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Let's Talk Babies!

infant

Babywearing is defined as the practice of wearing or carrying your baby around in a sling or other form of carrier.  For many in the western world babywearing may be a newer concept since for many decades our culture got away from babywearing.  However, in many cultures around the world babywearing is the norm and has been practiced for centuries.  It is on the rise in western cultures again, and is becoming more and more common.

Are you a babywearer?

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I would consider myself a babywearer.  I used a baby carrier or a sling to carry Maya around almost everywhere when she was little and I still sometimes use a sling to carry her.  Although she is getting a bit heavy for it now :)  When she was very tiny I would use my Bjorn infant carry to wear her around while I did most of my chores around the house and anytime I went shopping.  When she was fussy it was the best way to calm her down.  I would just put her in the carrier and walk, either around the house doing odd little chores or we’d walk outside if the weather was nice.  After a while I purchased a sling and she loved it.  She would ask to go in the sling when we went for walks instead of using her stroller.

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I found that having the close contact with her, especially when we were first working on establishing a good breastfeeding routine, was immensely beneficial.  And I discovered very early on that being close to me and being with me while I went about my daily routine was very calming to Maya and she would often stop fussing or crying the minute I plopped her in the carrier.  There is something very calming to both mother and child when you carry your baby close to your body like that.

There are so many options when it comes to choosing a baby carrier.  Everything from wraps, to slings, to front carriers, to hip carriers, to carriers that convert from front to hip to back as the baby grows.  Choosing the right one for you can be challenging.  I used the Bjorn front carrier and a sling with Maya.  With my next child I will likely do the same, although I’m thinking I’ll spring for an Ergo carrier instead of the Bjorn next time since it seems to be more practical and useful as the baby grows.  You may find that you have to try out a couple of options before you find the one that works best for you.   There are many sites out there that can help you in your search for the right carrier for you, my favorite is, TheBabyWearer.com.  They have a ton of information whether you are new to babywearing or an old hat at it.

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I think babywearing should be encouraged, especially in the early months when you are establishing breastfeeding and getting to know each other. Babywearing can be especially handy if you have an infant who is colicky, or just one of those babies who fusses if he or she isn’t being held by someone.  Getting things done around the house, going shopping, going out to eat are all so much easier when you use a carrier, sling or a wrap.  Babywearing just feels natural and calming.  And if you have our hands full with other things is a great way to still get that bonding time with your baby.

Nipple confusion, in basic terms, is when your baby forgets how to nurse or how to draw milk from a breast nipple.  It is caused when a baby is introduced too early to artificial nipples like pacifiers or bottle nipples.  Since artificial nipples are easier to use and require much less effort on the baby’s part to get the milk out the baby may become confused when then placed on the breast and be unable to draw milk out.

Babies are born with a natural ability to suck.   However, the type of sucking necessary to draw milk from an artificial nipple is different than the sucking technique for drawing milk out of a breast nipple.  A breast nipple is soft and requires the baby to open very wide and then engage many muscles in order to suckle properly and draw out the milk.  When nursing a baby uses 40 different facial muscles!  An artificial nipple is firmer and pre-formed and can be coaxed into the baby’s mouth without much effort on the part of the baby, the suckle required to draw milk out of a bottle nipple is very minimal.

When nipple confusion occurs you may notice the baby refuses to latch and if he or she does latch they get very frustrated and upset almost immediately.  This is caused by the fact the baby has forgotten how to draw milk from the breast nipple and is getting frustrated because he or she can’t get anything to come out.  You can imagine why the poor little thing is screaming so hard, all he wants to do is fill his hungry tummy with yummy milk but he can’t get anything to come out.

If you suspect your baby is suffering from nipple confusion you have your work cut out for you but you can get past this breastfeeding challenge and continue down the road of successful breastfeeding.   Just remember to be patient and avoid getting too frustrated.

  • Offer the breast at every feeding.
  • Begin to nurse your baby before he or she shows signs of being overly hungry or before he or she becomes fussy.
  • Avoid offering your baby artificial nipples until the nipple confusion has resolved, if possible.
  • Consider changing your nursing position to something more relaxing and comfortable for both you and the baby.
  • Contact a lactation consultant for some assistance.  They may be able to give you some advice over the phone, or better yet meet up with you and help you figure this out.
  • If you baby appears to be losing weight or shows other signs of not getting enough to eat like too few wet or soiled diapers than contact your child’s pediatrician.

Nipple confusion can lead to other problems as well such as engorgement, clogged milk ducts, an extended nursing strike, sore nipples (from improper latch) and possibly loss of weight by the baby if he or she is not getting enough to eat so it is important to back on track quickly.  Many moms who have babies who develop nipple confusion often give up on breastfeeding.  But, you can get past this challenge with a little effort, patience and persistence.

The best way to avoid nipple confusion to begin with is to put off introducing artificial nipples to your infant until breastfeeding is well established.  Once you and your baby have the hang of breastfeeding and are in a good routine nipple confusion is much less likely.

Infant mortality is a difficult subject to talk about.  No one wants to think about the bad things that can happen.  It is often easier to sugar coat the statistics and pretend like it is something that only happens to other people.  However, in order to combat problems like preterm births and stillbirths we have to talk about them.  We have give those tiny babies and their families a voice so that hopefully one day it won’t happen at all.

Globally, 13 million babies are born premature and approximately 3.2 million stillbirths occur.  Preterm birth accounts for approximately 1 million infant deaths yearly and is the leading cause of infant death worldwide.   Though preterm births and stillbirths are more common in low and middle income countries they are growing problems in higher income countries, like the United States.  In the US approximately 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely and the health care costs associated with preterm births accounts for more than $26 billion annually making it the 7th leading healthcare expense in this country.

The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirths (GAPPS) recently funded a study conducted by maternal and child healthcare experts from around the world that looked at the causes of both premature and stillbirths and the possible interventions that could be used to help combat preterm and stillbirths globally.  The study found that not enough is known, globally, about what causes most preterm and stillbirths and calls for action, particularly in the area of research.  The more people know the greater the chances of preventing both stillbirths and preterm births will be.

However, researchers lack access to quality tissue samples in order to conduct the research necessary to determine the most common causes of preterm and stillbirths and ultimately what measures can be taken to help prevent them.  As a result, GAPPS is partnering with hospitals, research labs, universities both here in the United States and around the world to establish a tissue repository.  The hope is collect a large cross sample of specimens from pregnant women and newborns from around the world so researchers have access to the date they need.

Infant death is a tragic and heartbreaking issue that we need to talk about, think about and address.   The more we know the better off our children will be.  I hope one day we know enough to prevent these tragedies from occurring so every pregnant woman will know the joy of holding her healthy infant in her arms and every baby gets the best start at life.

The US government announced a new national campaign today called Text4Baby that will use cellphones and text messaging as a means to get healthy mother, healthy baby tips out to millions of expectant mothers all over the country.  The campaign is being sponsored by several organizations and companies including the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, Voxiva, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Wellpoint and Blue Cross Blue Shield; and wireless carriers have agreed to waive all charges associated with receiving these text messages.

The goal of the campaign is to reach as many expectant mothers as possible and to use these periodic “healthy pregnancy” text messages to keep women informed about the things they should and shouldn’t be doing during pregnancy in order to help keep themselves and their babies healthy.  The hope is that through these text messages women will be encouraged to eat healthier, exercises more and seek proper prenatal care, as well as provide encouragement and support to quit bad habits like smoking and drinking during pregnancy.  A woman who has a healthy pregnancy and partakes in a healthy lifestyle during her pregnancy is much less likely to give birth prematurely and is more likely to have a healthy baby.

In the United States over half a million babies are born prematurely every year and every year almost 30, 000 babies die before their first birthday.  Sadly, the United States ranks 30th worldwide in infant mortality, falling behind many other developed nations.  The hope is that programs like Text4Baby will help women, especially low income women and those without health insurance, get the information they need to keep themselves and their babies healthy during pregnancy which will hopefully translate into fewer premature births and a fewer infant deaths.

The program is completely free to sign up for, and as stated above most cell phone carriers are waiving the fees associated with receiving these text messages.  Visit Text4Baby.org to learn more about the program and sign up.

baby cryingI get a lot of comments on my post, Baby Poop, What’s Normal from parents concerned about their baby‘s bowel movements.  Many are concerned that their infant may be constipated.  Constipation in infants, especially very young infants can be very nerve-wracking for parents.  Parents often have an expectation of what their baby “should” be doing in the poop department based on what others have told them, what they have read, etc.  However, the most important thing that a parent can do is remember that no two babies are the same.  Some babies will go every day, many times a day while others may go several days between bowel movements, both are perfectly normal.  Your baby will set his or her own schedule and once you know what that schedule is you’ll be better able to determine when something isn’t right, such as constipation.

Your baby may be constipated if he or she is having large, very hard bowel movements and seems to be struggling painfully to pass his or her stool.  If you believe your child is constipated you will want to take steps to help relieve that constipation.  For babies who are old enough to eat jarred baby food or drink juice it will be a lot easier to help them relieve the constipation, for those too young for baby food and juice you’ll need to enlist the help of your pediatrician.

For very young babies contact your child’s pediatrician to see what he or she recommends, they may recommend fruit juice to see if that gets things moving or they may prescribe a laxative or stool softener.  Your child’s doctor may want you to bring the baby in for a quick exam before determining the best course of action.

Once your baby is old enough to eat  jarred baby foods and can drink fruit juice try giving him or her pureed prunes or prune juice to see if that helps get things moving a long.  You could also try pears as they are high in fiber and can help with constipation as well.  If your baby is eating cereal try switching to oatmeal or barley cereal instead of rice cereal as rice cereal can cause constipation.

If your child, no matter how old, continues to be constipated for several days or has a lot of discomfort while trying to take a bowel movement then contact their pediatrician to see what you should do next, ie stool softener, etc.

I’ve been lucky, my daughter has been pretty regular with her bowel movements from the beginning.  However, every now and then she’ll get a little bound up and I always find that prunes or prune juice does the trick for her, and it tends to work quickly.

It can be scary when your baby is so tiny and you just can’t figure out what is bothering them or how to help them.  If you are at all worried call your child’s pediatrician, they don’t mind, that’s what they are there for.