Reduce the risk of SIDS in your baby

Posted by Lauren

back to sleepEach year 3500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly in the U.S. These deaths are called sudden unexplained infant deaths (SUID). Most of them happen while the infant is sleeping in an unsafe environment.

SUIDs are reported as one of three types of infant deaths:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
    SIDS is the sudden death of an infant less than one year of age that cannot be explained. It can happen without warning to a baby who seems healthy. One reason a baby is more likely to die of SIDS is if he is  born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).
  • Unknown cause
    This is the death of an infant less than one year of age that cannot be explained because an investigation was not conducted. Therefore, cause of death could not be determined.
  • Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed
    Suffocation can occur if an infant is put to sleep on soft bedding or a pillow. It can also happen when a person rolls on top of an infant or when he becomes wedged between two objects such as a mattress and the bed frame. Strangulation can happen when an infant’s head and neck become caught between two objects such as crib railings.

What can you do?

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month. It is important to understand your baby’s individual risk factors, and learn safe sleep strategies including:

  • ALWAYS, put your baby to sleep on her back, in a crib without bumpers, blankets, stuffed toys or loose bedding.
  • Do not smoke. Babies of parents who smoke are more likely to die of SIDS than other babies.
  • Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime.
  • There are many myths about SIDS – learn the facts.
  • Place your baby in her own bassinet or crib to sleep near your bed, but do not share the same bed. 

The good news is that SUIDs has significantly declined – from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 in 1990 to 39.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 – as a result of safe sleep messaging. See the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep recommendations and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Safe to Sleep campaign.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Colds and pregnancy

Posted by Sara

resting pregnant womanYou know the symptoms—a runny nose, sore throat, stuffy head, coughing, and congestion. Catching a cold while you are pregnant won’t hurt you or your baby, but it can be very annoying and make you uncomfortable.

The common cold is a viral infection that is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and contact with another infected individual.

During pregnancy you may be more likely to catch a cold. When you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Your body knows that pregnancy is OK and that it shouldn’t reject your baby. So, your body naturally lowers the immune system’s ability to protect you and respond to illnesses so that it can welcome your growing baby. But a lowered immune system means you’re more likely to catch viruses like colds and the flu (one of the many reasons it is so important to get your flu shot).

Preventing a cold

The best way to prevent a cold is by practicing good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Don’t share eating utensils.

Treating a cold during pregnancy

Unfortunately there is no cure for a cold. Antibiotics will not help because they do not work on viruses. If you are thinking about taking an over-the-counter medication to treat any cold symptoms, make sure you talk to your health care provider first. Not all medications are safe to use during pregnancy.

If you are under the weather, getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids will help you to feel better. Some other ideas include:

  • Saline nasal drops to loosen mucus;
  • Using a humidifier in your room to help reduce congestion (but be sure you follow the instructions to keep it clean);
  • Drinking warm decaffeinated tea with lemon or honey to help relieve a sore throat;
  • Raising your head when you are resting to help you breathe better.

Most colds last 7-10 days. Make sure you call your doctor if you have one or more of the following signs:

  • A fever over 100.4F;
  • Symptoms that last more than 10 days or are severe or unusual;
  • Signs and symptoms of the flu; or
  • Uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe. This may be a sign of pertussis or whooping cough. Make sure you get your Tdap vaccine at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Your NICU healthcare team

Posted by Barbara

NICU doctor and baby resizedAt times, it may seem that there is a constant flow of different people caring for your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  A team of professionals work together to give your baby every possible chance of achieving good health.

Some or all of these people may be part of the NICU team at your hospital:

chaplain – A person who provides spiritual support to NICU families.

charge nurse – A health care provider who has nursing training. The charge nurse makes sure that the NICU runs well. This nurse also oversees admitting babies to and discharging them from the NICU.

clinical nurse specialist – Also called CNS. A health care provider who has special nursing training in the care of children and their families. The CNS helps parents deal with their baby’s stay in the NICU. The CNS provides support and teaches parents about their baby’s health condition. The CNS is also involved in nursing staff education.

family support specialist – A person who provides information, help and comfort to families when their baby is in the NICU.

lactation consultant – A person who has special training to help women breastfeed.

medical geneticist – A doctor who has special training in diseases that are inherited and other birth defects.

neonatal nurse practitioner – Also called NNP. A health care provider who has special nursing and medical training in caring for sick babies. The NNP works with the baby’s neonatologist and other medical team members. The NNP can perform medical procedures and care for babies.

neonatal physician assistant – Also called PA. A health care provider who has special medical training in working with sick newborns. The PA works with the neonatologist, performs medical procedures and may direct your baby’s care.

neonatologist – A pediatrician (children’s doctor) who has years of additional medical training in the care of sick newborns.

neonatology fellow – A fully trained pediatrician who is getting additional medical training in the care of sick newborns.

occupational therapist - Also called OT. A health care provider who helps figure out how well babies feed and swallow and how well they move their arms and legs.

ophthalmologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of eyes and vision.

patient care assistant – Also called PCA. A NICU staff member who helps nurses change bed sheets, feed babies and prepare bottles.

pediatric cardiologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s heart.

pediatric gastroenterologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s digestive system. The digestive system is made up of organs and tubes that digest (break down) the food a baby eats.

pediatric neurologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s brain and spinal cord. A spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that carries signals between the brain and the body.

pediatric pulmonologist - A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s lungs.

pediatric resident – A doctor who is getting medical training in taking care of babies and children.

pediatrician – A doctor who has special training in taking care of babies and children.

pharmacist – A person who has special training in how medicines work and the side effects they may cause. People get prescription medicine from a pharmacist. Pharmacists also provide medicines in the hospital and may visit patients with the NICU team.

physical therapist – Also called PT. A health care provider who looks at any movement problems babies have and how they may affect developmental milestones such as sitting, rolling over or walking. The PT helps a baby improve muscle strength and coordination.

registered dietitian – Also called RD. A health care provider who is trained as an expert in nutrition. The RD works with the NICU doctors and nurses to help make sure babies get all the nutrients they need. Nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, help the body stay healthy.

registered nurse – Also called RN. A health care provider who has nursing training. An RN in the NICU has special training in caring for sick newborns.

respiratory therapist — Also called RT. A health care provider who cares for babies with breathing problems. An RT is trained to use medical equipment needed to care for babies.

social worker – A person who is trained to help families cope with their baby’s NICU stay. The social worker can help families get information from health care providers about their baby’s medical conditions, give emotional support, help families work with medical insurance companies, and help plan for when their baby comes home.

speech and language therapist – A health care provider who has training to help people with speech and language problems. In the NICU, this therapist often helps newborns with feeding problems.

surgeon – A doctor who has additional specialized medical training in performing surgery and other procedures.

technician – A member of the hospital staff who may draw blood or take X-rays (a test that uses small amounts of radiation to take pictures of inside the body).

At one point or another, you may encounter many of the above people while your baby is in the NICU. They all work together to provide continuous care for your baby. Learn more about pediatric specialties and how they may help your baby.

Remember – you are also an important member of the NICU team, too. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions or speak up for your baby.

Have questions? Text or email

Moving through pregnancy: tips to stay active

Posted by Lauren

Pregnant woman walkingMoving, staying active and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy can help keep you and your baby healthy. For most women, being active during pregnancy is a good thing. But you don’t need to head to the gym to increase activity. With a few daily changes to your routine, you’ll be moving more in no time.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of exercise each week which is about 30 minutes each day. This may sound like a lot, but don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, get moving by doing a few minutes of activity throughout your day.

Here are some tips to help you reach your fitness goals:

  • Park farther away in the parking lot when you visit stores or go grocery shopping.
  • Set a timer on your phone to get up, stretch and walk around your house or office once every hour.
  • If you are watching TV, take the time to stretch out your arms and legs.
  • Walk and talk while you are on the phone, whether it be outside or around your house.
  • When walking around the office, grocery store or parking lot, walk the long way instead of taking shortcuts.
  • Plan fun outdoor weekend activities. Apple picking season is in full-swing – take a walk around the orchard while you pick some apples.
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Calling or emailing your co-worker at work? Get up and take a walk over to chat instead.

Tomorrow is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. The goal is “to encourage women to take control of their health; to learn the facts they need to make smart healthy choices, and to make time for regular physical activity.” By making small changes to your day, you can reach your fitness goals. Be on the lookout for events planned in your local area.

Read our article to understand why physical activity is good for most pregnant women and to learn which activities are safe.

Before Rover meets Junior

Posted by Lauren

Bella sleepingAs you bring your baby home from the hospital for the first time, you want to keep her safe and healthy around your pet. You may feel anxious about how your pet will respond to your family’s newest addition.

Here are some tips to think about before bringing your baby home.


Before your baby comes home

  • If you are still pregnant, it may be helpful to teach your dog some basic obedience skills, which will help his behavior when your baby comes home. Introduce new rules as needed. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, or to jump on you when you walk in the door as you hold your baby, introduce that rule now.
  • Your schedule will drastically change once your baby is home and you may not be able to feed or walk your pet when he expects. Try changing your pet’s feeding or walking schedule beforehand. For example, if you regularly feed your pet at 7am sharp, try feeding him at a different time in the morning. Or it may be easier to purchase an automatic feeder which will dispense food at a certain time every day.
  • Take a piece of clothing or a blanket with your baby’s scent on it and put it in your pet’s bed so he can get used to the smell.

Once you and your baby are discharged

  • Have everyone else go in the door first so your pet can express his excitement at seeing people. Then put a leash on him just in case he does not have a good first reaction to your baby.
  • Slowly introduce your pet to your baby. Try holding your baby and allowing your pet to sniff her feet to get her scent.
  • Never leave your pet unsupervised near your baby.
  • Keep your pet out of your baby’s sleeping area to reduce the risk of hair or pet allergens irritating your baby’s airway.
  • Once your baby is old enough to lie outside of her crib, place her on a blanket or mat to keep pet fur and dust from irritating your baby during playtime. Keep your pet away from your baby during floor time.
  • Watch for aggressive behavior from your pet. Get help from an animal behavior expert if you see your pet acting out toward your baby.

Health Benefits

Besides your pet being a loving companion, some research suggests that a baby living in a home with a dog has fewer colds, ear infections and the need for antibiotics in their first year of life than babies raised in pet-free homes. The research suggests that homes with cats may have health benefits for babies too. However, researchers think that dogs provide more exposure to dirt and allergens, which strengthen a baby’s immune system.


Although there may be health benefits, you need to keep the negative health effects in mind, too. Furry pets and even short-haired animals are the most common and powerful causes of allergy symptoms. And cats tend to be more allergenic than dogs. My brother was mildly allergic to our dog, but he loved him so much that my parents did not want to give away our dog. We made sure to brush our dog’s fur often and vacuum frequently to decrease my brother’s exposure to the allergens.

If your child has an allergy to your pet, keep the animal out of her bedroom, sweep, dust and vacuum frequently. You can also fit your forced-air heating or air-conditioning system with a central air cleaner, which will remove a lot of the pet allergens from your home. If you are not sure whether your pet is the cause of your child’s allergy, ask your child’s pediatrician about allergy testing.

Do you have any tips to share? How did it go when you brought your baby home?

Have questions? Text or email us at A Health Education Specialist is available to answer your questions.

It’s time to get your flu shot…again

Posted by Sara

midwife with pregnant womanInfluenza (also called flu) is a serious disease. It’s more than just a runny nose and sore throat. The flu can make you very sick, and it can be especially harmful if you get it during and right after pregnancy. Flu season is fast approaching and it’s time to schedule your flu shot now.

Who needs a flu shot?

Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop full protection against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for children over 6 months, children with special needs, pregnant women and other high-risk groups.

I got a flu shot last year, why do I need another one?

Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. This is why everyone needs a flu vaccine every season.

Are flu shots safe for pregnant women?

YES! All women who are pregnant should get a flu shot. It is safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy and it will protect you and your baby from serious health problems during and after pregnancy. However, remember that if you’re pregnant, you should not get the flu mist. It’s not safe to use during pregnancy.

Why is the flu so harmful during pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • You are more likely to have serious complications. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can be very serious and even deadly.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get the vaccine from your health care provider. Many pharmacies and work places also offer it each fall. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find where the flu vaccine is available in your area.

The flu shot is the best way to protect you and your baby from the flu. You can learn more at

Have any questions? Email or text us at


March of Dimes NICU Family Support® program offers services to over 90,00 families every year

Posted by Barbara

Nurse and mom in NICUNow in its 14th year, this unique program offers comfort, support and information to families who have a baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at over 120 hospitals across the U.S.

Babies in the NICU may have been born too small, too soon, or with a medical condition that requires intensive care. Throughout the NICU experience, parents can be involved in their baby’s care in a variety of important ways. The March of Dimes developed the NICU Family Support program to help support NICU families during their baby’s time in the NICU. The program also educates NICU staff about the best ways to support babies, families, and each other.

Specialized materials for long and short NICU stays

Hospitals with a NICU Family Support program are able to offer their families relevant, NICU-specific materials including a keepsake booklet, a guide for parenting in the NICU, and a NICU guide and glossary. As part of the program, hospitals also receive information for extended family members such as grandparents and siblings.

There are also materials for families whose babies stay in the NICU less than 14 days, a common experience that can also be very frightening and stressful.

Families can access March of Dimes NICU resources online from any device with an internet connection, in both English and Spanish. Topics include medical care, understanding equipment, how to hold and feed your baby in the NICU, becoming an informed parent, and many other important subjects.

Hospital staff education

NICU Family Support also provides ongoing education for hospital staff. This education focuses on best practices in supporting families, and the benefits of appropriate family-centered care for NICU babies at every stage of development. Training for staff is based on best practices and evidence based care, to help support them in their important role.

Parent to Parent online community

Support from other parents can be found on our online community, Share Your Story where current and “graduate” NICU parents reach out to help guide and comfort one another. Parents can log on and post a comment or question to join this warm and inviting group.


Have questions? Send them to

See other posts on how to help your child including how to transition from the NICU to Early Intervention services.


You’re pregnant. Should you have a doula help you?

Posted by Lauren

pregnant woman smilingA doula can provide significant support to you and your partner throughout your journey to parenthood. Last week we talked about what a doula is and the support services they provide for pregnant women during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum. If you are considering working with a doula, we want to help you make an informed decision.

Research has shown that continuous support from a doula may:

• Decrease the use of pain medications during labor and delivery
• Reduce the need for Pitocin, a labor-inducing drug
• Decrease the incidence of C-sections and the use of forceps
• Result in shorter labor and delivery with fewer complications
• Allow moms and partners to feel supported

In addition, women who had continuous support from doulas gave birth to babies who were less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores.

Is there anything a doula can’t do?

A doula can be a great addition to your care team, however a doula cannot provide medical advice or replace your health care provider.

What about your partner?

A doula will not replace your partner. In fact, a doula can support your partner or family member to become as involved in the birth process as you desire. A doula can help teach your partner how to comfort and support you during the birth process.

Where can you find a doula?

• To find a certified doula near you, use DONA’s online locator or visit
• Ask your health care provider or child birth instructor for a referral or information on how to find a doula.
• Contact your local hospital or health department for a referral.
• Ask your social network or health care team about free or low cost doula services. Insurance coverage for doula fees vary by plan. Some doulas offer free services and many communities offer volunteer doula programs supported by federal and city funds.

Have any questions? email or text us at

Changing seasons can be tough for a child with sensory issues

Posted by Barbara

change of seasonsChange. Change. Change. For kids with special needs, change is one of the hardest aspects of their lives.

Just when your child has mastered adjusting to a new school experience, she is then faced with having to get used to the change in season. The difference in going from wearing summer clothes to fall clothes may not seem like a problem to you – but for a child with sensory issues, this can be a HUGE hurdle.

There are different kinds of sensory issues, also known as sensory processing disorder (SPD) or sensory dysfunction. Whether SPD is considered its own diagnosis, or a symptom of a larger diagnosis is still being debated by experts. However, if your child suffers from sensory issues, understanding their world and figuring out how to help them is key.

In this post, I am going to focus on the sense of touch.

For a child who hates the feel of certain kinds of fabric or tags on their clothes, changing from a summer to a fall/winter wardrobe can be traumatic. A short sleeve t-shirt does not feel the same as a long sleeve t-shirt. A collarless shirt is much more comfortable than a collared shirt that touches the neck. A blouse with ridges where the buttons meet the fabric may cause distress. The switch from shorts, where legs are not dealing with the light touch of a pant leg, to that of long pants, can be a huge feat to master.

Fabrics can have a huge effect on a child with sensitivity to touch. The “feel” of every material is different. For example, a soft flannel without buttons or zippers is usually much more acceptable than a wool blend or polyester.

And, then there are shoes…putting on closed toe shoes after a summer of toes free to wiggle inside open sandals can be like trying to cage a lion.

Some tips that may help

  • If your child can’t adapt to the sudden change from a short sleeve shirt to a long sleeve shirt, try dressing him in a short sleeve shirt, but give him a soft sweater or sweatshirt to put on it if he gets cold.
  • For girls, instead of going straight from shorts to long pants, try a middle approach first – Capri pants (below the knee), skirts, or even skirt/short combinations known as “skorts” that end just below the knee may be a good middle ground before you graduate to long pants.
  • It is tougher for boys who usually have to go straight from shorts to pants. In this case, if soft cotton sweat pants are allowed in school, this may be your safest transition pant. (“Sweats” would work well for girls, too.) Once he gets used to having his legs completely covered, he may be more able to tolerate pants that are stiff or hold their shape, such as jeans or khakis. Keep in mind that some clothing companies make flannel lined jeans and khaki pants – they are soft inside, so the stiff fabric and the seams will not irritate your child’s skin.
  • Parents should keep in mind which fabrics work or don’t work for their child. My daughter used to tell me which fabric gave her “pinches and itches.” It does not help to push a fabric on your child if her skin can’t tolerate it. Let her pick the fabrics that feel good to her – you’ll both be happier.
  • As far as shoes are concerned, for girls, “ballet flats” which are more open than sneakers or lace-up shoes can be a good transition shoe. They are not as rigid as typical shoes which will be more comfortable. For boys, short spurts of wearing shoes or sneakers may help your child slowly get used to the weight and feeling of a closed toe.

Other ideas

Your child can’t help the way she feels. The more you understand her issues, the more you can help her.

Feel free to share your ideas on the blog, and text or email questions to We love hearing from you! And check out our blog series on how to help your child.


Priceless advice from a NICU nurse and mom

Posted by Barbara

Jessica sees her preemie Lily In honor of Neonatal Nurses Day, we talked to Jessica Zackula RNC, BSN, a NICU nurse and NICU mom. Jessica experienced the ups and downs of giving birth early and having her baby hospitalized in the NICU for three weeks. And, as a NICU nurse, she is aware of what parents need to know when their baby is in the NICU. Here is her advice for NICU parents:

“As a NICU nurse and NICU mom, here are 3 things I wish every parent knew walking through the doors of the NICU:

1.  Speak up for your baby.

  • You know your baby better than anyone in the NICU. You are an important part of your baby’s care team. If you have questions, be sure to ask them.

2.  Do the best you can with pumping and breastfeeding.

  • Breastmilk is one of the most important things you can give your baby while he or she is in the NICU. Even if your baby is too young to breastfeed, your baby can still receive breast milk through a feeding tube. Seek help on how to pump breastmilk.

3.  Take care of yourself; lean on other NICU parents to help get you through tough times.

  • No one knows the NICU journey better than another NICU parent.
  • It is important that you take time to care for yourself during the sometimes rocky ride through the NICU.
  • You and your baby will benefit from being well rested, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy foods.”

Jessica realizes the value of parents working together with the NICU staff. Clear communication is key in understanding what is happening to your baby. Being an informed parent allows you to look out for your baby’s best interest and be her advocate.

More about Jessica…

Jessica Zackula RNC, BSNJessica Zackula RNC, BSN has been working as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital in Washington, since 1999. Her daughter, Lily, was born at 32.2 weeks gestation in 2004, and was a patient in Jessica’s NICU unit for 21 days. Lily left the NICU to go home weighing just 3 pounds 5 ounces. Today, she is a healthy, bright 11 year old, who just began the 6th grade.

In 2010, Jessica was promoted to nursing leadership of the Tacoma General Hospital NICU, where she currently remains as the Clinical Nurse Manager. She is passionate about continuous quality improvement and creating an optimal experience for families in the NICU through integrated, family centered care.

In honor of Neonatal Nurses Day

We want to thank Jessica and every NICU nurse, for their dedication and tireless efforts to help fragile, sick babies. We know that their exceptional care makes a difference for each and every baby in the NICU.

NICU parents can reach out to other parents on Share Your Story, the March of Dimes online community, where you will find comfort and support. Also, we invite you to browse News Moms Need for other helpful posts on prematurity and life in the NICU.

Have questions? Text or email