Posts Tagged ‘prematurity’

Having a baby in the NICU can be stressful for siblings

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

IMG_9387Giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU is stressful for parents; but what is sometimes overlooked is how upsetting it is for the preemie’s siblings.

A change in routine is upsetting to children. Having mom and dad away from home for long periods of time can turn even the most well-adjusted child upside down. If your child has not been able to visit her sibling or she does not have a solid grasp on what is happening, the uncertainty of the situation can cause distress. What can you do to ease the anxiety that is trickling down to the smallest members of your family?

  • Talk to your child at a level that she can understand. There are children’s books that explain prematurity. These books can make the explanation much easier for parents. Check with your local library for appropriate titles.
  • Reassure your child that nothing she did or said caused her sibling to be born early. Some kids may blame themselves or feel guilty.
  • Your child might be very worried and fear that the baby may never come home. As best you can, let your child know that you and the doctors and nurses are taking good care of her baby sibling, just as they would take care of her.
  • Understand the signs of distress in your child. Any regression (loss) in developmental progress (such as bed wetting, not sleeping through the night, acting out or being excessively attached to you), may indicate that your child is feeling the negative effects of the situation.
  • If possible, have your child visit your baby in the NICU.
  • In the Preemies book, you can read about these and other ways to minimize the anxiety that having a baby in the hospital can have on your family.

Do you have any tips to share on how to help your older children got through the stress of having a baby sibling in the NICU? Please share.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Our fifth prematurity research center has launched!

Monday, June 15th, 2015

AA010686The new collaborative, which launched earlier this month includes the University of Chicago, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Duke University School of Medicine. The researchers will work to identify genes that help to make sure a woman has a full-term pregnancy. They are also looking at how stress, including how a woman’s lifelong exposure to discrimination or poverty, may influence those genes.

The March of Dimes has invested a total of $75 million over 10 years towards five research centers. Each center will focus on different aspects of the causes of preterm birth in the hopes of preventing women from going into labor too early. Babies born too early can face serious long-term health problems.

Our first center opened at Stanford University School of Medicine in California in 2011, followed by the Ohio Collaborative, a partnership of universities in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, which launched in 2013. In November of last year we launched our third and fourth centers at Washington University, St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri and at the University of Pennsylvania respectively.

All five of our prematurity research centers will work together and share findings to determine the cause of preterm birth so that more babies can have a healthy start. Learn more about our newest research collaborative here.

Birth announcements for your preemie

Monday, June 1st, 2015

birth announcementThe birth of your baby is such an important and joyous time in your life. Many moms want to commemorate the birth by sending out birth announcements to friends and family. I remember when my nephew was born, my sister-in-law put together a small photo shoot in her living room in order to have the perfect picture to include on the birth announcement. Many parents, however, don’t anticipate giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU. If your baby was born weeks or even months ahead of schedule, how should you announce your baby’s birth?

As your baby is being cared for in the NICU, you may feel like you are riding an emotional rollercoaster. You don’t have to send out birth announcements right away. Your first priority is taking care of your baby (and yourself). Birth announcements are typically mailed out anywhere from a few days to a few months after the arrival of your little one, so wait until your baby’s health stabilizes and you feel ready to focus on it.

What if your baby was born weighing 3 pounds, or less – should you include the weight on the announcement?

This is totally up to you. If you feel uncomfortable sharing that information on a birth announcement, you don’t need to include it. Many parents of full-term babies often leave their baby’s weight off the announcement. You can include your baby’s name and date of arrival, which are the details family and friends really want to know.

Your baby’s birth may not have gone as planned, but as your rollercoaster ride starts to slow, you will want to give your child the welcome celebration that she deserves.

Preemies and asthma – how to help your child

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

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.

 

Do you know your baby’s different cries?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

infant cryingYes…babies cry a lot; but, they cry for a reason. Your baby may be hungry, have a dirty diaper or he may not feel well. He may need to burp, have gas in his tummy, or simply need to be cuddled (which is a really good reason to cry). Crying is the only way your baby can tell you that he needs something. It is his language before he can speak.

Soon you will learn to recognize the differences in your baby’s cries. His cries will not all sound the same. The “I’m tired and need to go to sleep” cry will sound different from the “Ouch – my diaper rash hurts” cry. Likewise, the cries due to hunger will sound somewhat different from the cry when a stranger holds your baby. The more you pay attention to the slight variations in cries, the more you will learn to anticipate and react to your baby’s needs.

Do preemies cry more often than full term babies?

Some studies show that premature babies are more likely to be fussy than babies who are born full term. They may be harder to soothe, cry often, and have trouble eating and sleeping. If your baby is fussy, it may be comforting to know that you are not alone. Some babies who have been in the NICU have trouble getting used to the quiet of home. Your baby may sleep better with some background music or a low level of noise in your home.

Remember to never shake your baby when he cries—this can seriously hurt him. If you can’t soothe your baby or you think he cries way too much, talk to his health care provider. Babies can get sick very quickly and the sooner you seek medical attention, the quicker your baby will get better.

What if your baby cries constantly?

Your baby’s doctor can also tell you if he thinks your baby may have colic, which is intense crying lasting more than 3 hours a day. About 1 in 5 babies develop colic – usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas.

There’s no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby’s discomfort. One way is to walk him in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying him tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing his back. The pressure against his tummy may relieve his discomfort.

Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby’s health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby discomfort. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.

Remember Mom

As important as it is to care for your baby, it is also important to care for yourself. Moms of babies who have colic or are very fussy are often sleep deprived. Enlist the help of your partner, relatives and friends, so that you can take time out to sleep, eat well and even go for a stress busting walk. The time you spend nourishing your body and mind will help give you the patience to deal with your crying baby.

For tips on how to soothe your crying baby, visit us.

For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

Get your piece of March of Dimes history

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

2015 MOD Commemorative CoinThe 2015 March of Dimes commemorative coin is here!

This silver dollar coin blends the March of Dimes’ past, present and future and is minted in honor of 75 years of groundbreaking discoveries and innovative programs that continue to improve the lives of families and babies. On one side of the coin is the March of Dimes founder, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with scientist Dr. Jonas Salk. In 1938 President FDR founded the March of Dimes to fight Polio. He called on every American to give, even if it was just a dime, to wipe out this terrible disease. Those dimes led to Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine. The vaccine was declared safe, effective and potent in 1955, ending the epidemic and protecting babies ever since.

On the other side of the coin is an image of a baby being cuddled in the hand of its parent, which is symbolic of the March of Dimes’ dedication to the health of babies everywhere

The silver dollar coin was authorized by an act of Congress thanks to the efforts of March of Dimes volunteers and members of Congress.

The March of Dimes is authorized to receive $10 from each silver dollar sold to help finance research, education and services aimed at improving the health of women, infants, and children. Only 500,000 silver dollars commemorating the 75th anniversary of the March of Dimes can be produced.

The coin is on sale now and will only be available in 2015. Introductory pricing is available until April 15 so don’t delay. We encourage you to share the news of this historic coin so you can own a piece of history and the March of Dimes can continue to help all babies.

For more info, visit here.

Image of Jonas Salk used with permission of the family of Jonas Salk.

From NICU to EI services

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

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.

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICU

Friday, February 13th, 2015

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.

Sibling visits to the NICU can be helpful

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Sibling visits baby in NICUPrematurity affects everyone, including siblings. When older children have a sister or brother in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) they sense their parents’ concern and worry, and their lives are thrown off balance. Siblings of a preemies go through their own NICU journey of sorts – from experiencing anxiety, worry and frustration to happiness and joy. However, there are some steps you can take to help your older children through the ups and downs of the NICU experience.

If your baby is in the NICU, it may be possible for your other children to visit. Ask the head nurse of the NICU if the hospital allows this and if your preemie is strong enough for the visit. Often, seeing their baby brother or sister in the NICU helps older children understand what is happening and to realize why mom and dad are not home as much. Even a short visit can help put the situation into perspective. Visiting can also make siblings feel like they are a part of the journey and that they are helping out.

But, NICUs can seem scary to children, and seeing a tiny baby hooked up to monitors and tubes can be terrifying. Here are ideas (some from the Preemies book) to help make the visit successful. In all cases, get the permission of the NICU staff first:

• Have your older children send in a toy or drawing ahead of the visit, and display it prominently near your preemie’s bed. When your children arrive, they will see their presence and will feel an immediate connection.

• Describe your baby’s condition to your children before the visit. Perhaps show them a doll that is about the size of your preemie, so they are not too surprised when they see their tiny sibling.

• If it is possible, allow your children to touch the baby. Touch helps to establish a bond. Of course, the NICU nurse will tell you if this will be allowed or not, depending on your baby’s current medical condition.

• Ask if your children can talk, read a book, or sing a song to the baby (softly). It will give them the feeling of doing something positive to help.

• Ask if your hospital has a NICU Family Support Program. The March of Dimes partners with many hospitals in the United States. Such programs comfort and support families, including siblings. Some hospitals also have a corner where siblings can play as they wait while their parents visit. They may even meet other siblings in this play space, and be able to share their feelings with other kids who understand what they are experiencing.

There is no doubt about it – having a baby in the NICU is a difficult journey for the whole family. Hopefully, short visits will help your other children to understand, feel included and “help out”, which will in turn, lessen the mystery of having a little brother or sister in the NICU.

Additional information and support for families with babies in the NICU can be found at Share Your Story, the March of Dimes online community for NICU families. Also, see this blog post for helpful info on a father’s role in the NICU.

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 Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts. We welcome your comments and input.

If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Does your baby have the right car seat?

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

rear-facing car seatFinding the right car seat can be a challenge. There are so many different kinds and sizes, how do you know which car seat is right for your child’s age and weight? What should you do if you have a baby born prematurely? This guide can help:

Step 1: Find the right car seat

• Should you get a rear facing car seat? Forward facing? Booster seat? Click here to learn the kind you need as your child grows. This handy visual guide is also helpful; just click on each box for details.
• Next, find a car seat based on your child’s height and weight.
• Car seats are also rated on ease of use. This info may be helpful to narrow down the kind of seat to buy.

Step 2: Correctly install your car seat

A car seat that is not installed correctly can be hazardous to your child.

• Learn proper car seat installation based on the kind of seat you have.
• Click here to learn about the inch test and pinch test – two simple ways to see if the seat is installed properly.
• And, did you know child seat safety inspectors can check your child’s car seat to make sure it is safely installed? (I didn’t!) Check it out.

Step 3: Register your car seat

• You can receive updates and notices about possible recalls by registering your car seat. Here’s how.

Preemies and tiny babies

If you have a premature or low birth weight baby, take time to read these special recommendations and our blog post on tips for tiny babies.

The right car seat, installed and used correctly is a MUST to keep your child safe.