Sensory difficulties in children

11
Jun
Posted by Barbara

Itchy shirt. Icky foods. Hair brushing is a nightmare. Shoes won’t stay on. Sounds make him cringe.
child dislikes food

Picky child or sensory dysfunction?

Our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight help us navigate so much of our world. But for some children (and even adults), their senses are especially heightened and can interfere with daily life in a negative way.

•    Taste and smell
Parents often complain that their child can’t tolerate the taste or smell of many foods. Feeding their child becomes a nightmare. When my daughter was little, she would only eat approximately 10 foods (if that). She did not like the taste or smell of most foods and could not stay in the same room when I was cooking broccoli or another offending food.  She preferred sweets to salty treats, and a vegetable would not pass her lips (she would rather die fighting!).  Even if cajoled or bribed (yes – I bribed her) to eat a new food, she would often gag on it because the taste, smell or texture was too awful for her. As she grew up she would relate that she wanted to eat more foods, and was not happy that she had such a limited range of foods she found acceptable to eat. But, alas, it was not something she could control.

•    Sound
child coveringn earsAnother common sensory complaint is that of a hearing sensitivity. Certain sounds or noises are painful to hear. I am not talking about a rock concert or music being cranked on the highest volume. The bothersome sounds could be the barking of a dog, the crinkling of tin foil, the din of the voices in a cafeteria, the sound of a blender, hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. Typical sounds are abnormally loud to a child with a sound sensitivity and may cause him to cover his ears (at best) or disengage socially (at worst).

•    Touch
Other children are extra sensitive to touch. For example, they hate the feeling of certain clothes against their skin. They dislike getting dressed or undressed, and may have a vast wardrobe but will only wear three outfits! Clothes that are scratchy, have tags or are not soft enough for their skin will be tossed aside.  They may resist going into a bath (or getting out of the bath) due to the uncomfortable sensory changes on their skin. Similarly, applying sunscreen becomes a feat in and of itself.

•    Sight
Lastly, some children are extra sensitive visually. For example, bright lights, flashing lights and the change from indoor light to sunlight can make them close their eyes or head in the opposite direction.

Any one of the above sensory issues can wreak havoc on your child’s life – and yours. Some children have difficulties with more than one sense, too. There is debate as to whether sensory dysfunction is a diagnosis in and of itself, or if it is a symptom of a larger diagnosis (such as ADHD, autism, or another disorder). The important thing to remember is that for whatever reason, and whatever you want to call it, these sensory issues are real challenges in your child’s life.

In many cases, these sensitivities may be reduced through occupational therapy (read this post on OT) and through other kinds of treatments. If your child is extra sensitive, speak with his pediatrician and ask if OT or another kind of treatment may be helpful.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on treatment options and helpful hints for the above sensory issues.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Breastfeeding myths debunked

09
Jun
Posted by Lauren

woman breastfeedingWhether you are currently breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed in the future, there are many myths that could lead you toward or away from breastfeeding.

1. Breastfeeding will ruin my breasts.

False: breastfeeding does not affect the shape of your breasts. Your breasts may become engorged while breastfeeding, but your breasts will return to their usual shape once you have weaned feedings. Aging and gravity are the culprits of changing breast shape!

2. Breastfeeding will make my nipples sore.

True and False: Breastfeeding may make your nipples sore, but there are things you can do to prevent or solve the soreness. Sore nipples may happen when the baby is not latched on properly. You can seek help and support from a lactation counselor or support group.

3. Breastfeeding may help you lose your baby weight.

True! Breastfeeding burns extra calories (up to 500 a day), helping you return to your pre-pregnancy weight in a gradual and healthy way.  Remember pregnancy weight was not gained overnight so it will not disappear quickly. It is important to maintain a healthy diet and to wait until you feel ready and for your health care provider’s OK to purposely lose weight.

4. You must drink milk to make milk.

False: You do not need to drink milk to make milk. However it is important for you to maintain a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and water. These are the only nutrients you need to produce milk. If you are concerned about getting enough calcium, you can drink milk or eat non-dairy foods that contain calcium such as dark green vegetables or nuts.

5. My milk isn’t good enough.

False: Breast is still best. Breast milk composition changes within the feeding, within the day and over the course of lactation, but breast milk has higher amounts of nutrients than other foods or supplements, including formula. Your breast milk can help protect your baby from things like diarrhea and infections, and help brain development.

These are the first 5 myths debunked. Stay tuned next week for more.

Did you have an assumption about breastfeeding that was false? Or did someone give you advice that helped? We’d love to hear from you.

Sunscreen safety for pregnant women

06
Jun
Posted by Lauren

mom and child in sunSummer is here! Sunscreen is important whenever you are outside, especially if you are pregnant. During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.

There are two types of rays that can cause skin damage. These are ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation (UVA and UVB). Both of these can cause premature aging and skin cancer however UVB rays are what cause sunburn. It is important to choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. But, choosing the right sunscreen to slather on can be confusing.

Here are tips on choosing the right sunscreen for you:

•    Avoid retinyl palmitate This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with a risk of birth defects.
•    Choose sunscreen with a sun protected factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
•    Only use products that have UVA and UVB protection – also called Broad Spectrum protection
•    Use a water resistant sunscreen if you intend to go swimming
•    Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating (even if you use water resistant sunscreen).
•    Limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun rays are most intense.

Combination products

To fend off those pesky mosquitoes, there are also combination sunscreen products that include bug spray. These can be  great two-for-one products, but combination sunscreens may be more hazardous that you thought. A combination product has the possibility of toxic exposure, due to overdosing on the bug repellant. It’s safe to apply the combination lotion first, but when it’s time to reapply, skip the combination and just use sunscreen.

Read our post for specific tips on how to keep your baby safe in the sun.

Have fun outside this summer, but wear your hat, sunglasses, stay well hydrated and remember your sunscreen!

Preemies- adjusted age and delays

04
Jun
Posted by Barbara

toddler with pig tailsAll babies develop at their own rate. But there is a special way to determine if premature babies are developing as they should.

Babies who are born prematurely have two ages: chronological and adjusted.  Chronological age is the age of your baby from the day of his birth—the number of days, weeks or years old that your baby has been in the outside world.  Adjusted age is the developmental age of your baby based on his due date (when he would have been born).

To calculate adjusted age, take your premature baby’s chronological age and subtract the number of weeks your baby was premature.  For example, a baby who has a chronological age of 10 weeks but was born 4 weeks early has an adjusted age of 6 weeks. (10 – 4 = 6)

Why is this important?

Since so much of a baby’s growth and development takes place during pregnancy, babies who are born prematurely miss out on valuable developmental time. As a result, they may lag behind other babies who share their actual birthday. Health care providers may use your baby’s adjusted age when they evaluate your baby’s growth and development.

An infant who is 12 months old but was born 2 months early (and consequently has an adjusted age of 10 months) should not be compared to other 12 month old babies. Instead, he should be compared to other 10 month old babies. Then, his growth and development will seem more in line with typical developmental milestones.

Measuring delays

As your child grows, it may become awkward to constantly have two ages. Hopefully, as time passes, he will begin catching up to his chronologically same-aged peers. Some preemies catch up completely; others have delays or developmental issues that last for years. No two children are exactly alike. But, if you understand that your preemie should be evaluated based on his adjusted age (especially in the early months/years of his life), then it becomes easier to determine if he is delayed and if he is making timely progress.

You can learn more about developmental milestones in preemies by watching our video.

Get help early

If your child is not meeting his developmental milestones or is at risk of having a delay, specialists may be needed to help optimize your baby’s progress. Just as a person may need physical therapy to improve movement after an injury, a toddler who was born prematurely may need physical therapy to help him learn to move or walk. Many preemies have vision or hearing problems which may cause speech difficulties; the help of a speech therapist can make all the difference in helping him learn to talk. Likewise, through the help of an occupational therapist your child may overcome many challenges associated with the different aspects of daily life – from feeding and sitting in a chair to socializing.

Fortunately, in the United States, the Early Intervention program is there to help babies and toddlers who are experiencing developmental delays. Read this blog series to learn how to access this system and help your child get off on the right foot. If you suspect that your child is struggling or is delayed, it is best to get help as soon as possible – don’t delay with delays.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

 

How preeclampsia affects your baby

02
Jun
Posted by Sara

preemieLast week we reviewed the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Today we’ll talk about how preeclampsia can affect your baby.

If you have preeclampsia, your health care provider can help you manage most health complications through regular prenatal care.

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how severe your preeclampsia is and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Treatment for mild preeclampsia may include seeing your prenatal care provider more frequently for tests to make sure you and your baby are doing well. You may be able to stay at home and just be monitored.

More severe preeclampsia may require you to be admitted to the hospital or for you to be induced before your due date.

The high blood pressure that is a part of preeclampsia can narrow blood vessels in the uterus (womb) and placenta. The placenta supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If the blood vessels in the placenta are narrow, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly. This can lead to a low birthweight baby, a baby who weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.

In many cases the only treatment for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. This may result in your baby being born prematurely, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Although the thought of having a premature baby can be frightening, it is important to remember that most babies of moms with severe preeclampsia before 34 weeks of pregnancy do better in a NICU than if they stay in the uterus.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer than babies born full-term. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some babies may have complications that can affect them their whole lives. But thanks to advances in medical care, even babies born very prematurely are more likely to survive today than ever before.

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia

30
May
Posted by Sara

blood pressurePreeclampsia is a condition that happens only during pregnancy (after the 20th week) or right after pregnancy. It’s when a pregnant woman has both high blood pressure and protein in her urine.

It really is very important that all pregnant women are familiar with the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause kidney, liver and brain damage in the mother. It also may affect how the blood clots and cause serious bleeding problems.

And even today, in rare cases, preeclampsia can become a life-threatening condition called eclampsia. Eclampsia is when a pregnant woman has seizures following preeclampsia. Eclampsia sometimes can lead to coma and even death.

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia may include:
• Severe headaches
• Vision problems, like blurriness, flashing lights, or being sensitive to light
• Pain in the upper right belly area
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness
• Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
• Swelling in the legs, hands, and face

Some women may not have any signs or they may confuse them with the normal discomforts of pregnancy. That is why it is so important to see your health care provider regularly and keep all of your prenatal care appointments. Your provider measures your blood pressure and checks your urine for protein at every visit. Because you can have mild preeclampsia without symptoms, it’s important to go to all of your prenatal care visits. And if you have severe headaches, blurred vision or severe upper belly pain, call your health care provider right away.

We don’t know what causes preeclampsia. But you may be more likely than other women to have preeclampsia if:
• It’s your first pregnancy.
• You had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy.
• You have a family history of preeclampsia. This means that other people in your family have had preeclampsia.
• You have high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, certain blood-clotting disorders, lupus or other autoimmune disorders.
• You’re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more).
• You’re older than 35.
• You’re African-American.
• You’re overweight or obese (If you’re obese, your BMI is 30.0 or higher before pregnancy)

If you’re overweight or obese, getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help lower your chances of having preeclampsia.

The only cure for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. But it can be treated. Treatment depends on how severe your preeclampsia is and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

There is no way to prevent preeclampsia. But being aware of the signs and symptoms and making sure that you see your prenatal care provider regularly can help to detect it early. Next week, we’ll review what can happen to your baby if you have preeclampsia.

Reminder – Tweet chat today on Preeclampsia

29
May
Posted by Barbara

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Many women have never heard of preeclampsia or know how it can affect a pregnant woman and her baby. Tune in later to chat with us and our guest, the Preeclampsia Foundation. Join us and learn more about this dangerous condition and some of its warning signs.  Learn how it can affect your baby. If you have battled with preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome, share your experience, tell us what helped you get through it, and what advice you have for other pregnant women.

Join us on Twitter later today at 1 – 2 pm EST.  Be sure to use #PreAM14 to participate and see the full conversation.

The power of one M&M’s® candy

28
May
Posted by Barbara

potty trainingTrying to sculpt or change your child’s behavior is easier said than done. But here is a story of how one M&M’s candy changed everything.

Years ago, when my children were very young, I attended a “mommy and baby” parenting class. While the children played, the parents discussed child development issues under the guidance of an early childhood development specialist. Potty training was always a hot topic. Potty training has its challenges – first day-time training, and then night-time training. One mom (let’s call her Lynn), told the story of how she was able to successfully potty train her child at night. Lynn had been successful with getting her son to use the potty during the day, but he refused to get up at night if he needed to use the toilet, and instead he wet the bed.

Her son loved M&M’s, and Lynn often used them (in tiny doses) to reinforce desired behavior. However, she was at a loss as to how to reinforce positive behavior (going to the potty) at night.

Her solution was to place one M&M’s candy on a paper plate, which she then placed on top of the closed toilet seat cover. She showed her son the M&M on the plate before bedtime, and told him if he gets up to use the potty during the night, he could eat the M&M as his reward. The thought of eating an M&M in the middle of the night was simply too appealing to her little son, and much to everyone’s shock, he got up to use the potty. This little guy absolutely loved the idea of knowing an M&M was waiting for him. He got up to use the potty just to be able to get that tiny candy coated chocolate. Such was the power of one M&M.

At first, each time he got up and used the potty at night, he ran into his parents’ bedroom and announced his achievement. But, soon, he would simply get up and use the potty, eat his M&M and head back to his bed.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by Lynn’s story. As I was going through the trials and tribulations of potty training my daughter, I decided to try it. I did exactly what Lynn had done, and my daughter reacted the exact same way as her son, including waking me up to tell me the news of her success. Soon I added another layer to get her to head back to sleep on her own:  I placed one M&M by her bedside to be eaten if she went back to bed without waking Mommy or Daddy. That ploy worked, too.

I have to say, after about 3 weeks of this training, I used to get up in the morning and peek into the bathroom to see if the paper plate was empty or not. I did the happy dance every time I saw that the plate was missing the M&M.  The sense of pride and accomplishment in my child also made me do the happy dance. But, most of all, I could not believe the power of that one M&M. Can you? How could such a tiny bit of positive reinforcement have such an effect?!

Behavior specialists tout the benefits of positive reinforcement as a means of shaping behavior. People love rewards and praise – it is human nature. But as this story proves, the reward does not have to be huge or expensive – often the tiniest rewards have the biggest impact. The key is having the reward be meaningful to the child.

Do you have a story to share of how you shaped your child’s behavior through positive reinforcement? We’d love to hear it.

 

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Twitter chat on preeclampsia- how it affects you and your baby

28
May
Posted by Barbara

texting2Ever wonder why your provider takes your blood pressure and has you pee in a cup at every prenatal visit?  Ever heard of preeclampsia? It is a serious complication of pregnancy that can affect you and your baby. If you are worried about it or have had it, join us tomorrow for our pregnancy chat on Preeclampsia.  We are glad to partner with the Preeclampsia Foundation.

It’s on Twitter tomorrow, May 29th at 1pm ET.  Just follow # PreAM14. Jump into the conversation at any time to ask questions or tell us your experience. We hope to see you then!

Memorial Day weekend food safety

23
May
Posted by Sara

Grill2Memorial Day weekend is here and it is the unofficial start of summer–hooray! This weekend many of us will be going to cook-outs. Although these can be lots of fun, if you are pregnant, it is very important to make sure that you take the appropriate precautions.

Keep these safety tips in mind when preparing foods that are frequently associated with food-borne illness:

• CLEAN: Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. And wash fresh fruits and vegetables carefully.

• SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate!  When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

• COOK: Cook to proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles. Internal temperatures should be 145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

• CHILL: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. So, refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken need to be cooked thoroughly. And make sure that any pasta or potato salads, especially those with mayonnaise, are kept cold and out of the sun. During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, keep it hot (at 140˚F or above). After meals are over, refrigerate leftovers quickly and don’t keep them out for too long (within 1 hour during the summer).

Remember that although food poisoning is miserable for anyone, it poses special risks to pregnant women and their unborn babies because pregnancy affects your immune system. Your immune system is your body’s way of protecting itself from illnesses and diseases. But when you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Your body knows that pregnancy is OK and that it shouldn’t reject your baby. So, your body naturally lowers the immune system’s ability to protect you and respond to illnesses so that it can welcome your growing baby. A lowered immune system means you’re more susceptible to illnesses, including those bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Enjoy your Memorial Day but just make sure you take the appropriate precautions at all of those backyard cookouts so that you have a fun and safe weekend. And of course, we want to say thank you to all the many men and women and their families who have given so much to keep our country safe and secure. It is important for us to recognize their dedication and sacrifice Memorial Day and everyday.