Pregnant Women Should Avoid “Silver” Dental Fillings

If you’ve been to the dentist to have a cavity filled, you may (or may not!) have been offered a choice between the silver filling (also known as dental amalgam) or bone-colored resin (more attractive, as it blends in with the color of your teeth). Although slightly  more expensive, added uncertainty about the safety of the mercury-based silver fillings should be enough for pregnant women to choose the resin filling.

feature image: Top News

Recently, a U.S. advisory panel declared that it wants the FDA to look at the latest data and reassess its guidance after the agency last year declared the fillings safe.  Mercury has been linked to neurological damage at high exposure levels and makes up about 50% of a metal filling.  “Vulnerable people” such as children and pregnant/nursing women should be especially wary.

Some dentists and trade groups cite data showing that the fillings pose no harm once set in a patient’s tooth.  Other dentists testify that mercury is too risky and that they no longer use such fillings. Dozens of patients also detailed how their health deteriorated after getting amalgams and urged the panel to push FDA to reverse course and initiate strong warnings, especially for children and pregnant or nursing women.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists mercury as a neurotoxin. It can interfere with brain development and cognitive and motor skills. In addition, groups such as Moms Against Mercury and Consumers for Dental Choice say mercury fillings may trigger health problems, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • brain damage
  • kidney damage
  • migraines
  • multiple sclerosis
  • irritability (erethism)

Short of banning amalgams altogether, patients should at the very least be warned about the dangers of these metal fillings and offered a choice. Amalgams have already been banned in some European countries.

Read more: Rueters, World

Learning from Tragedy: Babies and Cough Meds

You may have heard about about the tragic death of 4-month old Daniel Richadson. A healthy baby with a cough, his aunt, who was babysitting, gave him some over-the-counter cough medicine (namely Robitussin) to try and sooth him. The baby stopped breathing and died shortly afterward.

If there’s anything good that can come of this awful accident, it should be to make parents and caretakers aware of the effects of medication they give their small children. As of 2007, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned parents not to give over-the-counter cold medicine to children younger than 2 without first asking a doctor.

image: Drug Free Homes

The CDC further states: “Cough and cold medicines do not cure the common cold. Although cough and cold medicines may be used to treat the symptoms of the common cold in older children, they should not be used in children less than 4 years old. Too much cough and cold medicine can cause serious harm or even deaths in children.”

Parents should also be aware of the dangers of unnecessary antibiotic use. The CDC warns: “Antibiotics can kill bacteria but not viruses. Most colds, coughs, flu, sore throats, and runny noses are caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics for viral infections will not cure viral infections, keep others from catching the illness, or help your child feel better. Although antibiotics are good drugs for certain types of infections, they… cause they most emergency visits for adverse drug events.”

Tips for Parents from the CDC

  • Don’t give children medicine that is packaged for adults unless told to told so by a physician.
  • Don’t use cough and cold products for children under 4 unless told to do so by a physician.
  • Read all information on the package label and follow directions. Don’t give a child medicine more often or in greater amounts than the package says!
  • Use only the measuring device that is included with the prduct. A kitchen spoon is not a good measuring device for giving medicine to children.
  • If a measuring device is not included with the product, purchase one at a pharmacy or ask the pharmacist for one.
  • Check the active ingredients in the prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Make sure you do not give your child two medicines that have the same active ingredient. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you don’t understand the instructions or how to use the dosing device, do not use the medicine. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor of you have questions or are confused.
  • Do not ask for antibiotics when a doctor says they are not needed.
  • If you child is prescribed an antibiotic, make sure s/he takes all the medicine as prescribed, even if they feel better. Do not save antibiotic medicine “for later.”
So what can you do to help a baby or young child find relief from a cold, cough, runny nose, and congestion?
Dr. Sear’s Natural Treatments for Coughs, Runny Nose, and Congestion:
  • Steam cleaning. Give your child steam, steam, and more steam. For infants and young children, turn the bathroom into a steam room with the door closed and the shower on full hot. Sit in there for 10 or 15 minutes. For older children, use a facial steamer or pot of hot water (carefully!). The steam will help loosen the nose and chest congestion, and help your child cough it up or blow it out. Do this steam cleaning every morning and before bed, as well as during the day if possible.
  • Clap the chest and back. While you sit in the bathroom steaming, clap on your child’s chest and back (where the lungs are) firmly (harder than burping) with an open hand. This helps shake the mucus loose so your child can cough it up better.
  • Sleep upright. If possible, allow your child to sleep in a slightly upright position. This allows for easier breathing during sleep.
  • Nose hose. For older children, it is crucial to have them blow their nose several times during a steam cleaning, as well as frequently throughout the day. Getting out all the junk will help prevent this from turning into a bacterial infection. An alternative to steaming is to use nasal decongestant spray to loosen up the nasal congestion before blowing it out. For infants too young to blow their nose, you can suction them out using a blue rubber bulb syringe.
  • Hot steam vaporizer. Use a hot steam vaporizer in the bedroom at night (not a cool mist humidifier). This warm, humid environment can help keep noses and chests clear at night. Be sure to air the room out well during the day because mold can start to grow in the room due to the warmth and humidity.
  • Eucalyptus and lavender oil. Add only one drop of each of these to a facial steamer, pot of hot water or some vaporizers. They can help clear up the congestion faster.
  • Vapor rubs on the chest. Occasionally, these can cause wheezing because the vapors may be too strong for some children, but overall they will work well. It is safe to try, but do observe your child to make sure it doesn’t cause wheezing.
  • Drink twice as much liquid. This will help to thin secretions and prevent dehydration.

New Year’s Alcohol Consumption Related to SIDS death

Are you going to be drinking this New Year’s? Who will be caring for your baby?

A Sept 2010 SIDS study, led by sociologist David Phillips of the University of California, San Diego, is the first large-scale US study to look at a possible link between SIDS and alcohol.  129,090 SIDS cases we examined, from 1973 to 2006.  The study finds that the largest spikes in alcohol consumption and in SIDS (33%) occur on New Year’s.  Alcohol consumption and SIDS also increase significantly on weekends, and children of alcohol-consuming mothers are much more likely to die from SIDS than are children of non-alcohol-consuming mothers. They conclude by suggesting that caretakers and authorities should be informed that alcohol impairs parental capacity and might be a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome.

image: 5 recipes for life

What exactly is the connection between alcohol and SIDS?  “We know that when people are under the influence of alcohol their judgments are impaired and they are not as good at performing tasks. This would include care-taking,” Phillips said.

So please, be careful. If you’ve had a few drinks, be extra careful. It is always important to follow safety guidelines for SIDS prevention. Put your baby on his back to sleep. Don’t put any stuffed toys or pillows near a sleeping baby. Be sure not to over-bundle your baby. Don’t smoke. Breastfeed if possible. Read more safety precautions here.

Via inhabitots

Can You be Forced to Vaccinate?

You might be surprised to learn that you are not required by law to vaccinate  your children, even when you want to enroll them in a school or daycare.  All states offer either a philosophical, medical, and/or religious exemption from vaccinations. It is important for parents to know this, since many believe that the law is children must receive “x” amount of vaccines. However, you do have the right to design a vaccine program that is right for you and your child.

image: Prison Planet: Revolt Against Dangerous Vaccines

The National Vaccine Information Center has the info on each state and what type of exemptions are available. Click here to find out the requirements and exemptions in your state. For example, in California, a parent can “submit a letter or affidavit stating that the immunization is contrary to his or her beliefs.” You can also submit testimony from a clergyman that vaccinating is against your religious beliefs, or a doctor’s letter explaining why you do not vaccinate for medical reasons.

Whether you choose to vaccinate your child is a personal decision. While my first two children were vaccinated according to the recommended schedule, baby number three (who is now 7 months old) is going to be different. The more I read, learn, and discuss, the more compelled I am to take a stand against routine, unquestioned vaccinations, some of who’s benefits may not outweigh the risks.

What do you want for your child? The only way to find out is to research and talk to others about it. Some parents want their child to be vaccinated, but only one or two at a time. This would call for an alternative vaccination schedule. Some advocate waiting until a child is 2 years old before starting a vaccination program. Others make a decision that certain vaccines are a worthwhile investment while others have risks that outweigh the benefits. And some will not vaccinate at all.

Learn the facts. Research both sides of the equation. The bottom line is, you are the only one who can take full responsibility for your child’s health. Neither the government nor your child’s school nor even your doctor can force you to do something you feel goes against your child’s best interest.

You’ve probably heard the arguments in favor of vaccinations. For more info on potential issues:

A User-Friendly Vaccination Schedule

National Vaccine Information Center

Dr. Bock’s Proposed Schedule of Vaccines

Generation Rescue: Do I vaccinate?

Rotavirus: The Vaccine Nobody Wants

Baby Center: Alternative Vaccination Schedules

Don’t Eat These Foods if you’re Pregnant!

Everything you eat and drink while you’re expecting influences your baby’s health.  Good choices are whole grains, lean meats, lots of fresh fruits and veges, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. As for the rest… well some foods are questionable, some are OK in moderation, and some are all-out no-no’s.

Here’s some “food for thought:” consider these guidelines before indulging in every pregnancy craving:

Raw or Undercooked Animal Products

These foods may contain an array of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  When cooking meat, chicken, and fish, it’s recommended to test the doneness with a food thermometer, cook eggs until they are no longer runny, and don’t eat raw dough. Here are some other things to watch out for:

  • rare meat
  • raw oysters
  • clams
  • sushi
  • unpasteurized eggs
  • raw cookie or cake dough
  • homemade eggnog

Hot Dogs, Cold Cuts, & Unpasteurized Dairy Foods

These foods are prone to Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, which may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems. These include food such as:

  • hot dogs and
  • luncheon meats (deli ham or turkey, bologna, salami, etc)
  • refrigerated pates or meat spreads
  • refrigerated smoked seafood (such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel)– may be labeled “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.”
  • raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and queso Panela.

It’s safe to eat smoked seafood, lunch meants, and franks, when it’s part of a cooked dish (like in a casserole) or if you reheat them until they are steaming hot. Always wash your hands, utensils, and cooking surfaces after handling raw meats, deli meats, etc.

Certain Seafood and Fish

Some large fish harbor high concentrations of mercury, a byproduct of coal-burning plants that interferes with the normal development of a child’s brain and nervous system.

  • Fish to avoid: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel
  • Fish to eat in moderation (up to 12 ounces weekly, according to the FDA):  salmon (farmed and wild), shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish.
  • albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. Limit to 6 ounces a week.
  • Fish caught for sport in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams may also contain industrial pollutants that play havoc with a developing nervous system. Check the safety with your local health departments.

Raw Vegetable Sprouts

The FDA advises pregnant women not to eat raw sprouts — including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.   Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can get into sprout seeds, posing a danger for a weaker immune system. Cooked sprouts are perfectly fine.

Drinks to Limit or Avoid

  • Alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) robs developing cells of oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal fetal development. The effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on intellectual abilities and physical growth are permanent. While some assume the motto “Everything in moderation,” there is no known “safe level” of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • Unpasteurized juices, such as cider from neighborhood farms. These products may contain germs including E. coli.
  • Lead in tap water is linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays in children. If you have an older home with lead pipes, it can leach into your tap water, and home filtration systems may not prevent it from reaching you.
  • Caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy beverages, and other sources may increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and stillbirth, but the research is conflicting. The March of Dimes recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams a day. That’s about the amount found in 12 ounces of coffee.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is an industrial chemical used to make many hard plastics and the liners of many canned foods. It’s an endocrine disruptor that could disturb normal fetal development.

The FDA has not yet recommended that pregnant women avoid BPA, but they did express concern about “the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children.”

If you wish to be safe, a wide range of BPA-free plastics and glass containers are available.

Herbal Teas, Vitamins, & Supplements

There are herbs and other supplements that can be used safely to support a healthy pregnancy, but always talk to your doctor or midwife about any supplement use during pregnancy.  Herbal teas are caffeine-free, but there are definite studies on the safety of herbal preparations during pregnancy.

Duffy MacKay, ND, is the vice president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, suggests the following guidelines during pregnancy:

  • Herbs that contain stimulants or caffeine-containing supplements, especially those that are intended to promote weight loss: guarana, kola nut, betel (Piper betle), Citrum aurantium, yohimbe, theobromine (cocoa extract), Garcinai cambogia.
  • Other botanicals to avoid include golden seal, Cascara sagrada, black walnut, wormwood, tansy, pennyroyal, senna, saw palmetto, pao d’arco.
  • Do not exceed 10,000 or more IU per day of vitamin A because of the risk of birth defects.  MacKay adds that “many newer and specialty nutrients have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy and should be avoided.”

Foods That May Cause Food Allergy

Your baby is more lifely to develop food allergies if you, your child’s father, or one of your other children has allergies.  The American Academy of Pediatrics  says that avoiding certain food allergens (such as peanuts) during pregnancy and nursing may reduce allergy in susceptible children.

If you don’t have any family history of allergies, there is little, if any, benefit to avoiding allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Before changing your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about food allergies.

Excess Calories

Eating for two does not mean that you need twice the calories! Gaining too much weight is not just bad for your health, it may actually increase the risk of your future child being overweight.

It is important to chose healthy foods that will provide good nutrition for you and your developing baby. If you are overweight at conception or if your physical activity level declines, you may not need as many extra calories.

  • First trimester: no need to add extra calories yet.
  • Second trimester: add 340 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
  • Third trimester: add 450 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.

It’s usually not that important to count calories, as long as you are eating a balanced diet and feel energized. If you are unsure about how many calories to consume, ask your doctor or dietitian.

Source: Web MD

feature image: mom logic

What You Can Do to Prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a scary thing for parents of babies to think about. The  name itself points to the reason it’s so frighting–  for some time it’s been a great mystery that no one knew the real answer to. SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age. In the United States, around 3,000 babies die from SIDS each year.  These infants are generally healthy babies, who showed no signs of suffering, abuse, or illness. They seem to just die “peacefully” in their sleep.

What You Can Do to Prevent SIDS

Despite the widespread believe that SIDS is a baffling and unpredictable tragedy, there are ways you can significantly protect your baby. One thing that has been proven is that babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs.  And so the “Back to Sleep” program was born in 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began warning parents of babies under 1 year old never to let their infants sleep on their stomachs. Since then, the rate of SIDS has dropped by over 50%.  In addition to this, Dr. Sears explains that there is a combination of many factors that lead to death: immature development of cardio-respiratory control mechanisms, defective arousability from sleep in response to breathing difficulties, medical conditions that compromise breathing, and unsafe sleeping practices.

The main risk factors for SIDS are:

  • Prematurity or low birth-weight
  • Smoking or taking illegal drugs during pregnancy
  • Smoking around baby after birth
  • Putting baby to sleep on their stomach
  • Infants who are not breastfeeding
  • Having little or no prenatal care
  • Unsafe sleeping environment
  • Overheating from excessive sleepwear and bedding
  • There is no correlation between immunizations and SIDS.

Therefore, parents should follow the AAP recommendations for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Place your baby on a firm mattress to sleep.
  • Do not put your baby to sleep on a pillow, waterbed, sheepskin, couch, chair, or other soft surface.
  • To prevent rebreathing (where the baby inhales the same air he just exhaled), do not put blankets, comforters, stuffed toys, or pillows near the baby.
  • Make sure your baby does not get too warm while sleeping. A good temperature is one where an adult would be comfortable in a short-sleeve shirt. Do not over-bundle or over-swaddle your baby.
  • Do not smoke, drink, or use drugs while pregnant and do not expose your baby to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke doubles a baby’s risk of SIDS, while a mother who smoked during pregnancy triples the risk.
  • Receive early and regular prenatal care.
  • Make sure your baby has well-baby checkups regularly.
  • Breastfeed, if possible. There is some evidence that breastfeeding may help decrease the incidence of SIDS.
  • If your baby has GERD (reflux), be sure to follow your doctor’s guidelines on feeding and sleep positions.
  • Put your baby to sleep with a pacifier during the first year of life. If your baby rejects the pacifier, don’t force it. Pacifiers have been linked with lower risk of SIDS.

Attachment Parenting

Dr. Sears also advocates a style of caretaking called Attachment Parenting. In addition to many benefits for you and your baby, Attachment Parenting greatly reduces the odds of your baby succumbing to SIDS. For more information, read these worthwhile articles:

When Stomach Sleeping is OK

Having said all that, for some babies, it is actually recommended that they sleep on their stomachs.

Premature babies or babies with breathing difficulties are put to sleep on their tummies, since the still partially collapsed lungs of some prematures tend to expand better when front-sleeping.

If an infant has gastroesophageal reflux, it is also recommended that he sleep tummy down, at least for two hours after a feeding.  Some babies sleeping on their tummies also seemed to settle better and spit- up less after feeding.

Listen to Your Baby: If your baby is just not content to sleep on his back, is it OK to put him to sleep on his stomach?  Well, because of the new research it is best to try to get baby accustomed to sleeping on her back or side. Newborn babies tend to get in the habit of sleeping the way they are first put down.  Nevertheless, Dr. Sears says that unless advised to the contrary by your doctor, it is best to let your baby sleep in a position she prefers. This means that if your baby doesn’t settle down, or stay asleep on her back or side, front sleeping is fine.  Newborn babies DO tend to prefer their tummies. “If a baby repeatedly doesn’t settle in a certain sleeping position, this may be a clue that this position may not be the safest for this individual baby. This is just one example of how babies often try to tell us what is in their best interest. Parents should not be afraid to listen.”

Just be sure to follow all the safety precautions listed above, such as placing baby on a firm mattress, not overheating the room, etc.

Another Possible Cause of SIDS

Sleep position may be important, but there is some evidence that SIDS may be related to the fire retardants in the baby’s mattress.  The reason this may be a culprit in SIDS is that an ordinarily harmless fungus (Scopulariopsis brevicaulis) consumes the chemicals used in the plasticized mattress cover. Baby’s drool, vomit, urine, and perspiration, combined with body heat, enable the fungus to grow rapidly.  When this occurs, neurotoxic gases are emitted. If baby breathes a significant amount of these odorless gases for a prolonged time, the central nervous system can shut down, causing death.

Using a mattress pad that is NOT made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) would eliminate this tragedy.  For more information, read Is sleep position really important in SIDS? Also, read about mattress wrapping, which means wrapping baby’s mattress in a polyethylene cover, to prevent your infant from breathing the gases. You can also look into an organic crib mattress, made from all-natural fibers which have not be treated with flame-retarding chemicals.

Feature image from Delio: Organic Bedding for Baby

The War on Drop-Side Cribs

A parent’s worse nightmare might be putting the baby down for a nap, and returning to find him… dead. This happened to the parents of 6-month-old Bobby Cirigliano, in 2004. But we’re not talking about SIDS or crib death… The tragedy of this story involves the side rail on his drop-side crib, which slid off the tracks, trapped his head and neck between the mattress and the malfunctioning side rail, suffocating him.

Surprisingly, there have been at least 32 other infants and toddlers killed by their drop-side cribs since 2000.  These babies were suffocated or strangled in these cribs, which have a side that moves up and down, allowing parents to lift children from the cribs more easily. Drop-sides have been around for decades, but only now are people beginning to question their safety.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission  regulates crib safety, and its chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, has pledged to make fixed-side cribs mandatory. It could take many months before becoming effective.  Big retailers such as Babies R Us and Wal-Mart have removed drop-side cribs from their sale floors. And now Congress is getting involved.

“There’s a great urgency here. We have to make sure that no parent is unaware that drop-side cribs could kill their children,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in an Associated Press interview.  She wants to accelerate efforts for a ban, and plans to introduce legislation this week to outlaw the manufacture, sale and resale of all drop-side cribs. She also wants them banned from day-care centers and hotels, and she wants to educate parents who are using them.

“There still are thousands and thousands of children who are sleeping every night in drop-side cribs and we need to protect them,” said Gillibrand.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which represents over 90 percent of the crib industry, insists that drop-side cribs are safe w hen assembled and used properly.  But more than 7 million of these cribs have been recalled in the past five years, often because screws, safety pegs or plastic tracking for the rail can come loose or break. When the hardware malfunctions, the drop-side rail can detach partially from the crib, creating a space where a baby can get caught and suffocate or strangle.

Some people, such as Z Recommends, question the motives behind the banning of these cribs, saying there may be more to it than meets the eye. Why not issue mandated quality improvements on the design of drop-side cribs (for example: metal instead of plastic hardware, which tends to break), rather than an outright ban?  Fixed-sided cribs, even those with shorter legs (as some suggest would become the norm for cribs) will make it very difficult for tall parents, parents with bad backs, pregnant women, or older parents and caregivers to place their babies in the crib.

As one commenter puts it, “Can we put a man on the moon and not make a safe drop-side crib?”

If you are using a drop-side crib, be sure you have assembled it and are using it properly.  Check to make sure the model hasn’t been recalled. You may want to consider getting a new crib, or at least anchoring the movable side so there’s no danger of it malfunctioning.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

News source: Associated Press

Photo by valentinapowers, shared via Flickr.

Safe Babywearing

A baby sling is often invaluable for busy moms who want to keep their baby close by. Most models leave your hands free to wash dishes, fold laundry, and work at the computer, but keep your baby warm and cozy right on your body. But could that comfy, convenient baby carrier be dangerous for your little angel?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers over the last 20 years, including three deaths last year, according to this report.  Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months of age.

This has got many moms debating the safety of their slings. Most are very happy with their baby carriers, and point out that any baby product needs to be used with care and common sense. But some have expressed concern and say they have experienced some worry when wearing their baby.

According to the CPSC , parents who should be the most careful are those who’s babies are under 4 months, a low birth weight twin, born prematurely, or have a cold. (But please don’t think that it is unsafe to wear a sick or premature baby in a sling. When done correctly, it is actually beneficial for preemies to be kept close to their mother as much as possible. Read more about it here.)

CPSC warns that slings can pose a suffocation hazard in two different ways:

  1. A sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and suffocating a baby within a minute or two.
  2. The other case involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position, nestling the baby below mom’s chest or near her belly. That curved position can cause a baby’s head to flop forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. “The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate,” warned the commission.

Pat Shelly, director of The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington, believes that the safest way to wear your baby is in a carrier that keeps the newborn upright, and solidly against his mother’s body.  “Parents should be instructed to allow the infant to keep his chin off his chest optimizing the airway for breathing.”

Here are some guidelines to using a baby carrier safely:

  • Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines for using your carrier.
  • Make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times while in the sling.
  • If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body.
  • Parents and caregivers should be vigilant about frequently checking their baby in a sling.
Pictures of right and wrong ways for baby postitions in a sling
Here are some more rules of safe babywearing, from Dr. Sears:
  • While you are getting used to wearing your baby, support him with your hands. As you go through the learning phase of moving and reacting, the urge to support your baby with your hands is instinctive. After you become a babywearing veteran, you can safely carry your baby in the sling with one or both hands free.
  • Wear baby cautiously in the kitchen. Do not wear baby while cooking or working with sharp or hot objects.
  • Do not drink hot beverages when wearing baby, although wearing baby while eating is safe.
  • When wearing your baby and stooping over, bend at the knees, not at the waist, and hold baby in the sling with one hand.
  • Toddlers, if worn, are at your reaching level, can grab dangerous or breakable objects off shelves. Keep an arm’s distance away from potential hazards.
  • When going through doorways or around corners, be careful that baby’s body does not stick out past your arm and strike the wall or doorjamb.
  • Do not ride a bicycle or other moving vehicle while wearing your baby. Baby carriers are not substitutes for an approved car seat.
feature image credit

Protecting your Family from Swine Flu

With a 23-month old toddler being the first swine flu-related death in the USA, parents number one concern may be keeping their kids safe and health.  But there is no need to panic, says Dr. Bob Sears, although “people should be aware of what’s going on and how to lower their risk of catching or spreading this unusual strain of the flu.”

Staying Healthy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website is being updated on an almost daily basis, and you can read all sorts of timely and useful information about what it is, where it is, how to prevent it, and how to seek care if you suspect it. The symptoms are the same as the regular flu, and it isn’t clear why there have been more fatalities than expected in the Mexico outbreak.

Here are the CDC’s recommendations on what you can do to stay healthy:

There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
  • Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Are you worried?

I asked a friend of mine who lives in Texas with her husband and 2 sons whether she was worried about the swine flu, particularly as one Texan baby has died of it. I appreciated her answer and her ability to keep things in perspective:
I’m not worried in the least. The media is ridiculous. There are so many types of flu and people are sick every year. I’m sure the numbers are much higher, many people don’t go to the doctor for flu. Terribly sad about that baby 🙁 but kids die every day from RSV and other flus, etc. I’ll worry when and if I have to, but not because a handful of people in this giant state have it.

What to do if you get sick

If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, the CDC advises you to contact your health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Pacifiers: In or Out?

To many mothers, pacifiers seem to be a godsend. The second the baby starts to fuss, pop one in his mouth and you have a quiet, contented baby. But there’s always been something that bothers me about using a pacifier and my kids never did. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but it has to do with the fact that if baby’s fussing, doesn’t that mean that something is wrong? If he’s hungry, tired, dirty, or wants to be held, will popping a pacifier in his mouth really solve the problem? Won’t that give my baby the message that his real needs are being ignored?  Although I have yet to make peace with the pacifier, when I see other babies blissfully sucking away (or better yet, using one to fall asleep on his own!) I wonder why I don’t give pacifiers another chance.

I just read an article at that makes me feel better about my decision not to use pacifiers. Jeannette Crenshaw, MSN, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE, says that the risks versus benefits are not as straightforward as they may initially appear.

Reasons to Pop in a Pacifier

In favor of the pacifier (besides for the obvious quick-comfort factor) is research suggesting that babies who suck on pacifiers don’t sleep as deeply and wake more often than those who don’t. While this might not seem like a desirable situation, these are factors believed to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). For this reason,  the AAP’s SIDS-reduction guidelines include the recommendation that babies be given pacifiers during naps and at bedtime (but not to force it if your baby refuses). If you’re breastfeeding, the AAP suggests waiting until nursing is well established or until your baby is about a month old.

Reasons to Pass on the Pacifier

On the flip side, these same benefits (babies who don’t sleep as deeply and wake more often) can be achieved by breastfeeding your baby.  Pacifiers are linked to higher rates of ear infections, diarrhea, yeast infections and dental problems. In addition, pacifiers can also interfere with successful breastfeeding, which provides protection against the likelihood of your baby getting ear infections, diarrhea, yeast infections, etc.

Feeling like a Human Pacifier?

What happens to me, in absence of a pacifier, is that my babies come to consider me the Human Pacifier. Whenever they get fussy I pop them on the breast and they’re sucking away as blissfully as any pacifier plugged baby (but more so, considering that they get to suck, nurse, and be held by mommy all at the same time!).

It’s true that babies do at times want to suck something just for comfort, so you may be wondering what’s wrong with using one in between feedings. But there are still more good reasons for avoiding pacifiers, says Dr. Sears, especially in the early weeks while baby is learning to latch on and suck at your breast:

  • Pacifiers are artificial nipples. They require a different sucking motion at the breast and can lead to problems with nipple confusion.
  • A baby who is given a pacifier instead of being offered the breast may not nurse enough to gain weight adequately.
  • Without enough stimulation from baby’s sucking, mother’s milk supply may dwindle. Comfort sucking at the end of a feeding helps to build mother’s milk supply.
  • A 1999 study reported in the medical journal Pediatrics showed that mothers who used pacifiers during the first six weeks after birth tended to wean their babies earlier.
  • Prolonged pacifier use can lead to crooked teeth. Between two and three years of age, toddlers can cause their upper front teeth to protrude by sucking intensely on a pacifier, especially at night.

It’s understandable that sometimes Mom’s patience wears thin. Or nipples get sore. Or mom is just not available all the time. But it is OK to be a Human Pacifier. As Dr. Sears points out, you want your baby to learn to seek comfort from people, not plastic. Your baby’s need to suck for comfort will diminish with time. Meanwhile, enjoy cuddling with your baby at your breast.

Having said all that, pacifiers are far from the worst thing you can give your baby. The decision to use a pacifier — or not — is up to you. Let go of any guilt or pressure, and try to figure out what works best in your situation. If you have a baby who really seems to need one, then “use it, don’t abuse it, and quickly try to lose it!” Follow DR. BILL’S BINKY ADVICE on how to use the pacifier properly.

  • Select a one-piece model that will not break into two pieces, allowing baby to choke on the bulb. Also, be sure it is dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
  • Be sure the base of the pacifier has ventilation holes. Avoid large circular shields that may obstruct baby’s nasal passages when baby draws in the pacifier during intense sucking.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Choose a smaller, shorter, newborn-sized pacifier for the early months.
  • Pacifiers come in a variety of nipple shapes. Some are symmetrically round, like a bottle nipple. Others are preshaped, supposedly to duplicate the elongated, flattened breast nipple during sucking. Preshaped nipples, however, may not always fit baby’s mouth, especially if the pacifier turns during sucking or is inserted upside down. Some pacifier manufacturers claim orthodontic benefits, but these are questionable. Try various shapes and let baby’s discerning mouth decide.
  • Avoid attaching the pacifier to a string or ribbon around baby’s neck or pinning the pacifier string onto baby’s clothing. This is a setup for strangulation. it is better to keep one hand on baby and the other hand on the pacifier. Or use a pacifier clip with a ribbon that is too short to pass around baby’s neck (Like this elegant  personalize pacifier clip!)
  • Avoid making your own pacifier out of a cotton-stuffed bottle nipple. Baby may suck the cotton through the hole.
  • Resist the temptation to sweeten the offering by dipping the pacifier in honey or syrup. If baby does not yet have teeth, he is too young for honey or syrup. If he has teeth, he is too old for the decay-producing sweets – and probably the pacifier, too. If he has to be enticed to suck by sweetening, he would probably benefit from some other form of comforting – having a change of scenery, going out in the fresh air, playing, cuddling with you, rocking to sleep, and being held more.

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What’s your pacifier preference? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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