Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

Ways to Decrease a Baby’s Risk of SIDS

If you find yourself checking to make sure your baby is breathing several times a night, you’re not alone.  The fear of your baby not breathing is probably about the worst thing you could imagine.  The truth is, although the risk is small, it can happen and it’s called SIDS.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS occurs when babies under 1-year-old die while sleeping for accidental reasons or no apparent reason at all.  It is most likely to occur in babies who are 1 to 4 months old and risk of SIDS greatly decreases after 6 months.

For parents, SIDS seems out of their control.  But there are environmental and behavioral factors that are linked to a baby’s risk of SIDS.  Therefore parents have the ability to decrease a baby’s risk of SIDS by adhering to the following recommendations:

SIDS__1460040294_162.206.228.38Always place your baby on her back to sleep.  Stomach sleeping greatly increases the risk of suffocation as a baby’s mouth could get smooshed into the mattress if she cannot lift her head or roll over.  Side-sleeping increases the chance that a baby could roll to her stomach.  Sleeping on her back is the very best and safest way for a baby to sleep.

Avoid co-sleeping but do sleep close.  Babies should have their own space to sleep.  Being in a parent’s bed can lead to suffocation due to blankets, sheets, pillows and a parent accidentally rolling on the baby.  However, babies who sleep in the same room as their parents for the first few months have less of a chance of dying from SIDS.

Clear the sleep space.  Make sure your baby’s sleep space has nothing in it including toys, stuffed animals, blankets or bumpers.  All of these are suffocation hazards.

Breastfeed as long as possible.  Studies show that breastfeeding decreases a baby’s risk of SIDS by up to half.  Experts don’t know why this is the case but the statistics point to the value of breastfeeding to reduce SIDS significantly.

Don’t let your baby get too hot.  Overheating increases risk of SIDS.  Keep your baby’s room cool, ideally between 68 and 72 degrees.  Also dress your baby in light, breathable fabrics.  Never let your baby sleep with a blanket as she may get tangled in it. Rather, use a sleep sack to ensure your baby is just warm enough.

Never give your baby honey.  Honey is linked to SIDS because it can cause botulism.  This bacterial infection may close off a baby’s airways.

Give your baby a pacifier.  Babies love to suck and sucking can help their breathing as well, lowering risk of SIDS.  If your baby wants it, let her sleep with a pacifier.  Never force it however and don’t replace it if it falls out during sleep.

Don’t drink or smoke while pregnant.  Babies born to mothers who drank or smoked during pregnancy have a higher risk of SIDS.  Additionally, second-hand smoke exposure increases a baby’s risk of SIDS.

Vaccinate your baby.  Babies who receive all of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended immunizations are 50% less likely to die of SIDS.

Earth-Friendly Baby Care

Your baby’s little feet can make a big ecological footprint.  Between diapers, toys and some feeding choices, raising a baby may mean a lot more waste is coming from your home.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Making earth-friendly baby care choices can be good for your baby, your wallet and the environment.

Check out these earth-friendly baby care methods:

Diapering:  Treehugger estimates that babies use approximately 6,000 diapers before being potty trained and 49 million diapers are used every day in the U.S. alone.  Using cloth diapers cuts out much of the waste of diapering because only the liners are disposable.  Plus they can be laundered and re-used many times, even with other babies.  But cloth diapering isn’t for everyone so eco-friendly biodegradable diapers are a better choice.  They are made of plant-based materials, not petroleum, and can be used for compost.  Also consider not using regular wipes but rather a warm washcloth to wipe your baby’s bum.

earth friendly baby care__1458692015_162.206.228.38Feeding:  Breastfeeding is the most eco-friendly feeding choice for babies, of course!  No manufacturing, shipping or packaging required!  It’s about as natural as Mother Nature herself.  When it’s time for solids, make your own baby food from fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably locally grown (or grown from your own garden!).  This will cut back on waste from baby food jars and pouches, in addition to all of the manufacturing that goes into making pre-made baby food.

Toys:  Wooden and fabric toys are the best options when purchasing toys.  They may be old-fashioned but they are better for the environment and your baby than plastics.  Consider buying used toys as a less expensive way to stock your playroom and be green.  And when it comes to some eco-friendly play, create the fun by making your own toys and materials.  You can make molding clay, finger paints and bubbles yourself, and you can fashion puppets out of old socks and dolls out of old t-shirts.  Also remember, kids love playing with everyday household items like pots and pans, wooden spoons, cups, purses and water.  Keep it simple and find things around the house that amuse your tot.

Clothes:  Again, hand-me-downs or purchasing gently-used clothes is always the best option for the earth and your wallet.  While they may have a few stains, they leave less of a stain on the planet and you know they’ve been washed enough to remove any toxic materials from the fabric.  When you want to spring for a new outfit, purchase from an eco-friendly baby clothes manufacturer.  They have less of an ecological impact and you can often find wonderful choices made from organic cotton that will be super soft on your baby’s skin.

Skin and Bath Products:  Your baby’s skin is ever so delicate and deserves the best natural products.  There are many eco-friendly personal care brands that make products specifically for babies.  Check them out and find one that works for your budget and your baby.

Convertibles:  Strollers, car seats and beds that grow with your baby are ideal.  Not having to buy new products every few years as your baby grows out of them prevents a lot of consumer waste.  You can also buy some of these items used, however do be careful about car seats and mattresses as there are some safety concerns over these items.

Nature:  Visiting museums and taking baby-stimulating classes are great every once-in-awhile.  But also consider nature’s entertainment by enjoying the outdoors for some natural stimulation.  Your baby will love looking at the sights and sounds in a botanical garden or park.  You can also let your baby dig in dirt or sand, crawl around in grass or sit outdoors on a breezy day for multi-sensory experiences.

Cleaning:  With a baby in the house, skip the toxic cleaners that can be ingested or inhaled.  Go for green cleaners that are baby-safe.  They are better for your baby and the environment.

Go green with these earth-friendly baby care tips for Earth Day!

Unusual Things to Recycle

recycle__1458741358_162.206.228.38Earth Day is approaching in a few days so we’re all thinking about ways to improve our relationship with the environment and reduce our impact on the globe.  Recycling is one important step to reducing waste that ends up in landfills.  Most of us are familiar with the basics of recycling, such as paper, plastic bottles and containers, and cardboard.  Today we’re sharing some unusual things to recycle that you may not realize are even recyclable.

Batteries:  With all of the portable electronics and toys most of us have in our homes, replacing batteries is commonplace.  But don’t toss the batteries in the garbage can.  Batteries are among the hardest materials to biodegrade.  Instead take them to an electronics store or office supply store that has a battery recycling bin.  Also, consider buying rechargeable batteries that will last longer and probably save you some money in the long run.

Prescription Medications:  Tossing your medications can not only be bad for the environment, they can also land in the wrong hands and be misused.  Participate in community take-back programs if they are offered in your area or talk to your pharmacist about how to dispose of them properly.

Bras:  Your old bra may be just the “support” another woman needs.  Bra Recyclers accept used bras.  Some are distributed to shelters and other facilities for less fortunate women, and some are recycled so textiles don’t end up in landfills.

Greeting Cards:  Most of us get many greeting cards every year but don’t know what to do with them when the season is over.  Send them to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children where they can be recycled and sold for money that funds research for childhood diseases.

CDs, Cassette Tapes and VHS Tapes:  As you update your music, movie and media collections, consider disposing of your old CDs, cassette tapes and VHS tapes in an environmentally-friendly way.  Green Disk is a company that will disassemble these items and turn them into other useful things.

Keys:  Keys are pure metal so most recycling facilities will take them.  But there are also organizations like Key for Hope that take recycling profits from keys and donate them to charitable causes.

Cell Phones:  When you finally spring for a new cell phone, find a way to help others by recycling your old one.  First check with your mobile phone provider to see if they have a recycling program.  Sometimes they offer credit to your account if you turn in your old phone.  Otherwise look for charities like The Wireless Foundation that accept old cell phones to refurbish for people in need.

Sneakers:  Donating your old shoes is helpful but for the pairs that are no longer usable by anyone, recycle them.  Nike accepts shoes of any brand for recycling and use the materials to make sports courts for children’s play areas.

Plastic Bags:  Most supermarkets have bins for plastic grocery bags and produce bags.  You can also bring in your re-sealable bags (such as Ziplocs) for recycling.

Wine Corks:  After enjoying a bottle of wine, help the environment by recycling your cork.  Some grocery stores and wine shops also accept wine corks that can be recycled into shoes, flooring, automotive parts and more.

Cosmetic Containers:  When you’ve finished your powder, lipstick or mascara, save the compacts and tubes for recycling.  Some make-up brands will accept them back and may give you a freebie when you bring enough recyclables to them.

We hope you put into practice some of these unusual things to recycle.  Happy Earth Day!

Length of Labor

length of labor__1458740488_162.206.228.38There are many factors that influence the length of labor a new mother will experience.  Every woman is different and therefore every child-birth is different too.  New studies show that, while perhaps more uncomfortable for mothers, a slightly longer length of labor does not have a negative impact on moms or babies.  In fact, longer labor may have better results because they require less intervention.

You may have heard horror stories about women in labor for over 24 hours.  The thought of painful contractions for a day or more would terrify anyone.  The truth is, active labor does not last that long.  When you hear these anecdotes, they are referring to the cumulative labor process that includes three stages:  The first stage is when a mother’s cervix dilates from 0-10 centimeters.  Early labor is 0-4 cm, active labor is 5-8 cm, and transition is 8-10 cm.  Stage two is the delivery process.  Stage three is when the placenta is delivered.

Reports of long labor are not always accurate because many women don’t know exactly when their labor began.  Early labor in stage one may not be recognizable because it may not be painful at all.  Most women don’t go through early labor in the hospital.  As contractions become more intense, moms-to-be are much more aware of the signs of labor.  On average, first time moms labor for 12 to 18 hours in total. Second time moms labor for around 7 hours.

Besides birth order, several other factors may influence a woman’s length of labor.  The baby’s positioning and the size and shape of the mom’s pelvis play a role.  If the baby has to reposition itself during the labor process – as opposed to being in position prior to labor – labor may take longer or become more complicated.  Also, if mom’s pelvis is narrow and small, it might take longer to deliver a baby.  Freedom to move around and find more comfortable and less restrictive labor positions can help.

A mother’s physical and emotional state also come into play during labor.  Mothers who are more relaxed tend to have shorter and easier labor and delivery.  Relaxing requires techniques to cope with pain such as breathing, massage and meditation.  Having support from a spouse, family member or birthing coach like a doula or midwife can also aide the labor process.   Some women find comfort in a soothing environment, which may include dim lights, aromatherapy, soft music or laboring in water.

Obstetricians and birthing professionals typically find that drug interventions during labor cause increased length of labor.  An epidural or other anesthesia does relax mothers and ease pain, however they may prolong labor by multiple hours in some cases.  Drug intervention can cause dilation to slow, a longer pushing time during delivery and use of a vacuum or forceps.  Sometimes anesthesia slows the process to the point that the doctor recommends a C-section.

However, a new study out of Thomas Jefferson University conducted on a small sample of women shows that the current guidelines for pulling the plug on a desired vaginal birth when labor is slow may be too strict.  At present most OBGYNS recommend a C-section after two hours of active labor without drug intervention and three hours of active labor with an epidural.  Although further studies need to be done on a larger group of women, the preliminary study found women without an IV anesthetic could go for three hours and women with an epidural could go four hours before moving to a C-section option.  Allowing women to extend the length of labor resulted in 55% less C-sections.  Currently, over 30% of babies in the U.S. are delivered via C-section and between 10 and 15% of them are due to adherence to the two and three hour guideline.

It’s impossible to know the length of labor before heading into childbirth.  Nevertheless, worrying about it won’t change anything.  The best way to approach it is with a birthing plan and a relaxed and positive attitude.  And remember, a longer labor may actually help you end up with your desired outcome.

The Benefits and Risks of Water Birth

water birth__1458741578_162.206.228.38With a multitude of birthing options, some women choose an alternative method known as water birth.  Although some risks are associated with water birth, those who have done it and many experienced healthcare providers taut the physical, mental and emotional benefits of water birth.

Water birth is when women labor and sometimes deliver their babies in a small pool of warm water.  A water birth may happen at home, at a birthing center or in a hospital environment.  It should always be facilitated by an experienced healthcare provider, which is usually a midwife or obstetrician.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognizes some benefits of being in water during the first stage of labor.  But they don’t find sufficient evidence in the benefit of finishing labor and delivery in water and cite an increased potential for risk during this critical stage in childbirth.

The Benefits of Water Birth

Experts and moms who have experienced water birth alike have expressed these potential benefits of water birth:

  • Warm water is soothing and helps mothers relax during the intense process of childbirth.
  • Buoyancy in water makes mothers weightless so they have more freedom of movement to labor in various positions independently.
  • Blood circulation tends to improve in water, making contractions easier and blood flow to the baby greater.
  • Babies are accustomed to the sensation of being in water since they developed in amniotic fluid during gestation.  A water environment may be more familiar and welcoming to them during birth.
  • As blood flow increases, mothers have more energy to tackle labor.
  • Water births tend to require less drug intervention to speed up labor and to manage pain.
  • Water birth helps stabilize blood pressure that occurs when the body is under stress.
  • Mothers who labor in water have less stress hormones like cortisol, noradrenaline and catecholamines that can adversely affect the baby.
  • Water also encourages the release of natural pain relief from endorphins.
  • Newborn babies tend to do better with less traumatic and less stressful births.
  • Water makes the perineum more elastic and therefore reduces tears.
  • Mothers are more emotionally and mentally relaxed when they are physically relaxed.

The Risks of Water Birth

Water birth does pose several risks that can make it more dangerous for mothers and babies.  These include:

  • If an emergency situation arises, moving the mother out of the pool into a bed or an operating room would waste time that could make a critical difference in the outcome for mother and baby.
  • Although rare, water could enter the mother’s bloodstream and cause aspiration.
  • Water birth may cause your baby to get an infection.
  • Your baby’s temperature may become too hot or too cold during a water birth.
  • Your baby may drown.
  • If the umbilical cord is compromised while the baby is in the birth canal, he may try to take a breath and would then breathe in water.
  • Also, the umbilical cord could snap during water birth if the baby is not lifted carefully.  Water birth makes it more difficult for the provider to handle the baby.

Water birth is not recommended for anyone with a high-risk pregnancy.  This includes women who have preeclampsia, who have high blood pressure, who have a disease or infection, whose babies are large or premature, who are having multiples or whose babies are breech.

Once you’ve weighed the benefits and risks with your doctor, if you do decide to proceed with a water birth, make sure you and your baby are constantly monitored and have a back-up plan in place in case of an emergency situation.  Also, make sure your providers are helping keep the water sanitary and at the proper temperature to reduce risk of infection.

Babies and Medicine: What’s Safe and What’s Not

babies and medicine__1458691588_162.206.228.38Protecting your new little baby from sickness is one of the biggest concerns of new parents.  Because your baby’s immune system is immature, she doesn’t have a strong ability to fight off pathogens.  When your baby gets sick, your first instinct may be to head to the medicine cabinet for a solution.  But be careful about what medications you give your baby and how much you administer.  Babies and medicine are a serious topic so know what’s safe and what’s not for your little love.

It can be pretty scary when your baby gets sick.  Whether it’s a stuffy nose, bad cough or a fever, it is painful to watch your baby suffer.  Before you go into your new parent flip-out mode, remember: most of the time, getting sick is not life-threatening, even for babies.  However, being vigilant of your baby’s symptoms and taking the appropriate action is important.

While uncomfortable and alarming, a fever is a sign that your baby’s immune system is working properly.  That is, it’s trying to fight off whatever foreign substance is attacking her system.  Between the antibodies you’ve provided your baby at the end of pregnancy and those she’s getting through breast milk, your newborn will slowly begin to build her immune system.  Then after two months she will begin getting shots to further protect her from a variety of serious diseases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says to call your pediatrician if: your baby is under 3 months and has a 100.4°F fever, is 3-6 months and has a temperature of 101°F, or if your baby is 6 months or older and has a fever of 103°F.  Also, if your baby has a fever combined with severe symptoms like vomiting, trouble breathing, extreme lethargy, refusal to eat, or constant diarrhea, call your doctor immediately.  And if fever lasts for 3 or more days consecutively, consult your pediatrician.

Newborns under 3 months should not be given any medication outside of a doctor’s care.  Typically, newborns that have a fever of 100.4°F or higher are given a urine and blood test.  Dangerous bacterial infections are more common in babies, and due to weaker immune systems, newborns can get pneumonia or kidney infections.  If your baby develops this level of fever outside of office hours, take your baby to the emergency room at the nearest hospital, preferably a children’s hospital.  Again, it is unlikely that your baby has a serious problem but it is better to be cautious at this early stage in life.

After 3 months, if your baby gets sick, consult your doctor before administering any medication.  Most pediatricians will allow babies over 3 months of age to take acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol).  However, be extremely careful with the dosage.  Overdosing your baby by giving too much medicine at one time or giving the medicine too frequently is very harmful to babies.  In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, overdose of acetaminophen was the most common medication mistake for babies in the U.S. in the past decade.  Usually this was a caregiver error rather than babies accidentally ingesting it.  Remember that if you are giving your baby more than one type of medicine, both may contain acetaminophen and therefore your baby may exceed the recommended dosage.

With a doctor’s approval, babies over 6 months of age can take children’s ibuprofen to reduce a fever and relieve symptoms.  Babies should never take aspirin, cold & cough medications (even children’s formulas), anti-nausea drugs, adult over-the-counter medications, medications prescribed to someone else or expired medicines.  Also, never give your baby a chewable medication.  All dosages of baby-safe medicines should be administered in liquid form.

Babies and medicine can be a dangerous combination if caregivers are unaware of what’s safe and what’s not.  Make sure you and all of your baby’s caregivers know which medications she can take, how much and how often.  Also always consult your pediatrician before starting your baby on any medication.

Why Babies Like High-Pitched Voices and Other Baby Talk

It’s pretty much universal – when anyone talks to a baby, they usually raise their voice a few decibels.  It seems to be almost human nature to talk to a baby in a higher pitch.  Why?  Well, no one knows for sure but it seems that as universally as adults raise their pitch, babies like high-pitched voices and other baby talk.

You probably notice yourself doing it and everyone around you does it too.  When you engage your baby, your voice automatically goes to a higher pitch, you elongate vowel sounds, you speak slower, you repeat sounds, you use a greater pitch range, your tone is happy or soothing and you inflect more emotion into your speech.  This “baby talk” is referred to as infant-directed speech or motherese or parentese, even by experts.  Speaking to a baby in this manner is almost as natural as childbirth itself.  People who have very little experience with babies even find themselves using infant-directed speech.

high pitched voices__1458741740_162.206.228.38The reason we use infant-directed speech is not exactly clear other than babies tend to respond better to it.  And it is probably the combination of pitch, tone, emotions and inflection that babies enjoy.  After all, even men elicit positive responses from babies and their voices rarely get as high-pitched as women.

We can look to nature for some answers.  When animals call to each other, they often do it in high-pitched voices.  It’s attention grabbing and seems to provoke reactions in the wild.  The same is true in a domestic setting.  Our pets also respond to baby talk and we tend to use it on them as well.  So, the same can be said for our most precious little ones:  babies like high-pitched voices too.

Additionally, although young infants don’t know what we are saying, they are often comforted, more interested and entertained when we use infant-directed speech.  Babies may be able to make the inference that a message is happy, warm and loving by this tone, even when the words are meaningless to them.

Several studies show that babies turn towards infant-directed speech more than adult-directed speech and their electrical brain waves are more active when hearing infant-directed speech.  They may also learn words and take to their native language better when this form of baby talk is used.  Expressive language can help babies differentiate sounds, words and phrases, all of which are crucial to language development.  In fact, adults can even learn other languages better when exposed to them with greater expression.

Human contact, especially with you, is your baby’s favorite source of stimulation.  Whether it is looking at your face, smelling your scent or hearing your voice, your baby is hard-wired to like you best.  Babies like high-pitched voices and other infant-directed speech elements because they are attention-grabbing and comforting.  Next time you feel silly using this type of speech, you can rest assured that it’s good for your baby’s language development and emotional bond with you.

What is Colic + Tips for Colic Relief

Colic is a common condition that occurs in about one-fifth of all infants.  Experts believe colic comes about due to an immature nervous system. Colicky babies are not able to soothe themselves yet and therefore resort to crying spells.  Fortunately, it is not a medical problem and usually goes away by the time a baby is three to six months old.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colic in babies is defined as crying that lasts for three or more hours a day for three days a week for three weeks or longer in otherwise well-fed, healthy babies.  Because it is their only form of communication, infant crying is normal.  In fact, many new parents don’t realize their babies have colic for this reason.

colic__1457981345_162.206.228.38Although there is no known cause of colic, there are patterns that trend with colicky babies.  Colic is usually marked by inconsolable crying, often in the evening hours.  Colicky babies typically cry around the same time every day.  Often babies will express gas throughout their fussiness and have a bowel movement towards the end of their crying spell.  They will also tense up by curling their legs into their bodies and clench their fists.

Medical professionals have tried to understand more about colic but cannot seem to find a true cause.  It is unrelated to gender, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, birth order or any other known factors.  However, babies born prematurely or whose mothers smoked, drank alcohol or did drugs during pregnancy have a higher risk of colic.

If your baby tends to be fussier than most and has the signs of colic, you should visit your pediatrician to confirm your diagnosis and ensure the crying is not due to any true medical condition.  Colic is not associated with irregular bowel movements (either diarrhea or constipation), fever, vomiting, loss of weight or lethargy.  If any of these symptoms appear, see your doctor immediately.

Once you know your baby has colic, try the following ways to soothe her and reduce fussiness:

  • Rock, bounce and otherwise move your baby around.  This calms the nervous system and may lull your baby to sleep.
  • Wear your baby in a carrier.  The closeness will keep her warm, allow her to hear your heartbeat, give her constant movement and ultimately encourage her to calm down.
  • Expose your baby to constant sound such as white noise, the hum of the dryer or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Allow your baby to suck on a pacifier.
  • Swaddle your baby, even during the day.
  • Dim lights and avoid loud noises that may stimulate or startle your baby.
  • Give your baby a massage using a gentle baby lotion or natural oil.
  • Soak your baby in a warm bath.
  • Lay your baby across your lap tummy-down to help relieve stomach pressure.
  • Burp your baby often during feedings.
  • Don’t let your baby nurse for too long at one time.  Overfeeding can cause an upset stomach.
  • Wait two to three hours between feedings.  Again, this ensures your baby is not getting too full.
  • Consider whether anything in your diet is causing your baby to be fussy such as caffeine, fiber or alcohol.
  • Ask your doctor before taking other measures such as giving gas drops, using herbal remedies or adding cereal to your baby’s bottle.

Colic can be very frustrating for new parents.  The droning sound of crying for hours can drive anyone a little bonkers.  If your baby is colicky, it’s a good idea to take breaks from the peak fussy hours every now and then.  Ask for help from your partner and other family members or hire a caregiver.  These time-outs will help keep you sane and help prevent you from resenting your baby.

Remember, colic is short-lived and will not have a lasting effect on your child.  Even with challenges like colic, new parenthood should be mostly a time of joy and love for your new little bundle of joy.

Staying Connected When You’re Away

Leaving your children at home – whether you travel often for business or pleasure, or simply work long hours – is hard for devoted parents.  Sometimes life requires this separation and it can actually be quite healthy for both you and your kids.  Many parents are concerned about the emotional and developmental effects leaving may have on their children.  Typically, kids are not scared by the fact that their parents travel as long as they are well taken care of while you or our spouse are gone.  But there are certainly ways of staying connected when you’re away to ensure your children feel your love and special bond even from a distance.

staying connected while traveling__1457981243_162.206.228.38Prepare your kids:  Springing on your kids the fact that you’re leaving for a week the morning you are flying out isn’t a great idea.  Talk about your trip for at least a few days in advance so your children know you’ll be away, who will be staying with them and what to expect during that time.  Try to plan for their schedules to be as normal as possible with day care, school, activities, etc… and add in a few special treats that your caregiver can facilitate as well.  Prepare several of their favorite dinners to have on hand while you’re gone.  Ask your children to help you pack for your trip so you can talk about where you are going, what you’ll be doing, and the weather at your destination.  This will help them feel more connected to where you will be too.  Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that leaving them makes you sad and it’s OK for them to feel sad as well.  Soon you will all be back together again and have lots to share with each other about your time apart.

Keep in touch:  While you are gone, keep in touch as much as possible, even more than you think you should.  Call at times when you know your kids will be available, such as first thing in the morning, in the car on their way home from school and bedtime.  Use texts and emails to send pictures of what you’re doing on your trip and encourage them to do the same.  Also, video conference when possible.  You can even bring along a few books and read to them at bedtime as if you were right there tucking them in as usual.

Create a loving moment:  Set a certain time when you and your children plan to think of each other and send loving thoughts.  Set an alarm for your kids so they’ll know the special time and do the same for yourself.  This is also a great time to visualize giving each other hugs.  Talk your kids through this before you leave and then practice it during your loving moment time while you’re gone.  Because you know each other so well, you may actually feel the warmth of each other’s embrace.

Write notes for each day of your trip:  Leave a short note for your child to open every day while you’re gone.  It should briefly give love and encouragement for whatever your child has going on that day.  You can draw pictures as well.  Also include what you may be doing that day on your trip so your children can think about you as well.

Arrange a long distance treasure hunt:  Hide a few items around your house.  Each day give clues to where your children can find one of the items.  This will be a fun way for them to look forward to hearing from you and stay enamored with you from afar.

Make gifts and have a welcome home party:  Ask your children to make you a special gift while you’re away.  Buy supplies for a cool art project or whatever it is your children may want to create for you.  You should also make or buy a gift to bring back for your kids.  When you return, have a welcome home party and exchange gifts.  Maybe break your own rules slightly during the party, such as not making your kids eat veggies for a night or getting to stay up late.  This helps your kids feel excited about being together again.  Be sure to do something fun with your children right away and be present while you’re with them so they know they were missed and how much you care.

Enjoy your travel time knowing that staying connected while you’re away ensures your bond with your children will be as strong as ever when you return.

10 Risk Factors of Preterm Labor

preterm labor__1456607450_162.206.228.38Among the list of worries for expectant moms is usually preterm labor.  Preterm labor is when a mother goes into labor prematurely before her 37th week of pregnancy.  Having a baby too early may mean the baby is not fully developed in several key areas and may lead to birth defects, physical abnormalities (such as heart defects, respiratory problems or underdeveloped organs), mental impairments or behavioral problems in infants and children.  Preterm labor occurs in approximately 12% of pregnancies.  Some causes of preterm labor are known, while others remain a mystery.  However, there are some factors that put moms and babies more at risk.

Today are looking at 10 risk factors of preterm labor:

1 – Pregnant with Multiples

Women giving birth to two or more babies are highly likely to deliver early.  OBs often schedule c-sections for moms of multiples but sometimes mothers go into labor on their own prior to 37 weeks.

2 – Unhealthy Weight during Pregnancy

Moms-to-be who are either underweight or overweight during pregnancy have higher rates of preterm labor.  Being underweight may mean the baby is not getting proper nutrients.  Being overweight can put added strain on the baby as well as the mother’s body.  The recommended weight gain for a single pregnancy is 25-35 lbs.

3 – Abnormalities or Infections in the Lower Abdomen

If the cervix, uterus or vagina are compromised, risk of preterm labor is increased.  Also, bladder, vaginal or kidney infections or STDs can have the same effect.  Mothers who have regular OB check-ups during pregnancy will be aware of these risk factors so they can be monitored closely.

4 – Smoking, Drinking and Drug Abuse

Expectant mothers who drink, smoke and use drugs during pregnancy are putting their babies at extreme risk, not only of preterm labor, but also many other substance abuse related birth defects.

5 – Chronic or Severe Short Term Illness

Women suffering from diabetes – even gestational diabetes – clotting disorders, high blood pressure, kidney disease or other chronic illnesses may be prone to preterm labor.  Also, if a mother gets sick and has a fever higher than 101 degrees F, she is at risk of preterm labor.

6 – Short Time Span between Pregnancies

A repeat pregnancy within six to nine months of giving birth puts moms at increased risk of preterm labor.  Pregnancy creates a great strain on the body and it needs time to recuperate after childbirth.  Having babies too close together can cause complications.

7 – Previous Preterm Labor

Mothers who have had previous preterm labor are highly more likely to go into preterm labor again.  Usually the preterm labor occurs at approximately the same week as prior preterm labors.  Additionally, preterm labor may be hereditary. A family predisposition for preterm labor, especially if the mother herself was born prematurely, should be flagged as a risk factor.

8 – Lack of Prenatal Care

Taking care of both mother and baby during pregnancy is vital to the health of both parties.  Prenatal care including proper nutrition, prenatal vitamins, a healthy living environment, emotional support and regular OB check-ups can help prevent preterm labor.

9 – Stress

Women who experience intense stress during pregnancy can go into premature labor.  Stress has a physiological impact on the body.  During pregnancy, stress hormones can trigger early labor and can be highly dangerous for babies.

10 – Physical Strain

Standing for too long, performing highly physical jobs, lifting heavy objects or over-exercising can lead to preterm labor.  While some exercise is recommended during pregnancy, too much physical strain can have harmful side-effects.

Know these causes of preterm labor to monitor inherent risk factors and avoid controllable risks.

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