Healthy Ideas for the Care Your New Baby

Love Sleep Play delivers ideas and articles for the care and health of you and your new baby

Cord Blood Questions

If you’ve been following pregnancy news lately, you probably know that there are discussions surrounding cord blood and its use for new babies. To keep you updated, and help you figure out if storing your own new baby’s cord blood is right for your family, here are some answers to your most pressing questions.

What exactly is cord blood?
Simply put, cord blood is the actual blood that’s stored in your new baby’s umbilical cord and placenta when you give birth. In most cases, the blood is disposed of and not used for any medical purposes.

Why is everyone talking about cord blood?
New information has recently surfaced about the potentially life-saving stem cells that can be extracted from cord blood. These stem cells have been used to help treat diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia.

Who saves and stores cord blood?
Cord blood is either saved privately, for potential personal use within families, or publicly, where it’s donated for others to use. When parents decide to save and store their new baby’s cord blood, it’s collected quickly and safely by their health care provider. If the blood is meant for public use, there is usually no cost to the donor. Private cord blood banks -- which reserve the blood for use by the new baby or family members -- tend to be quite costly, however, with donors paying for all costs related to collection, transport, testing, and storage. Generally, health insurance does not cover the cost of the storage.

Deciding whether or not to store your new baby’s cord blood is a personal decision you’ll need to make with your family. Most experts don’t recommend private cord blood storage, as the chance a family member needing a transplant is slim and the public cord blood pool is always available to dip into. But if you have any questions, talk to your doctor about what is right for your family.

Lessen Your Labor Pain

Unfortunately, no one, not even someone who's given birth before, can tell you exactly what to expect on the big day. That's because every expectant mom’s labor and delivery experience is different. Fortunately, there are basic things you can do beforehand to strengthen both your body and your resolve, and during labor to help keep you as comfortable as possible while waiting for your new baby’s big entrance. Try these nine strategies.

For Pregnancy

New mom tip #1: Learn about labor. Find out everything you can about labor from books, magazines, Web sites, videos, classes, and hospital tours. Familiarizing yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center will mean fewer surprises.

New mom tip #2: Take childbirth classes. In these classes, you will learn different ways to deal with pain during labor such as walking, changing positions, taking showers or warm baths, and using breathing exercises, hypnosis, relaxation, and massage.

New mom tip #3: Express your fears. Are you worried about labor, needles, or medication? Speak with a knowledgeable childbirth educator or your doctor. Voicing your worries can bring relief as well as practical solutions to your concerns.

New mom tip #4: Keep up with your normal exercise routine. The more you move during pregnancy, the better prepared your body will be for labor, delivery, and recovery. Exercise helps reduce backaches, constipation, swelling, and other unpleasant side effects.

For Labor

New mom tip #5: Create a sense of calm. Make your environment in the hospital or birth center as soothing and familiar as possible. Play some soft music and put some framed pictures of your partner next to your bed. You may also want to bring a pillow from home (if the facility allows it).

New mom tip #6: Get a massage. Having someone rub your back will warm your skin and stimulate the body to release its own natural painkiller.

New mom tip #7: Use a warm compress. Applying warmth is a tried-and-tested way of relaxing aching, tense muscles. Have someone in the hospital room keep a compress handy to warm your back, tummy, or groin.

New mom tip #8: Practice deep breathing. Focusing on your breathing is a very helpful way to get through each contraction. Taking a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction and then slowly releasing it will conserve your energy and help ease the pain.

New mom tip #9: Change position. Try not to lie on your back once you’re in active labor unless you’re exhausted. Instead, walk around or stay in an upright position. As labor progresses, lying on your side can provide rest and may help slow a delivery that is happening too quickly.

These tips will certainly prepare you for your baby’s big debut, but if you feel you need more help managing the pain, speak up or have your partner convey your needs. And remember, this pain will be a distant memory once you have your beautiful new baby in your arms.

Understanding Ultrasounds

Most new moms-to-be can’t wait for the moment they first see their baby on an ultrasound screen. It’s likely you’ll leave your doctor’s appointment eager to discuss the fingers and toes you spotted on the screen or what position your baby was in with friends, family, and anyone who will listen. But before you go in for your first ultrasound, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Ultrasound basics

During an exam, your health care provider or an ultrasound technician (also called a sonographer) moves a transducer -- a device that produces high frequency sound waves -- across your stomach to see inside your abdomen. This produces an image of the fetus, called a sonogram. The image can be saved, printed, and taken home as a memento of your new baby. Ultrasound techology is a safe way for health care providers to monitor the health and safety of your baby and can help determine the due date along with information such as your fetus’s age, gender, expected weight, and potential birth defects.

Safety first

You can feel confident going to your ultrasound exam knowing that the procedure is considered very safe. However, because the long-term effects of multiple ultrasounds aren’t fully known, it’s not recommended that you get an ultrasound for nonmedical reasons. For this reason, steer clear of places that give 3-D ultrasounds, which offer keepsake images but provide no medical benefit.

When to go

Ultrasounds can be performed any time during a pregnancy. However, it’s common to have one in the first trimester to determine your due date, and then another in the second trimester (between 18 and 20 weeks) to get a better look at your developing baby and determine the sex of your child. If your doctor wants to carefully monitor your pregnancy for any reason, you may need to come in for more ultrasounds during the third trimester. Finally, towards the end of your pregnancy, your health care provider may also do an ultrasound to determine the position of your baby.

What to expect

In order to get a good picture, it’s important to have a full bladder, so your doctor may ask you to drink a few glasses of water before coming in for your appointment. Otherwise, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for your ultrasound -- aside from getting excited to see your new baby!

If you have any questions about the ultrasound process or your baby's development, just ask. And enjoy poring over those incredible pictures of your new baby!

Your Preemie: Preparing for Discharge

Having a baby in the NICU is a challenging time where hopes and fears can change daily. When your baby is born prematurely, the neonatologist will be looking to make sure that heart function, lung function, weight gain and ability to maintain body temperature are all stable before discharging your preemie. The length of time that can take will vary widely, according to how early your baby was born.

You’re still dealing with all the things that parents of babies born at term have to handle, such as choosing a pediatrician and installing a car seat. On top of that, your preemie has special needs. You surely wish you could take him home right away, but your premature baby requires more medical attention that you may have anticipated. Take heart -- there are things that can help parents of preemies along the journey to taking your baby home.

Recovery: A silver lining is we can use the time our baby is in the NICU to recover from the birth: to rest and be well nourished. Travel back and forth can be tough, but it’s critical to realize you will not serve your premature baby well by neglecting yourself. Just as the NICU is extending baby’s gestation phase, a new parent needs to take care of themselves to be ready for when your preemie comes home.

Educate: Take an infant CPR class before your preemie is discharged. If your baby is being discharged with a heart or apnea monitor, you will have to attend training on how to use these monitors before you take your baby home. If you plan to breastfeed, find an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant who can work with you to maintain breastfeeding and weight gain once you're home.

If there are older siblings, explain that things will need to be calm for the baby at first, and establish strict hand washing protocols to prevent illness. Your hospital may also have a transitional stay room, where parents can practice taking care of baby for a day or two before coming home.

Support: Line up your support system, both physically and emotionally. First time mothers -- especially of preemies -- can feel very isolated. There are many online forums and support groups to connect with other moms going through this same experience. With babies, and especially with multiples, an extra pair of hands helps. As our job will be to care for the baby, help with shopping, cooking, and laundry becomes very valuable. Enlist friends and family so that you have more room to focus on the baby.

Time and Transport: Preemies can usually only travel an hour at a time. In urban environments or hospitals far away, anticipate a rest stop on the way home. Once your baby is home, you will not have time to waste on finding papers or scheduling time off. Establish a baby medical file -- log doctor and insurance company phone calls. Extend, space (e.g. use one week to take every Wednesday for five weeks) or delay maternity or paternity leave to map out which parent is with the baby and when, and pull in relatives or childcare where necessary.

Coming home from the NICU can be filled with relief but also trepidation. While it is natural to be nervous about being up to the task of taking care of such a fragile baby, obstetrician Dr. George Mussali puts it beautifully: “The fact is that a preemie parent matures faster as a parent due to the adversity they faced at the beginning.”