Caring for your baby’s teeth

27
Feb
Posted by Sara

teethTooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease among children in the United States. If left untreated, it can negatively affect a child’s physical and social development, as well as his school performance.

Did you know you can start to clean your baby’s teeth and gums as soon as he is born? Here are some tips from the American Dental Association (ADA):

• Before your baby has teeth, wipe the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
• Most babies get their first tooth at around 6 months. It is important to remember that as soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. So once your baby has teeth, start brushing them.
• Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and ask your baby’s dentist if you should be using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
• Teeth should be brushed twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or health care provider. Once your child is old enough to brush on his own (or wants to give it a try) make sure you watch him closely.
• As soon as he has two teeth that touch, you can begin flossing daily.

Once your baby’s first tooth comes in, it is time to schedule a trip to the dentist. The ADA recommends that the first dental visit take place within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday. Although the dentist will check your baby’s mouth, teeth, and gums, this visit is really more about getting your child comfortable with the dentist.

When it is time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment, you can ask your dentist if she sees children. If not, you can find a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating babies, children and teens. Also, all children enrolled in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have coverage for dental services – including check-ups, x-rays, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, fillings, and more. Check out your state’s complete list of dental benefits for children in Medicaid and CHIP.

You can read more about your baby’s dental health on our website. Starting healthy dental habits early will help protect your baby’s teeth for a lifetime.

March 3rd is the first ever World Birth Defects Day

25
Feb
Posted by Barbara

WBDD_LogoFamilies frequently write to the March of Dimes and share a story about their child’s struggle with a birth defect. Often, they ask what else they can do to help raise awareness. Well, here is a great way to get involved.

Help us mark the first World Birth Defects Day by participating in social media activities and sharing a story about the impact of birth defects on you and your family.

The March of Dimes and 11 other international organizations, including the CDC and the WHO, have created the first-ever World Birth Defects Day on March 3rd. We hope to raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more prevention, care and research to help babies and children.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide. Half of these birth defects will be detected soon after birth; the other half will be diagnosed during the first year of life. Birth defects are a major cause of death in infants and young children. Babies who survive are at an increased risk for life-long disabilities.

We need you.

On March 3rd, share your story about the impact of birth defects on you, your child or someone you know. With our partners, we’ll be urging governments, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, researchers, and health care providers around the world to help us work together toward a healthier future for children.

What can you do?

1.  Post an announcement on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platform.

2.  Register to be a part of the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap. A message will be sent out at 9:00 a.m. EST on March 3 to help raise awareness.

3.  Join the Buzzday on Twitter on March 3rd. Plan to send one or more messages using the #WorldBDDay tag at some point during the day. Retweet both promotional and day-of messages to build our buzz for the day.

We look forward to having you join the conversation. Together, we can make strides to improve knowledge and raise awareness.

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Peanut allergies in children

24
Feb
Posted by Ivette

Peanuts or no peanuts? That is the question many new parents ask themselves as they look at the ingredients in their baby’s food. When I started my babies on solid foods, I remember hovering over them for days at time, scanning every square inch of their skin to see if there was any sign of a food allergy. Over the last 10 years, the number of children with peanut allergies has doubled, causing many parents, like me, to wonder at what age is it OK to begin giving children foods made with peanuts.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that giving your baby foods made with peanuts in the first year of life may actually help prevent peanut allergies later in life. The study involved over 600 babies and followed them until they reached age 5. These babies had a history of egg allergy or eczema, a condition that causes patches of dry, red and itchy skin. Some babies were given foods made with peanuts and other babies avoided these foods until they turned age 5. The study found that babies who were given foods made with peanuts were less likely to develop peanut allergies than babies who avoided these foods until they were older.

More research needs to be done to understand peanut and other kinds of food allergies. In the meantime, talk to your baby’s health provider if you have concerns about food allergies. As you start your baby on solid foods, give her one kind of food at a time and wait a few days before trying a new food. If your baby has signs of an allergic reaction, contact her health provider. Introducing new foods one at a time may help you find out which food caused an allergic reaction.

Pregnant? Stay centered.

23
Feb
Posted by Lauren

third trimesterHave you felt off balance lately? Are your legs wobbly under your growing belly? You’re not alone. If you are in your third trimester of pregnancy, your center of gravity may be off balance, which could make you more prone to slips and falls. And your unsteady legs may be due to factors other than your growing belly.

Your center of gravity refers to the place in your body that helps anchor you to the earth, so that you don’t tip over. A natural point of balance is below the navel and halfway between the abdomen and lower back. Having a strong center of gravity helps you have good balance. During pregnancy, as your baby grows, your center of gravity moves forward and upward. Therefore, feeling off-balance is likely to worsen later on in your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Slipping and falling is much easier when your center of gravity has shifted.

But it’s not just your growing belly making you feel off kilter. During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. Toward the end of your pregnancy, this hormone helps to soften the cervix and loosen the pelvic joints so they are more flexible for labor and delivery. This softening can affect the hips, knees and ankles, which is what makes your legs feel shaky or wobbly.

Be extra careful when walking or going up/down stairs. Hold a handrail whenever one is available.  Winter is here, and there is a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks and streets in many parts of the country. When you’re walking outside, take extra caution. Walk slowly. Be aware of your center of gravity and be sure to wear appropriate shoes or snow boots.

The good news is that soon after the birth of your baby, your center of gravity will shift again, and return to normal.

Concerns surrounding “keepsake” ultrasounds

20
Feb
Posted by Sara

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1The first ultrasound is one of the most exciting times in pregnancy. Most parents can’t wait for the opportunity to share their baby’s first pictures with family and friends. However, it is important to remember that an ultrasound is a medical imaging technique and should only be done under the supervision of medical professionals, such as your doctor and/or a trained ultrasound technician. “Keepsake” ultrasounds offered by commercial businesses are not recommended.

Ultrasound is the most commonly used tool for viewing a developing baby. Sound waves bounce off curves and shapes within your body and these patterns are then translated into images. Standard ultrasound creates a 2-D image of a developing baby. Some women have an ultrasound during the first trimester to confirm and date the pregnancy—this is called an early ultrasound.  But not all providers offer this. Most doctors perform an ultrasound between 18 and 20 weeks. At this time your provider will check your baby’s heartbeat, muscle tone, movement and overall development.

Although it is always fun and exciting to see your unborn baby on the ultrasound monitor, it is very important to remember that this is a medical procedure. You may have seen places in a mall that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. While ultrasounds have been used for over 30 years and are considered safe for you and your baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds. The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.

In a recent consumer update regarding fetal keepsake images, the FDA warns that “In creating fetal keepsake videos, there is no control on how long a single imaging session will last, how many sessions will take place, or whether the ultrasound systems will be operated properly.” And although there is no evidence that ultrasound may cause harm to an unborn baby, there is also no medical benefit to exposing the baby to unnecessary ultrasound waves only for the purposes of keepsake images.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about when to schedule your ultrasound. He or she will be more than happy to give you pictures to take home with you. You can read more about the different types of ultrasound that your provider may recommend, when they are offered, and what information they may be able to provide here.

From NICU to EI services

18
Feb
Posted by Barbara

preemie hand in adult handIf your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight, chances are he or she may benefit from Early Intervention (EI) services. EI services are designed to help your baby catch up developmentally. They can include speech, physical or occupational therapy, as well as other kinds of treatment.

Usually, the hospital NICU staff will give you the information to have your baby screened or evaluated so that services may begin soon after your baby gets home (if they are needed). But, parents – you should know that a doctor or hospital referral is not needed to start the process of requesting early intervention services. You can contact your state’s agency yourself. Although it is very helpful for hospitals to give parents all of the information they need to get services started early, a hospital referral is not a requirement for a screening.

Read this post on Early intervention for babies and toddlers to learn how to request a screening. In many cases, a phone call to your state’s early intervention program is all you need to initiate an evaluation (which is free of charge to you). EI services are available in every state and territory of the United States.

Don’t delay with delays. The sooner your baby gets help, the sooner he can start catching up. If you are concerned about your baby’s development, make the call, get the free screening, and put your mind at rest.

See other topics in the Delays and Disabilities series here.

Coughing, sniffling, and sneezing…oh my!

16
Feb
Posted by Sara

baby_sickbabycareDid you know that by the time most babies are two years old they have had eight to ten colds? Colds in little ones can be very unpleasant. Coughing, sneezing, runny nose…all these symptoms can be more uncomfortable for a baby than for an older child or adult. A baby can’t blow her nose and has a hard time breathing through her mouth. And a stuffy nose can make it difficult for a baby to suck which can affect feeding.

Lots of times you may want to give your little one some over-the-counter medicine to help relieve her runny nose and cough. But it is important to remember that over-the-counter cold medicines can be dangerous for children under two and should not be used.

Colds are caused by viruses and can be spread through the air and on surfaces.  A child or adult can spread a cold directly through a sneeze or cough or indirectly through touching hands and surfaces. For instance, if an infected person coughs into their hand and then shakes someone else’s hand, and that person then touches their nose or mouth, they may catch the cold and the virus is spread.

As we all know, colds are a part of life, and unfortunately there is no treatment. Antibiotics will not cure a cold. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, not viruses. If your baby has a cold accompanied by a mild fever, a single ingredient fever-reducer (such as acetaminophen) can help. But over-the-counter combination medications that treat cold symptoms, such as coughing and runny nose, should not be used in children under age two. These medicines can cause life-threatening side effects in children under two. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics “…several studies show that cold and cough products don’t work in children younger than six years and can have potentially serious side effects. In addition, keep in mind that coughing clears mucus from the lower part of the respiratory tract, and ordinarily there’s no reason to suppress it.”

So if your baby or child has a cold, what can you do to make her feel better? If your baby is having trouble sucking, try using a rubber suction bulb to help clear her nose before each feeding. Your health care provider may recommend saline (salt water) nose drops to help clear up stuffiness. A cool-mist humidifier in her room may also help—just make sure to clean and dry the humidifier each day to prevent mold and bacteria from developing.

Most children do not need to see a health care provider when they have a cold. However, if you have a baby three months or younger, you should call your pediatrician as soon as you notice any signs of illness. Check out our website for more information about when to call your baby’s provider. And remember, prevention is the best medicine—make sure to keep your infant away from people who are coughing and sneezing, and teach older children about washing hands and the best way to cough and sneeze.

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICU

13
Feb
Posted by Lauren

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUIt may be difficult to know what to do with your time when your baby is in the NICU. Going home to an empty house may seem impossible. All you can think about is how your little one is doing. However, there are all kinds of productive things you can do, to pass the time until your baby is ready to come home.

While at the hospital

• Learn about your baby’s condition as well as what to expect on the NICU journey.
• Get to know your baby. As soon as your baby’s condition allows, take an active role in his care. Feed, hold, bathe, diaper and dress your baby. Learn about preemie cues to help you understand your baby’s behaviors.
• Room-in with your baby. Some hospitals (depending on your baby’s condition) will allow you to spend the night caring for baby. Ask your nurse if this is an option.
• Read to your baby
• Learn how to take care of your other children while your baby is in the NICU. See if they can visit your baby in the NICU.
• Is a holiday coming up? Read our blog on spending the holidays in the NICU for tips.

While at home

• Get the right car seat for your child.
• Prepare your home for your preemie.
• Make sure you have food in the house or ask a friend or relative to get some groceries for you. Eating healthy foods will help you maintain your energy.
• Keep up with your chores; ask a relative or friend to help if you need it.
• Visit our website for information on managing the NICU experience.

Relax and rejuvenate

• Put your feet up. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby.
• Take a nap: Getting enough rest is important during this time.
• Be active.  A short 10 minute walk once or twice a day will be more beneficial to you than you can imagine. If you can manage a longer walk, go for it. Or, join a class (like Zumba) where you can dance off your frustrations as you have fun.
• Take a yoga, meditation or a stretch and tone class or use a DVD. You can take them out of a library for free. These classes combine getting in shape with learning to calm down. Believe it or not, most people need to learn how to relax.

While at home or by your baby’s side, seek support by visiting Share Your Story®, the March of Dimes online community for NICU families. You will be welcomed and comforted by other NICU moms who are or have been in your situation and know how you are feeling.

Do you have a baby in the NICU? Email us at Askus@marchofdimes.org with your questions. We are here to help.

Parenting your child with a heart defect

11
Feb
Posted by Barbara

in the NICUWhen your baby has a heart defect, it is overwhelming, exhausting, emotionally draining, and beyond scary. Have I left any adjectives out?

Congenital (present at birth) heart defects (CHDs) affect 1 in 100 babies every year. These heart defects can affect the heart’s structure, how it works, or both. Did you know that congenital heart defects are the most common types of birth defects? Each year, about 40,000 babies are born with a heart defect in the U.S. The good news is that more and more children born with CHDs are living longer, healthier lives, due to medical advances.

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming. Severe congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older. Depending on the heart defect, your child may or may not need active treatment. For example, some defects resolve on their own. However, there are heart defects that require more intensive treatment and care.

What is CCHD?

Critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) is a group of the seven most severe congenital heart defects:  Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS); Pulmonary atresia (PA); Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF); Total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPV, or TAPVR); Transposition of the great arteries (TGA); Tricuspid atresia (TA); Truncus arteriosus.

About 1 in 4 babies born with a heart defect has CCHD, or about 4,800 babies in the U.S. every year. Babies with CCHD need treatment soon after birth – often within hours, days or months, depending on the severity of the condition. A baby with CCHD will need ongoing treatment from a pediatric cardiologist, a medical doctor with advanced training.

Your child with CCHD

Some babies with CCHD will receive surgery soon after birth, and others require subsequent surgeries as they get older. The treatment your child receives will depend on the type and severity of the defect. If your child has been diagnosed with CCHD, it is important to understand his disease and the treatment that is required. Ask your child’s pediatric cardiologist and pediatrician all of your questions. The doctor can tell you if your child’s activity should be encouraged or restricted, if your child needs antibiotic treatment before certain procedures, if your child requires extra calories (from food) to help maintain his health, if he needs physical therapy or other kinds of therapies.

Children with heart defects may be delayed in reaching their developmental milestones. Early intervention may help enable your child to make strides and catch up. Other children may develop a disability over time. The early intervention program is designed to be family centered – moms and dads receive help in parenting their child, and the child receives therapy to keep progressing. Early intervention, together with medical advances, are helping children with CCHD live richer, fuller lives.

You may need support

Parenting a child with a congenital heart defect involves a blend of vigilance, medical interventions, health advocacy and lots of love and patience. The March of Dimes’ online community, Share Your Story, is a place where parents of babies with heart defects as well as other birth defects or disabilities, can go to find support, comfort and information. There is nothing like the camaraderie of another parent who has walked in your shoes to help you through your journey.  Just log on and post a comment and you will be welcomed and supported.

Where can you learn more?

Visit our website to learn more about CCHD. We discuss the most common heart defects, how they are diagnosed and treated, as well as possible causes. You will also learn about screening tests your baby can have to determine if he has CCHD. Additional guidance on parenting a child with a heart defect is available on the CDC website.

For more information about any of the heart defects listed above, contact us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and we will be happy to help. To see similar posts in the Delays and Disabilities series, click here.

 

 

 

 

Pregnancy in women with congenital heart disease

09
Feb
Posted by Sara

heart and stethoscopeMost women who have congenital heart disease and decide to get pregnant will have a safe pregnancy with minimal risks. However, there are many factors that may need to be considered. During pregnancy, your heart has much more work to do. It has to beat faster and pump more blood to both the mother and the baby. If you are a woman who has congenital heart disease, then this extra stress on your heart may be a concern. Considering these issues before pregnancy and being prepared for potential complications can help you feel more confident and more in control throughout your pregnancy.

Preconception planning
The most important thing you can do if you are a woman with congenital heart disease is to talk to both your cardiologist and obstetrician before you get pregnant. This will allow you to understand what risks (if any) are involved for your pregnancy. You can also determine if there are any concerns with your heart that need to be fixed prior to pregnancy—for instance, do you need to alter any medications or have any surgical repairs? Doing all of this before pregnancy will allow you to make sure your heart and your overall health is ready for pregnancy.

Some medications carry a risk for birth defects. These include ACE inhibitors and blood thinners. Therefore, if you are taking these medications and want to have a baby, it is important to talk to your doctor about their safety and potential alternatives that may work for you. However, you should never stop taking any medications without your doctor’s approval.

You may also want to meet with a genetic counselor to review the risks of passing congenital heart disease on to your baby. This risk will vary depending on the cause of the heart disease.

Pregnancy
During pregnancy you and your doctors will want to minimize any risks for both you and your baby. You will need to have regular follow-ups with both your obstetrician and cardiologist. It is important that your doctors work together and coordinate your care. Some women will need to be followed by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (an obstetrician who manages high-risk pregnancies).

Although most women with congenital heart disease have safe pregnancies, symptoms of heart disease can increase, especially during the second and third trimesters when the heart is working much harder. This may mean additional visits to both your cardiologist and obstetrician.

Typically if you have a personal or a family history of congenital heart disease, your obstetrician will offer you a fetal echocardiogram at around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy. This is a specialized ultrasound that allows your doctor to check out the anatomy of your baby’s heart and look for major structural changes. Not all heart defects can be identified through fetal echo though.

Delivery
It may surprise you to learn that most women with congenital heart disease can have a normal vaginal delivery. You and your doctor will want to discuss pain management options and have a plan in place. You may need additional monitoring both during and after delivery. This can include oxygen monitoring as well as EKGs (electrocardiogram—a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart).

If you have congenital heart disease work with both your obstetrician and cardiologist so that you can have the best outcome possible. As with most chronic medical conditions, planning for your pregnancy will allow you to make informed decisions about what is best for you and your baby.