Here are some tips:

• Rest when you can during the day and try to take a few breaks to renew your energy.

• Lots of family activities may leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. Go to bed early, if you can.

• Don’t drink lots of fluids too close to bedtime. Hopefully then, you will not have to get up to go to the bathroom.

• If you often have heartburn, make sure you do not lie down right after you eat. Try to eat your last meal a few hours before you go to bed.

• To avoid leg cramps, gently stretch your leg muscles before bedtime.

• A nice 30 minute walk can refresh and invigorate you (make sure your doctor has said exercise is OK). But do not get too much exercise right before bed.

• Be sure to drink enough fluids—water is usually best.

• Deep breathing and meditation can help you find a moment of peace when you are feeling overwhelmed.

• Try to limit unhealthy snacks. These can drain your energy. Fruits, vegetables, and foods high in iron and protein are good choices.

• During this busy season, do not forget to take your prenatal vitamin. If you are anemic, ask your provider about an iron supplement.

You can read more about fatigue during pregnancy on our website. And if you have any questions, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

Sweet dreams

24
Dec
Posted by Barbara

On Christmas eve a few years ago, my colleague, Lindsay, published this post. The sentiment is perfect to capture the wonder of this special day, even if you do not celebrate Christmas. Enjoy!

 

familySweet dreams

When you were a child on Christmas Eve, how long did it take you to fall asleep? If you had brothers and sisters, did you all talk about Santa and wonder if you would hear the reindeer on the roof? If you hid behind a chair, would Santa know and not come, or would you get to sneak a peek at the big guy?

As we grow older our sense of wonder seems to change. Those special dreams from childhood often turn into adult worries about expenses or finding a job. Many of us get jaded and find the holidays more taxing than tantalizing. I find that sad.

Here’s an idea for tonight. Look at your little ones, or your neighbors’ children, and imagine this night from their eyes. Put on your PJs when your children do and snuggle up with a story. Tell them about Christmas when you were their age. Become young again and let them share their excitement with you. Look for the joy of the moment and be grateful for what the morning will bring. Let your worldly trials and travails go for 24 magical hours.

And if you do not celebrate Christmas, snuggle up with your babies anyway and let them know how beautiful they are and how much you love them. Sweet dreams everyone.

Traveling this winter? Be prepared

22
Dec
Posted by Lauren

winter blizzardThe holidays are upon us and I’m spending them with friends and family near and far, well, mostly far. I’m starting to plan for my upcoming trip and today I realized the pressure in my tires was low. Thankfully I keep a tire pump in my car so I was able to put air in my tires and be on my way. It’s important to make sure you and your family are ready to hit the roads this holiday season and to be prepared for all kinds of winter weather. Here are some tips to help get you on your way safely.

Prepare your car

• Service the radiator
• Check your antifreeze level
• Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
• Check the tire pressure or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
• Try to maintain a full tank of gas to avoid ice in the tank and long fuel lines.

Keep a winter emergency kit in your car that contains:

• Blankets
• Food and water
• Tire pump, booster cables, map, a bag of sand or cat litter for traction
• Flashlight
• Phone charger
• Snow shovel, brush and ice scraper
• Extra baby items, such as diapers, wipes, food, toys and extra clothing

If you are pregnant

• It is important to stay hydrated and have healthy snacks on hand in case you get hungry. Traveling during wintertime can cause unexpected delays, so keep extra water and snacks in your car  to help you make it through any traffic holdup.

If you have little ones

• Before you head out, make sure you strap your little one in his car seat properly. Buckle up and follow our guide to make sure your child is safe and secure.

Check the weather forecast and stay in touch

• Check the weather forecast before your travel so you can dress appropriately. Knowing the temperature and wind chill can help you and your little one avoid hypothermia, frostbite and wind chill. If a storm is coming, try to minimize your travel.
• If you do have to drive somewhere, let someone know when you leave your house and when you expect to arrive. Bridges and overpasses ice over first, so try to stay on main roads and avoid shortcuts.

Whether you are traveling near or far this winter, being prepared will help you travel and arrive safely.

Spending holidays in the NICU

19
Dec
Posted by Barbara

Parents in NICU If your baby is currently in the NICU, this may not be how you envisioned spending your holidays. The realization that your baby is not home for Hanukkah, Christmas or the start of the New Year can be a real jolt. But, with a little creativity, an open mind and a willingness to adapt, you can still make your holidays bright. Here’s how:

• Although no two NICUs are exactly alike, many will allow you to decorate your baby’s bed space (but ask first). You may be able to attach pictures or tiny holiday decorations on the side of the incubator or warmer bed.

• Engage your other children if you have them. You can take a photo of them and pin it up on the side of your baby’s bed (if allowed). Likewise, take a photo of your baby and bring it to your child or children at home to decorate. They can make a Christmas ornament out of it and hang it on the tree or draw a picture around it and set it up next to the menorah. This way, your littlest one is always present at your home in a physical way.

• If your baby is healthy enough, see if you can put him in a special holiday outfit. A snowman, Santa or elf onesie would be adorable! (But be sure to check with the head nurse or doctor first.)

• Depending on the health of your baby and NICU rules, perhaps Dad can pose as Santa and take a photo with your baby. (Be sure the Santa outfit is squeaky clean please!)

• Place a tiny “Charlie Brown” tree, menorah or other symbolic decoration on the windowsill or counter next to your baby.

• If appropriate, see if you can play soft holiday music when visiting your baby. Humming or singing to your baby may be soothing to him and in this way you can introduce him to his first Christmas Carol or Hanukkah song.

• Make a clay impression of your baby’s foot as a keepsake. There are kits that you can buy that are easy to prepare. Or, if you have a creative streak in you, you can make the “dough” yourself. Search the internet for recipes.

• Enjoy your New Year’s toast together as a family in the NICU with your baby, even if you do it well before midnight to accommodate bedtimes of your other children.

Spending your holidays at the NICU is not something you planned on. But, hopefully, the New Year will be one of improved health, weight gain for your preemie, and a soon-to-be united family at home.

 

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Visiting Santa is do-able for kids with special needs

17
Dec
Posted by Barbara

child w SantaThe sensory challenges experienced by many children can make a visit with Santa impossible, or at best, uncomfortable. From the noise and crowds of a busy mall, to the waiting on a long line, a fun and fulfilling experience can soon become a very stressful one. The sensory overload can quickly turn the visit upside-down. It is for this reason that a specially trained Santa and a well-planned visit can make all the difference in the world.

The good news

Across the U.S., there are opportunities for kids with special needs to visit Santa in a sensory friendly way. Malls, private organizations such as occupational therapy centers and doctor’s offices, fire stations, and many local disability groups offer programs that feature a specially trained Santa who welcomes children with varying needs. These Santa visits are unhurried, calm, quiet and understanding of the sensory issues of little ones. Parents often say the best part about visiting a sensory special Santa is not having to wait on long lines (which can be an impossible hurdle for many kids with special needs). An advance reservation may be required, so call ahead to learn about any important details that will help your visit go smoothly.

To locate a special Santa, check with the your local mall, town hall, parks and recreation department, fire and police stations, therapy offices, disability organizations, etc., to see if a “Special Santa,” also known as a “Sensitive Santa” or “Caring Santa” is in your area.

If you do see a special Santa, you might want to give the staff a quick heads up about your child’s needs. Or, you can write a short note to give to Santa before your child’s visit. The note can give a brief description of your child (eg. “Johnny is non-verbal but understands if you speak slowly,” or “he wants to tell you something, so please be patient and wait as he gets his words out”). Your note can also state the toys he wants for Christmas, so Santa can mention them and your child can nod in agreement. With a little planning and creativity, the visit can be smooth and successful.

If your child can not leave the house, you may be able to find a Santa that makes home visits. It is worth calling your local disability organization or town government to inquire. If there isn’t a program in your area, perhaps ask a therapist, special education teacher or another parent or relative familiar with your child’s special needs, to transform into Santa and visit your child.

It is a happy time of year, and a calm visit with Santa will undoubtedly make Christmas brighter for your child…and you!

 

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. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Chickenpox, vaccinations and Angelina Jolie

16
Dec
Posted by Ivette

VaccineAngelina Jolie coming down with chickenpox is a good reminder for all of us to keep our vaccinations up to date! Chickenpox, also called varicella, is caused by a virus. Its symptoms include an itchy rash, blisters and fever. And before the varicella vaccine, people usually got chickenpox during childhood. Now, most kids get the vaccine in the first few years of life.

As a kid, I remember getting chickenpox along with several others in my kindergarten class. And as itchy and uncomfortable as I was, I still didn’t get it as bad as my little sister did years later – in fact, she got it twice, but that’s rare! Come to think of it, my sister was slammed three times by the virus when she got shingles last year. That’s right – the virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles later in life.

For most of us who were “lucky” enough to catch chickenpox in childhood, we probably don’t have to worry about getting chickenpox in adulthood, like Mrs. Pitt. But if you’ve never had chickenpox or aren’t sure, talk to your provider about getting the varicella vaccine, especially if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Having chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome, a group of birth defects. Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, so it’s best to get the varicella vaccine before getting pregnant.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Angelina has a speedy recovery!

Deck the halls…carefully

15
Dec
Posted by Lauren

holiday lightbulbsTis the season. Whether you are going to rock around your Christmas tree with bright lights and shiny ornaments, light up a menorah, or get ready for a festive New Year’s party, it is important to remember how to keep it safe for you and your family.

Every December, at this time, my family and I bring out the storage bucket filled with coils of holiday lights. This year we went through each of our many coils to check for broken or burned out bulbs and frayed wires. The last thing you want is to be half way up the tree with your strand of lights and realize a bulb has been shattered. Or worse, to have a defective strand of lights on your tree which could pose a risk of fire.

Here are some tips to decorate safely

Lights

Check your new and old holiday lights to make sure they are in good condition. If you see any broken bulbs, cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, discard those strands. Use no more than three sets of lights per extension cord. Remember to turn off all of your holiday lights when you go to bed or leave your house as they can short out and start a fire.

Christmas trees and wreaths

Some trees and wreaths contain small mold spores that may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms and are irritating to the nose and throat. If your child is prone to allergies or asthma, you may want to purchase a fire resistant artificial tree to use during the holidays.

“Real” trees can dry out quickly causing needles to fall off easily. Not only does this make a mess on your floor, but it is also a fire hazard. Try to buy as fresh a tree as possible, and check your tree every day to make sure it always has enough water.

Trimmings

Decorate your tree with your child in mind. Ornaments are not only sharp and breakable, they can be a choking hazard. Put all of your fragile, small ornaments and decorations that look tempting to a toddler or young child towards the top of the tree to keep them out of reach. If you decorate with artificial snow sprays, they can irritate little lungs if inhaled. To avoid this, make sure you read all labels and directions on how to properly use the snow.

Plants

Holiday plants spice up any room, but keep them out of reach from your small children and pets. Plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe berries, holly and Jerusalem cherry can be poisonous if chewed or eaten.

Candles

Although lit candles are warm and welcoming, they are a fire hazard and dangerous for children to be around. Instead, consider purchasing battery operated candles. They look and flicker like “real” flames! You can even find ones with timers so that they turn on and off by themselves. But if you do use “real” candles, remember to keep matches and lighters in a safe place away from your little ones, and keep lit candles away from your Christmas tree.

Batteries

Check all the batteries in electronic holiday toys or ornaments to make sure they are secure and hidden. Button batteries are a choking hazard if they get into a curious toddler’s hands.

Take a couple of seconds before you start decking your halls to read all instructions and warning labels on products. With just a few extra moments of care, you and your family can decorate safely, and enjoy the holidays.

If you have any questions, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

Are you ready to have another baby?

12
Dec
Posted by Sara

pregnant woman and toddlerEveryone has a different opinion about how far apart in age their children should be. Some people like to have their babies very close together, while others like a little more time between each child. But there may be more to consider than just personal preference. A recent study found that women who wait less than 18 months between pregnancies are more likely to give birth before 39 weeks.

The study found that mothers who had less time between pregnancies were more likely to give birth before 39 weeks when compared to women whose pregnancies were 18 months apart or more. Women with pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months were more than twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) when compared to women whose pregnancies were at least 18 months apart.

“Short interpregnancy interval is a known risk factor for preterm birth, however, this new research shows that inadequate birth spacing is associated with shorter overall pregnancy duration” states  Emily DeFranco, Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and co-author of the study. She adds: “This study has potential clinical impact on reducing the overall rate of preterm birth across the world through counselling women on the importance of adequate birth spacing, especially focusing on women known to be at inherently high risk for preterm birth.”

So if you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns you may have as well as the time between your pregnancies.  Also, if you have had a premature baby in the past, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.