Summer safety

22
May
Posted by Sara

keeping-your-baby-safe-in-the-sun_rdax_50Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. If you are pregnant or have little ones at home, there are a lot of safety concerns to think about as the warmer weather approaches.

Food:

Keep these safety tips in mind when preparing foods that are frequently associated with food-borne illness:
• CLEAN: Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. And wash fresh fruits and vegetables carefully.
• SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate!  When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
• COOK: Cook to proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles. After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.
• CHILL: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying

Sun:

Sunscreen is important for everyone! During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.

And a baby’s skin is thin and burns much more easily than an older child’s skin. This is especially true for babies younger than 6 months.

Here’s how you can stay safe in the sun:
• Do your best to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If your baby is younger than 6 months, it is best to keep her in the shade and out of direct sunlight.
• Make sure that both of you wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that have 99 percent UV protection.
• Dress everyone in lightweight clothes that cover arms and legs.
• Wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. And reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. If you are at the beach or the pool, reapply more frequently. Water and sand increase sun exposure due to the reflection of the sun off these surfaces.

Water:

Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old? And it’s the third leading cause of injury-related death among children 19 and under. Here are some tips for keeping your baby safe around the water:
• Never leave your child unattended around water. Babies can drown in as little as one inch of water.
• Avoid all distractions—including your cell phone! Young children need all of your attention when they are near or around water.
• Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices (life vests). For kids younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support.
• Learn CPR. It is a great skill to know. You can usually find programs in your community.

Remember these summer safety tips and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Epilepsy and pregnancy

21
May
Posted by Sara

speak to your health care providerEvery year in the US, approximately 20,000 women with a seizure disorder give birth. Most of these pregnancies are healthy. But there are a few additional concerns that women who have epilepsy must consider when thinking about getting pregnant.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. Epilepsy is a specific type of seizure disorder.

People with epilepsy are usually prescribed medication to help to control seizures. These are known as antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). There are a number of different types of AEDs and they are prescribed depending on age, the type of seizure, and the side effects of the medications. Some individuals with epilepsy may need more than one AED to control their seizures.

Can epilepsy cause problems during pregnancy?

If you have epilepsy and are thinking about getting pregnant, there are a few important things that you need to consider.

  • Women who have epilepsy have an increased chance to have a baby with a birth defect compared to women who do not have epilepsy. This may be the result of the epilepsy or the AEDs used to control seizures. Some AEDs have been associated with an increased risk of cleft lip and palate, neural tube defects, and heart defects.
  • Pregnancy can cause a change in the number of seizures. Most women with epilepsy will have no change in the number of seizures they experience or they will have fewer seizures during pregnancy. A few women will experience more seizures.

Controlling seizures during pregnancy is very important. Having a seizure during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. Seizures during pregnancy can cause:

  • Decreased oxygen to the baby and fetal heart rate deceleration during the seizure.
  • Injury to the baby as a result of any falls or trauma experienced during the seizure. This can include premature separation of the placenta from the uterus (placental abruption) or miscarriage.
  • Preterm labor
  • Premature birth

Should you continue to take anti-seizure medications during pregnancy?

Many women with epilepsy are concerned about taking their AEDs during pregnancy. But according to ACOG, “Because there are serious risks associated with having a seizure during pregnancy and because the potential risk of harm to your baby from taking AEDs is small, experts recommend that seizures be controlled with AEDs, if necessary, during pregnancy. However, the type, amount, or number of AEDs that you take may need to change.”

Will you need any special care during your pregnancy?

One of the most important things that any woman can do to have a healthy pregnancy is to schedule a preconception checkup. If you have epilepsy, it is important to talk to your prenatal care provider as well as your neurologist prior to getting pregnant. Here are some other things to consider:

Before pregnancy:

  •  Review your seizure medications with both your prenatal provider and your neurologist. If changes need to be made, it is better to do this prior to getting pregnant.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Talk to your health care team about how much folic acid is right for you.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and avoid cigarettes, alcohol.

During pregnancy:

  • Plan for additional visits to your health care providers. Medication levels will need to be monitored to make sure they stay consistent.
  • Talk to a genetic counselor about prenatal testing.
  • Most women with a seizure disorder can have a vaginal birth.
  • Women with epilepsy are encouraged to breastfeed. Talk to your health care team.

If you have epilepsy, planning and working with your health care team can help to ensure that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Preemies and asthma – how to help your child

20
May
Posted by Barbara

asthma inhalerResearch has shown that premature birth (before 37 weeks) can cause a baby to have lung and breathing problems such as asthma, a health condition that affects the airways.

Asthma causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. It can be mild to severe. If your child has asthma, he is far from alone. According to the CDC, 6.8 million children have asthma, or 1 in 11 children.

Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause a flare-up. It is important to remove the triggers in your child’s environment that can make asthma worse.

What causes asthma symptoms?

Many children with asthma have allergies. Coming into contact with an allergen can set off asthma symptoms. Common allergens are: dust mites, animal dander, mold and pollen.

Other triggers include air pollution, smoke, exercise and infections in the airways. Asthma symptoms may be brought on by a change in air temperature, perfumes and odors from cleaning products.

How can you help your child?

Understand your child’s asthma condition as much as possible. Learn how to minimize triggers and know what to do in the event of an asthma flare-up. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers ways to avoid asthma triggers or irritants.

What are common treatments?

Depending on how mild or severe your child’s asthma condition is, treatments will vary. Often quick relief medicines (such as inhalers) will be prescribed to help stop an asthma flare-up. These medicines help to open the airways making breathing easier.

Long term treatments include medications that aim to keep the lungs from becoming inflamed. These medications help prevent flare-ups, and need to be taken even when there are no asthma symptoms.

What about childcare and school?

The AAP has helpful info on the various treatments available and offers management tips for different situations such as at home or school.

The CDC has recommendations on how you can make your child’s childcare or school environment as successful and asthma free as possible. In the United States, there are laws to help your child at school. For example, a 504 plan might be needed to help your child access his education through reasonable accommodations.

What should you ask your child’s health care provider?

Ask for an individualized asthma action plan. This is a written plan to help your child avoid his particular triggers and respond to asthma symptoms. The plan aims to give you more control of your child’s condition, and hopefully, to avoid emergency situations. The plan can be used anywhere – at home, day care or school.

How can your child understand his asthma?

There are books, videos and podcasts available that you can explore with your child to help him learn about his condition (if he is old enough to understand):
How to use your asthma inhaler video shows kids using an inhaler properly.
Dusty the asthma goldfish and his asthma triggers is a downloadable fun book that helps kids and parents understand triggers.
• The CDC’s Kiddtastics podcast is another way for parents and kids to learn about managing symptoms.
• Here are other resources specifically geared towards kids. Check them out.

Bottom line

No two children are alike, and each asthma case is unique. As with any health condition, be sure to speak with your child’s health care provider about all of your concerns. With knowledge, medical advice and an action plan, your child can live a very full and active life.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Read more about how to help your child with a delay, disability or health condition.

 

How much weight should I gain?

19
May
Posted by Lauren

During pregnancy, you need to gain a healthy amount of weight to support your growing baby. In this video, Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks about how much weight you should gain and what to do during pregnancy to maintain a healthy weight for you and your baby. It’s important to learn how gaining too much or too little weight can cause problems for your baby including premature birth. Don’t forget to talk to your provider about what is right for you.

Preparing homemade baby food safely

18
May
Posted by Lauren

Feeding baby homemade foodI was visiting my friend this past weekend while she was making her baby’s food for the week. Sweet potatoes and avocados were her son’s favorite. She’s a busy working mom and tries to make the food in bulk on the weekends to put in the freezer until she needs it. It seemed like she had her baby food making process perfected. Some parents buy baby food, others feed their babies homemade baby food. Some parents switch back and forth between the two. Whatever you decide, choose healthy foods and if you make your own baby food, learn how to safely prepare it.

Where to start

• The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfed babies get only breast milk for the first 6 months of life, but some babies may be ready for solid foods between 4 to 6 months. Look for cues to know when your baby is ready for solid foods.
• Give your baby one new food at a time and wait 2-3 days before starting another. Watch for allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting.
• At each meal, your baby should be eating 4 ounces, or the amount of one small jar of baby food.
• Your baby’s diet can include: Breastmilk and/or formula, meats, cereal, veggies, fruits, eggs and fish.

Keep foods safe

• Make foods soft and easy to swallow; do not serve any food that requires chewing.
• Avoid added salt, sugar, fat, seasonings or preservatives.
• Read our blog post on feeding your baby organic vs. non-organic foods.
• Wash all fruits and veggies with water before you cook them – even those with a peel.
• Remove all pits, seeds and skin before use, as these may cause your baby to choke.
• Make sure all of your kitchen counters and food utensils are clean. Always wash your hands before handling foods and feeding your baby.

Do not feed your baby these foods

• Beets, turnips, green beans, squash, carrots and spinach. These foods may contain a high amount of nitrates, which are chemicals that can cause methemoglobinemia, a type of anemia in young babies.
• Honey, which may contain Clostridium botulinum spores, is not recommended for children under 1 year of age.
• Raw or partially cooked eggs, due to the risk of Salmonella.

Food preparation

• Cook all veggies and fruits thoroughly so your baby can digest them better. Some foods such as avocados, bananas, plums, ripe papaya, peaches and apricots don’t need to be cooked.
• Use fresh produce within a day or two of buying them to maintain vitamins and minerals. Or try frozen or canned vegetables and fruits. Make sure to read the label to avoid added sugar and salt.
• Use a blender or food processor or mash soft foods with a fork before serving.
• Reheat foods to body temperature. The AAP recommends that if microwaving is used, to stir the foods thoroughly to even out the temperature and taste test before serving to your child.

Do’s and don’ts

• Do steam, microwave, bake or broil as cooking methods for your baby’s food, but don’t boil or fry.
• Do save time by making more than just one meal.  Don’t use leftover food to make homemade baby food. For information on putting leftovers in the fridge and freezer, read our web article.
• Do give your baby single ingredient meals, whether home-made or store bought.
• Do throw out any leftovers from your baby’s dish. Saliva from your baby’s feeding spoon can spoil the food left on the dish or in the jar.
• If you have concerns about the foods your child is eating or you are wondering if he is gaining enough weight, DO contact your baby’s health care provider.

Have questions about preparing food for your baby? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Can your meds cause drug withdrawal in your baby?

15
May
Posted by Lauren

pillsNeonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a group of conditions a newborn can have if he’s exposed to addictive street or prescription drugs before birth. If you take drugs during pregnancy, they can pass through the placenta to your baby. After birth, the baby is still dependent on the drug, however, now that the drug is no longer available, the baby experiences drug withdrawal. Today, one of the most common causes of NAS is maternal use or abuse of opioids during pregnancy.

Using these drugs during pregnancy can cause NAS:

• Opioids, including the prescription medicines codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin®), morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®) and oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®). The street drug heroin also is an opioid.
• Barbiturates, like phennies, yellow jackets and Amytal®
• Benzodiazepines, like sleeping pills, Valium® and Xanax®

Signs and symptoms of NAS:

• Body shakes (tremors), seizures (convulsions), overactive reflexes (twitching) and tight muscle tone
• Fussiness, excessive crying or having a high-pitched cry
• Poor feeding, poor sucking or slow weight gain
• Breathing fast
• Fever, sweating or blotchy skin
• Trouble sleeping and yawning frequently
• Diarrhea or vomiting  (throwing up)
• Stuffy nose or sneezing

Signs and symptoms of NAS can be different for every baby. Symptoms may appear within a few minutes after birth or as much as two weeks later. NAS can last from 1 week to 6 months after birth.

Testing and treatment:

Your provider can see if your baby has NAS by testing his first bowel movement or urine. Your provider can also use what is called a neonatal abstinence scoring system which gives points for each NAS symptom depending on how severe it is. Treatment can include medicines to manage severe withdrawal symptoms, getting fluids through a needle into the vein, or giving higher-calorie baby formula to newborns that have trouble feeding or slow growth.

How can I prevent NAS?

If you’re pregnant and you use any of the drugs that can cause NAS, tell your health care provider right away. But don’t stop taking the drug without getting treatment from your provider first. Quitting suddenly (sometimes called cold turkey) can cause severe problems for your baby, including death.

If you’re addicted to opioids, medication-assisted treatment (also called MAT) during pregnancy can help your baby. NAS in babies may be easier to treat for babies whose moms get MAT during pregnancy. Medicines used in MAT include methadone and buprenorphine.

Even if you use a prescription drug exactly as your provider tells you to, it may cause NAS in your baby. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, talk to your provider about any drug or medicine you are taking.

Our website has more information on where you can find help.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Research shows a consistent bedtime routine helps children

13
May
Posted by Barbara

parents reading to child“Dinner, bath, books, bed.” That was my mantra when my kids were little. They knew the routine once I started getting dinner ready. The moment the dishes were in the dishwasher I would bring them straight upstairs to get ready for bath time, and to pick out a book. Once the story was read, it was time to hop into bed.

It helped ME to keep them in this routine. (After all, a mom needs to be off-duty, too!) And now, new research has shown that it helps KIDS to have a consistent bedtime routine, as well.

In a multinational study, mothers of 10,085 children (from infants to age 5) in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States were surveyed about their children’s sleep habits – both daytime naps and nighttime. They completed a questionnaire which was then analyzed by the researchers.

The results?

The children who had a consistent bedtime routine slept better, longer, and woke up less during the night. They also fell asleep sooner than those who did not have a consistent routine.

Parents reported fewer behavior problems the next day in the kids that had a consistent bedtime routine. (I know that if I have not had a decent night’s sleep, I can be grouchy and irritable the next day. It seems reasonable that the same would be true for our kids.)

It is interesting that the results were consistent across many different countries. Kids are kids, no matter where they live. They all need good, solid, restorative sleep. These data suggest that a bedtime routine can be key in helping your child sleep well every night.

More good news

It is never too late to establish a routine. Also, this study suggests that the younger your child is when you start, and the more consistent you are with keeping up with the routine, the better the outcome will be. Plus, reading to your child has many known benefits for language development.

Do you have a bedtime routine for your child? How is it working?

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

See other topics on how to help your child, here.

 

 

Schedule your well-woman checkup today

11
May
Posted by Sara

nwhw-banner-toolsNational Women’s Health Week (NWHW) is as a time to help women understand what it means to be healthy and well.The goal is to get women to make their own health a top priority.

Today is National Women’s Checkup Day. It’s a day when women are encouraged to schedule their annual well-woman visit. If you are thinking about getting pregnant, it is a great time to schedule your preconception checkup.

What is a preconception checkup and why is it important?

A preconception checkup is a time to see your health care provider to help assure that you are as healthy as possible before you conceive. During this visit you and your provider can:
• Discuss your family history, family planning, and lifestyle habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.
• Get or schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for blood pressure and diabetes.
• Set health goals, such as being active and maintaining a healthy weight.

It is important to schedule a checkup every year. Even if you’ve already had a baby, it is a good idea to see your provider if you are thinking about getting pregnant again. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans at no cost to you.

So schedule your checkup today! For more information on National Women’s Health Week and to learn about other ways that you can get involved, visit their website.

Getting healthy between pregnancies

08
May
Posted by Sara

snugglingAre you getting ready to celebrate Mother’s Day? Flowers, handmade cards, and breakfast in bed are all lovely gifts. But one of the most important things that you can do as a mom is to give yourself the gift of a healthy pregnancy. If you are planning to have another baby sometime in the future, start now to make sure that your body is ready.

The interconception period is the time between the end of one pregnancy and the beginning of another pregnancy. This time between pregnancies allows you and your provider to address any risk factors that may have contributed to prior pregnancy complications, including premature birth, preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Here are some things to consider during the interconception period:

  • Birth spacing: Before getting pregnant again, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months. This gives your body time to recover from the previous pregnancy.
  • Preexisting medical conditions: Diabetes or high blood pressure can affect your pregnancy. Making sure these conditions are under control before you get pregnant again is very important. Now is the time to alter any medication dosages or change prescriptions completely. It is also the time to modify any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your condition.
  • Weight: Trying to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy is very important. Being overweight or not weighing enough can affect your ability to conceive. And if you’re at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you’re less likely than women who weigh too little or too much to have serious complications during pregnancy.
  • Smoking: When you smoke during pregnancy, you pass harmful chemicals through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream. This can cause health problems for your baby. Being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with low birthweight. And secondhand smoke also is dangerous to your baby after birth. Try to quit smoking before getting pregnant again.
  • Family history: Your family health history can help you and your provider look out for health problems that may run in your family and it may help to find the cause of any past pregnancy problems.
  • Getting enough folic acid: Finally, make sure you continue to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. All women of child-bearing age, even if they’re not trying to get pregnant, should take folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects but only if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman may even know she’s pregnant. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day.

All of us here at News Moms Need wish you a very happy and healthy Mother’s Day!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Nurses are central to the March of Dimes mission

07
May
Posted by Barbara

midwifeThere is no doubt about it – nurses are critical in the care of infants in the hospital. Premature babies are cared for in the NICU by nurses with advanced education. They care for babies with serious, often life threatening medical conditions. Many families have told us how impressed they have been by the expertise, compassion and professionalism of the NICU nursing staff who cared for their baby.

In addition to being the lifeline to parents who have very sick or premature babies, nurses also work hard to help women learn how to have a healthy pregnancy. They assist women as they labor and deliver and teach a new mom how to breastfeed.

The March of Dimes is grateful to our nurses as they are health care providers, educators, researchers, fundraisers, chapter volunteers and advisors. To support them in their work, we offer continuing education modules and nursing scholarships.

As this is National Nurses Week, it is a good time to pause and think about the work that nurses do every day. Even better, it is a great time to thank them.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. We recognize that our nurses are a big part of helping us achieve our goals. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!