Posts Tagged ‘ baby health ’

Is Your Nursery Making Your Baby Sick?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

baby on new carpetWhen most of us were setting up baby’s nursery, there were certain things we knew to avoid: loose bedding, lots of toys in the crib, anything with sharp edges. But a new study has found one more potential no-no for baby’s room, at least during the first year of life: new carpet, rugs, or laminate.

According to an article in The Telegraph, researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany have discovered that the chemicals in the glue used to install brand-new flooring can be toxic for babies and make it difficult for them to breathe. Their study involved 465 moms and babies living in Leipzig, Germany, two-thirds of whom made some kind of renovation to their home and a sixth of whom replaced their flooring. During the home improvements, the scientists regularly assessed the babies’ breathing and monitored the air quality in their homes. The findings were published in the journal Environment International.

Though not all flooring requires glue — area rugs are a classic example — researchers still warn parents to hold off on laying down the new stuff in the nursery. “Although the concentrations of these volatile chemicals are lower if no adhesive is used when installing the flooring, even then the concentrations are still high enough to significantly increase the risk of infants suffering from respiratory complaints in their first few months,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Ulrich Franck.

Pregnant women aren’t off the hook, either. UFZ researchers believe the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in new flooring and adhesives can affect developing babies in utero and even boost their chances of developing allergies, especially if you or your partner already suffer from conditions like hay fever or asthma.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study is to hold off on installing your new flooring until after baby’s first birthday. That’s because the study found that home improvements (and all the airborne chemicals associated with them) that occured after baby was born didn’t impact baby’s respiratory functions as much as ones that took place during pregnancy. “According to our results, exposure to these volatile chemical compounds seems to be more critical in pregnancy than in the first year of a child’s life,” says Dr. Irina Lehmann of he UFZ.

Tell us: How was your experience setting up baby’s nursery?

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Nursery Ideas: Design a Modern Nursery
Nursery Ideas: Design a Modern Nursery
Nursery Ideas: Design a Modern Nursery

Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on TwitterPinterest, and Google+

Image of baby on a carpet courtesy of Shutterstock

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Is Your Newborn Losing Too Much Weight? Now There’s a Tool to Help You Know

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

newborn-weightI’ve always envied how moms of bottle-fed babies know exactly how much milk their kiddo has ingested during a meal. As a breastfeeding mom, any guess I made was just that. And while this piece of information wasn’t so crucial once I had been nursing for a while, it was everything to me in the first days of my baby’s life. After all, a belly full of milk meant a certain number of dirty diapers and a steady, reassuring rise on the growth chart.

But as I found out the hard way, a breastfed newborn often loses weight in the beginning until milk production begins in earnest. Though some trimming down is to be expected, too much can lead to dehydration or hyperbilirubinemia, a type of jaundice. A normal range of how quickly and how long the weight loss lasts hasn’t been fully known — until now.

A team of researchers have developed the Newborn Weight Tool, or Newt, which compares a newborn’s weight in the first few days of life against those of other babies. The free tool relies on hourly birth weights from more than 100,000 breastfed newborns delivered at Northern California Kaiser Permanente hospitals (between 2009 and 2013) to make the comparison. A handy graph shows moms and pediatricians where the baby’s weight falls on the growth chart so they can figure out if it’s time to supplement with formula or continue nursing exclusively.

“For parents who are concerned about their newborn’s weight loss, they can be shown how their baby compares to the study sample, and whether they fall into a dangerous zone,” says Valerie Flaherman, M.D., lead author of the study and a pediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. “It also provides a tool for pediatricians to determine which babies are at high risk, addressing a major clinical gap because there are no current criteria for newborn weight loss.”

Personally, I would have appreciated such a tool after my baby was born. I knew I wanted to breastfeed exclusively as long as I could, and I figured that when the time came, whatever colostrum I produced would be more than enough to sustain him until the milk came in. Yeah…not so much. When our kind pediatrician gently suggested after the first 24 hours of nursing that we supplement with a bottle — just for now — I felt like someone punched me in the gut. I don’t know if it was the freewheeling hormones, but I took the unexepcted news pretty hard. If I wasn’t second-guessing the quality of my colostrum, then I was trying to shake the feeling that I was already a failure as a mom. It didn’t help that my lactation consultant pooh-poohed the idea of supplementing and encouraged me to go rogue and refuse the formula. I ended up siding with my doctor, but I wish I had a graph or point of comparison to help me make a more informed decision.

Tell us: If you breastfed your newborn, did you end up having to supplement with formula?

Not sure how comfortable you’ll feel nursing? You can take our breastfeeding quiz to find out. Also, calculate your growing child’s height and weight on our baby growth chart. And don’t forget to like All About Babies on Facebook to keep up with the latest baby-related news.

How to Find a Lactation Consultant
How to Find a Lactation Consultant
How to Find a Lactation Consultant

Image of newborn courtesy of Shutterstock

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Can Genome Sequencing Save Your Baby’s Life?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

genome-sequencingIf there’s anything new parents are hungry for — besides sleep — it’s reassurance that their baby is healthy. That the crying, sleep patterns, and mystery poop diapers are all perfectly normal. Thanks to advances in technology, we now have all sorts of sources of information, from an app that can help detect jaundice to “smart” diapers that analyze urine for signs of dehydration or infection to a wearable baby monitor that track sleep movements.

So is it any wonder that a growing number of new moms and dads have expressed interest in what’s happening with their newborn on a genetic level? According to a new study led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston’s Children’s Hospital, the majority of parents surveyed expressed some interest in having their baby’s genome sequenced, once they learned about genes and the role they play in baby’s health. During genomic testing, all 20,000 or so genes are sequenced and any variations — some of which could lead to disease — are identified.

Of the 514 parents surveyed within two days of their child’s birth, 82.7 percent said they had some level of interest in testing; 36 percent were somewhat interested; 28 percent were very interested; and 18 percent were extremely interested. The early adopters were of differing age, race, ethnicity, level of education, gender, and family medical history. The parents who were less likely to sign up for screening were typically married and already had health concerns about their baby.

“Several other studies have measured parents’ interest in newborn genomic screening, but none focused on new parents in the first 48 hours,” explained Robert C. Green, geneticist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical school, and the study’s senior author. “Since this is when genomic testing would be of the greatest value, it is especially important to study parents’ attitudes immediately postpartum.” This, of course, makes perfect sense. I don’t know about you, but my husband and I felt completely overwhelmed in the first days after our son was born. If someone asked us if we wanted to find out if he had genetic variations that could lead to diseases like Type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or prostate cancer, I’m fairly certain we would have jumped on board, too.

Three and half years later, though, and I’m not so sure I’d be as eager to know. Though it’s a truly remarkable advancement, genetic sequencing is hardly perfect. The information it yields isn’t always accurate, and it can only predict with some degree of certainty whether your particular variation will lead to certain diseases. Meanwhile, the jury is still out at the FDA over whether screening is even worthwhile. But even if I could bank on the information from a screening, how much would my son benefit from knowing early on that, say, he’s genetically predisposed to Alzheimers? Would he read too much into a momentary memory lapse as he gets older or fret any time he takes a little longer to balance his checkbook?

I know that genetic screening can be a blessing for a number of families. It can and has already saved the lives of many children who have an unknown disorder or brain abnormality, by helping doctors either come up with a new diagnosis or choose a different treatment altogether. While genome sequencing has been consistently useful when it comes to solving postnatal health issues — and it could have a major positive impact on public health — I think more guidelines and support for parents are needed before screening goes mainstream.

Tell us: Would you want to have your baby undergo genome sequencing? Why or why not?

Is it a belly ache or something more serious? Consult our Baby Symptom Checker to see if a call to the doctor is in order. And don’t forget to like All About Babies on Facebook to keep up with the latest baby news!

Baby Care Basics: Surprising Reasons to Call the Doctor
Baby Care Basics: Surprising Reasons to Call the Doctor
Baby Care Basics: Surprising Reasons to Call the Doctor

Image of newborn baby courtesy of Shutterstock

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Finally, an Easy Way to Tell When Medicine Is Safe for You and Baby

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

fda-prescription-label-requirementsDo the letters A, B, C, D and X mean anything to you? Yeah, me neither. But apparently, prescription drug manufacturers have been using them on medicine labels since the ’70s to alert pregnant women and breastfeeding moms to the potential risks of taking certain medications.

Though ridiculously simple on the surface, the lettering system has been anything but effective. In fact, Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the Federal Drug Administration’s Office of New Drugs, said it “has been highly, highly inconsistent,” often contained outdated information and was confusing, the Washington Post reports.

Needless to say, it was time for a change.

So after six years of development, the FDA last week unveiled a shiny new set of requirements aimed at helping doctors and patients make more informed decisions about what they’re putting into their body (and their baby’s). Chief among them is that drug makers will be required to include information packets with the prescription that spell out any potential risks to pregnant or nursing moms, babies, and small children, or people considering getting pregnant — plus whatever research backs up those claims. Each packet will contain three clearly marked sections: “Pregnancy,” “Lactation,” and “Females and Males of Reproductive Potential” for easy skimming.

Starting June 2015, all new prescription drugs and biologics will be subject to the revised system, as will drugs approved by the FDA since 2001 that didn’t provide info related to about pregnancy and lactation. (Note that requirements don’t apply to over-the-counter meds.)

As someone who pestered her OB with frequent “is-this-safe-to-take” questions during pregnancy and nursing, I think the new rule can’t go into effect fast enough. While nothing can replace a quick convo with your healthcare provider, the information packet sounds like a great alternative. After all, when you’re pregnant or nursing — and extra conscious of what’s going into your body — having the most current facts about a medication at the ready can go a long way toward giving you peace of mind.

Now it’s your turn: What’s your take on the FDA’s new requirements for drug manufacturers? How likely are you to read the information packets before taking the medication?

Have questions about your baby? We have answers — just check out our comprehensive Baby Q&A. And be sure to like All About Babies on Facebook to keep up with the latest baby news!

Meds and Breastfeeding
Meds and Breastfeeding
Meds and Breastfeeding

Image of woman holding a pill bottle courtesy of Shutterstock

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Considering Circumcision? Here’s What the Government Wants You to Know

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

baby-boy-circumcisionFederal health officials have finally taken a stance on circumcision, one of the most divisive parenting topics out there. In a draft of guidelines released on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention threw its weight behind circumcision after medical evidence showed it can cut down on the risk of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, and some types of cancer. The CDC even went so far as to say the procedure should be covered by health insurers, but drew the line at recommending it to parents. Instead, moms and dads should talk it over with their physician.

Sound familiar? It should. The CDC’s guidelines hew closely to those issued a couple of years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But unlike the AAP’s policy, which applies only to infants, this one is intended for older kids too, including uncircumcised male teenagers. That’s because three separate clinical trials have concluded that removing the foreskin from the tip of the penis can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 50-60 percent over time and lower the risk of herpes simplex virus type-2 and types of human papilloma virus that can lead to penile and otheranogenital cancers by a whopping 30 percent.

Still, a later-in-life circumcision doesn’t come without some degree or risk. According to the CDC, circumcision is safer for newborns than older boys — the complication rate is 0.5 percent in babies and rises to 9 percent in kids ages 1-9. So again, parents and older kids are urged to talk over the risks and benefits with a physician before making a decision.

Before it’s finalized, the draft will undergo peer review and be up for public comment for the next 45 days. Some of its supporters have said the official recommendation couldn’t come at a better time — the percentage of parents who opt to have their babies undergo the procedure in a hospital has dropped in recent years.

Personally, when our son was born, the question whether to circumcise him wasn’t even on the table. Because of my husband’s religious beliefs, we chose to have our kiddo’s foreskin removed before we even left the hospital. But I know the decision isn’t always so easy for parents to make. For many, this is about more than cutting away some skin. Depending on which side you’re on, circumcision could be a preventative measure for better health, an adherence to a cultural or religious tradition, a move to have him look like most other boys (and/or Daddy), or a socially acceptable form of genital mutilation. Or something different altogether. But what I appreciate about the CDC and AAP’s guidelines is that they offer advice but then leave plenty of room for parents to decide what’s best for their child.

Tell us: What’s your view on circumcision?

Keep track of your baby’s developing body with our Growth Chart. And be sure to like All About Babies on Facebook to keep up with the latest baby news!

Baby Care Basics: Baby First Aid
Baby Care Basics: Baby First Aid
Baby Care Basics: Baby First Aid

Image of baby boy courtesy of Shutterstock

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