Saturday, November 7, 2009

US Infant Mortality Rate: What Can We Do?

This week, the CDC reported that the US ranks 29th in infant mortality--a drop from previous years. Higher infant mortality rates provides good food for thought about what we can do better in this country to take care of moms and babies.

The Five Leading Causes of Infant Death are:

1. Birth defects
2. Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight
3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
4. Newborn affected by maternal complications
5. Accidents

A higher prematurity rate is one reason for our higher infant mortality rate; 36% of infant death occurs in premature infants. Prematurity is seen both in poor women who have less access to health care before pregnancy and for women who have LBW infants due to infertility treatments. Also women who are overweight and underweight and/or who gain too much or too little can also be more at risk for a LBW infant.

What Can We Do?

1. Provide better access to programs for low-income women so they start their pregnancies healthier and less likely to deliver a premature infant:
  • smoking cessation programs
  • drug treatment centers
  • weight management programs
  • ongoing treatment for chronic disease like hypertension and diabetes
  • family planning services to prevent unintended pregnancy
2. Use nutrition first to help with infertility. Infertility is sometimes caused by being underweight or overweight. Fixing those problems before pregnancy could definitely improve the rate of prematurity.

3. Improve access to weight management programs for all women. Women who start their pregnancies at a healthy weight are much more likely to have a healthier birth outcome:
  • Provide better access to weight management programs for all women before pregnancy
  • Provide insurance coverage for pre-conception counseling, which would include counseling from a registered dietitian
Finally women should be encouraged and given the tools to follow the new weight gain guidelines from the Institute of Medicine which lowered the weight gain recommendations for obese women to 11-20 pounds. Many women, overweight or not, exceed weight gain recommendaitons, which can impact the delivery and have health implications for a child's entire life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Protecting Your Baby Against Swine Flu

If you have an infant or toddler, you are probably worried about the Swine Flu and the effect it could have on your child. Young children are less resistant to germs because their immune system is still developing. Those with underlying health problems are at higher risk of becoming sick with any bacteria or virus, not just the Swine Flu. 

What You Can Do to Protect Your Child:

Besides worry, which doesn't do anyone any good, there are things you can do to help protect your baby or toddler from the flu.

  1. Breastfeed. If you are breastfeeding, keep doing so! If you are partially formula feeding, try to increase your milk supply so that you can breastfeed more often or pump so that someone can feed your baby breast milk when you are not around. Remember that breast milk provides built-in immunity at every feeding! If you become ill, your body provides your baby with antibodies that protect him from the germs that made you sick.
  2. If you are exclusively formula feeding, choose one that has added nucleotides or other additions that promote immune health. 
  3. If  you are breastfeeding, make sure you are giving the AAP recommended 400 IU of vitamin D every day. Vitamin D is very important for the immune system. For older children, let their skin see the sun unprotected a few minutes 3 times a week.
  4. Let your baby get the rest he needs; it's important for the immune system. Set your schedule so that your baby's nap time is not interrupted.
  5. Feed him well. If your baby is eating solids, make sure his diet is full of fruits and vegetables; they provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants important for the immune system. Also don't forget whole grains, lean red meat and seafood; they provide zinc and iron, also needed for the immune system to function well.
  6. Wash your hands; wash your baby's hands--after using the restroom, changing a diaper, blowing his or your nose, etc. Keep lotion by the sink to use after washing to prevent hands from getting dried and cracked; this also lets bacteria in. To be effective against germs, hand-washing has to last 20 seconds--one time through of the "ABC" song. 
  7. Wipe down solid surfaces and wash toys. Use a weak bleach solution or put toys in the top rack of the dishwasher. Use an antibacterial wipe to wipe off door handles, telephones at work, etc. 
  8. Take your own pen to use when out; you don't know how many people used the pen before you.
  9. Watch where you take your baby. Don't take him to crowded areas where there are more likely to be sick people. Stay away from hospitals and Dr.'s offices unless he is the patient.
  10. Take care of yourself too. Sometimes parents are so busy taking care of their kids, they don't take good care of their own health. If you get sick, who will be able to take care of the baby?! So eat well--5-9 fruits and veggies a day, take time for exercise and relaxation and get your 8 hours of sleep. The housework can definitely wait another day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can Diet Determine Baby's Sex??!!

Lots have things have been proposed over the years to help a parent help determine the sex of her baby, but now there's a dietary twist.

We know that diet definitely plays a role in fertility--but determining the sex of your baby by your breakfast choices may be too much to ask for--or not. Researchers recently reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B that women who ate more cereal, sodium and potassium, were more likely to conceive a boy. Fiona Mathews, lead researcher in the study, notes that women who ate more calories, along with more cereal, sodium and potassium  had a 55% chance of having a boy. Those who ate the fewest calories had a 45% chance of having a boy. Either way, it's still close to 50%.

And whether the "cereal factor" helps determine baby's sex or not, there are many benefits of eating cereal:
  • A great way to get your whole grains! Half the grains you eat, should be whole.
  • A wonderful way to get a big dose of fiber in your diet. As much as 10-15 grams of fiber can be found in many bran based cereals. Twenty-five to thirty grams of fiber are recommended per day--most of us don't reach that goal.
  • Eating cereal is also a wonderful way to get your calcium--either through dairy or fortified soy milk.