Preparing your home for your preemie

20
Jan
Posted by Lauren

Preemie going homeWe often receive questions about “preemie-proofing” from parents who are preparing for their preemie’s homecoming. You may have waited a long time for this day, but bringing your baby home, and leaving his team of doctors and nurses behind can be overwhelming for many parents. Here are some tips to help ease the transition:

Before your baby comes home:

• Speak with the NICU staff at your baby’s hospital. They are very knowledgeable about what your baby may need when going home.

• If you clean your home before your baby’s arrival, (or if you want to brighten up your preemie’s nursery by painting it) do so before he comes home. This way you can avoid any strong smells that may linger.

• Clean your house of dust and germs. Vacuum and dust often, take out the garbage and keep your kitchen and bathroom clean. Also, tell your baby’s health care provider if you have any pets. Pet hair can track in dirt and dust.

• If your baby needs oxygen, carefully observe the cleaning requirements, particularly for the humidifier, and understand the safety recommendations.

Once your baby is home:

• Your baby should not be exposed to smoke, aerosol sprays or paint fumes. These irritants can cause wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

• Maintain a smoke-free household. Post signs around your house if you need to so family and friends are aware of your smoke-free home.

• The guidelines for cleaning and storing bottles, nipples, pacifiers, breast pump equipment and milk or formula are the same for preemies as term babies.

• If your baby is on an apnea monitor, be sure you can hear the alarm from every room in your house.

• Wash hands after blowing your nose, diapering your baby or handling raw food. Don’t let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to illness, near your baby.

Visit our website here for more great resources for parents after they bring their baby home from the NICU.

What do you remember being helpful when you brought your preemie home? What tips would you recommend to new parents?

Breastfeeding and returning to work

16
Jan
Posted by Lauren

Lactation room small photoMy girlfriend just returned to work last week after having her baby. I went to visit her yesterday to catch up and see how things were going. While she was glad to be back at work, she was stressing about how she was going to be able to continue breastfeeding. As a Certified Lactation Counselor, I happily told her that breastfeeding after returning to work can be a challenge, but it can be done successfully. Here are some tips to make things a little easier:

Before you return to work

• Talk to your employer and let them know what you need to continue breastfeeding. Employers with more than 50 employees are required to give you reasonable time and a private space (that is not a bathroom) for pumping when you go back to work. If there are less than 50 employees, your employer may still be willing to work with you to enable time and space for pumping breast milk.  It is best to familiarize yourself with the federal and state laws as they pertain to your company, and your specific job (exempt or non-exempt). Here are creative solutions to help you and your employer find ways for you to continue breastfeeding. You can search by industry to find the best solution.  Nursing moms who get support from their employer miss less work and are more productive and loyal to their company.

• Whether you have insurance through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or private insurance, take the time to learn about your coverage. Here is a great tip sheet from the American Academy of Pediatrics that explains the federal guidelines, the differences in health plans and how it affects breastfeeding. This is a must read! Scroll down to the end for a helpful diagram.

• Start back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday. Consider working a few hours a day at the beginning. Having a shorter work week will allow you to get used to your new schedule and figure out your pumping, milk storage and new daycare routine.

• Get a breast pump. If you need help deciding if you should buy or rent one, read our blog. In many cases, breast pumps are covered through your insurance plan, so be sure to inquire. Proper cleaning of the pump is a must; follow the manufacturer’s directions.

• You will need somewhere to keep your breast milk cold. Make sure you have a small cooler with ice packs to bring to work if there’s no refrigerator, or a bag to keep in the fridge. Have labels handy to mark your bottles with the date you expressed the milk.  Learn guidelines for storing and thawing breast milk, here.

Once you have returned to work

• Express milk during the times you would normally feed your baby.
• Keep breast pads handy in case your breasts leak.
• Pump more on the weekends to increase your milk supply.
• Take care of yourself: get as much rest as you can, eat healthy foods and stay hydrated.

Keep talking with your employer about your schedule and what is or is not working for you.  Share the online resource above, and let them know you’d like to continue working together to make a plan that benefits you both.

Going back to work after having a baby can be a difficult transition for many women. Visit our website to learn tips on how to plan for and manage the transition.

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

14
Jan
Posted by Barbara

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

 

 

Antiviral medications and the flu

12
Jan
Posted by Sara

mom and babyAntiviral medications have the ability to lessen flu symptoms, shorten the duration of the illness, and prevent serious complications.

As you may have already heard, this year’s flu season is being described by the CDC as “severe.” We are only about half-way through flu season and there have already been 26 pediatric deaths. The main strain of flu this year is H3N2, which unfortunately is a nastier flu virus than the other viruses. It typically leads to more hospitalizations and deaths than other strains of the flu.

The CDC is now recommending that doctors prescribe antiviral medications to high-risk patients suspected of having the flu even before the diagnosis is confirmed.

People at high-risk include:
• Children younger than 5 years of age and especially kids younger than 2 years old
• Children of any age with long-term health conditions including developmental disabilities
• Children of any age with neurologic conditions.
• Pregnant women 
• Individuals over the age of 65

How do antiviral medications help?

Antiviral medications work because they help to prevent the flu virus from multiplying in your body. These medications should be started as soon as possible after signs of illness develop —ideally within 48 hours. The most common flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Children may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.

There is almost no age at which someone is too young for antiviral medications. There are two antiviral drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating the flu in children. One of these can be used in children as young as two weeks old, while the other can be used to treat those 7 years and older.

Dr. Frieden of the CDC says “Antiviral flu medicines are underutilized. If you get them early, they could keep you out of the hospital and might even save your life.”

And believe it or not, it is not too late to get your flu shot. Although this year’s vaccine is not a good match for the H3N2 strain causing most of the illness this year (about 2/3rd of the H3N2 viruses are different than what is in the vaccine), it may still offer some protection, especially against the other strains of flu.

The bottom line:

• This year is a severe flu season, especially for those who are considered high-risk for complications.
• The CDC is urging doctors to prescribe antiviral medications for high risk patients when flu is suspected, even before the diagnosis is confirmed.
• If your baby or child has flu-like symptoms, contact your pediatrician right away and ask if antiviral medications may be appropriate.
• It is still not too late to get your flu shot.

Make a PACT to prevent birth defects

09
Jan
Posted by Sara

MOD woman eatingEach year in the United States, about 120,000 babies (1 in 33) are affected by birth defects. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They 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. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a PACT for Prevention.” If you are thinking of having a baby, follow this PACT:

Plan ahead:
• Get as healthy as you can before becoming pregnant.
• Make sure you are taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies show that if all women in the United States took the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (NTDs) could be prevented. Folic acid also may help prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip/palate and some heart defects.

Avoid harmful substances:
• Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use street drugs.
• Make sure you are aware of any harmful exposures at work or home and do your best to avoid them.

Choose a healthy lifestyle:
• Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.
• Exercise and stay physically active.
• Make sure you work with your health care provider to get any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control and managed.

Talk to your doctor:
• Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy and make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits during pregnancy.
• Discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. This includes both prescription meds and over-the counter medicines.
• Review your family health history.

So this year, make a PACT to prevent birth defects by following these healthy guidelines. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s website has more information.

New Year’s resolutions – good or bad for kids with special needs?

07
Jan
Posted by Barbara

celebrationI have never been one to commit to a New Year’s resolution, in part because I would feel badly if I did not follow through and achieve my goal. Most of the time, my resolution was such an unobtainable goal that I set myself up for failure. Sound familiar?

Kids with special needs all too often face immense challenges and have to try and try again to reach goals that their peers seem to attain with ease. As a parent, it becomes very important to carefully pick and choose goals and to try to make sure your child is not facing undue hardship or repeated failure. As with any struggle, a little bit of a challenge is good – it spurs you to move onward and provides a huge sense of relief and pride when you reach your goal. But, too much struggle can bring exhaustion of body, mind and spirit, which will not help your little one in the long run.

As a parent of a child with special needs, it is important to set goals and have aspirations for your child. But it is essential that the goals are reasonable. There is no sense in whittling away at your child’s confidence by setting a bar too high and then having to deal with the negative self-image your child experiences if the goal is not achieved.

As you settle into the mindset of New Year’s resolutions, think of goals that are measurable and achievable. Perhaps set three small goals instead of one big goal. Or, let your child decide what he would like to focus on (if he is old enough to decide). For example, it could be that riding a tricycle is something he really wants to be able to do and will work on that goal for a few minutes every day with your assistance and praise. Or, it could be that dressing himself is something you really want to see your child master, so you may focus on one aspect of that task at a time (such as putting on socks, or pants), and gradually adding on other aspects of dressing as each small part is mastered.

Whatever the goal, break it down into smaller chunks, so that each week you can celebrate progress. A sticker chart can work wonders to help your little one see how far he has come. Just be sure to be consistent and celebrate each step as he inches closer to his goal. You can never do too many happy dances!

So, go easy on yourself and your little one as you glide into 2015. I wish you and your family many happy moments, continued progress and much success.

 

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.

Your daily folic acid dose

05
Jan
Posted by Lauren

folic acid vitaminIf you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, folic acid is important to help prevent certain birth defects. But did you know that even if you are not trying to get pregnant, folic acid is still good for your body?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth. Your skin, hair and nails make new cells every day. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. Some studies even show that folic acid may help protect you from heart disease.

Folic acid can be found in its natural form (called folate) in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. But it is really hard to get the amount you need from food.

The manufactured or synthetic form of folate is called folic acid. There are many synthetic forms of folic acid: fortified grains, pastas and breakfast cereals. “Fortified” means that folic acid has been added to the food. However, the easiest way to get your recommended folic acid dose, is to take a multivitamin containing at least 400 mcg of folic acid per serving (or 600 mcg if you are pregnant) every day.

As this week is National Folic Acid Awareness Week, it is a good time to check your diet and vitamin pills to be sure that you are getting the recommended amount of folic acid.

If you are like me, and don’t like swallowing pills, you can find a variety of chewable and gummy multivitamins at your local grocery, pharmacy or discount store to suit your tastes and needs. Just be sure to read the labels – some serving sizes, particularly the gummy vitamins, require you to take two tablets to meet your daily recommended dose.

So even if you are not planning on becoming pregnant anytime soon, with so many benefits, you have all the reason you need to start getting your daily recommended folic acid fix.

Happy New Year!

02
Jan
Posted by Barbara

fireworksAll of us at News Moms Need thank you for your comments, questions and support throughout the year.  We wish every one of you and your families a healthy and happy year ahead.

I look forward to continuing the series on Delays and Disabilities - How to get help for your child, next week.

See you in 2015!

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!