Friday, March 16, 2012

Comfort Measures For Infant Reflux, Part I

Infant reflux is being diagnosed at an alarming rate and seems to be affecting one out of every three babies these days. Most parents who have a baby with reflux are completely exhausted and at their wits end. There is very little information available online about how to comfort a baby who is suffering with the pain of reflux. I would like to share with you some concrete strategies that can make life easier and lessen the pain your baby is feeling.

· Modifying babies bed so that they are sleeping at a 35 to 40 degree angle. The simple way we do this is by placing a firm relatively plump pillow under the mattress of your baby bed. This is usually not quite enough of an angle so I also recommend purchasing the Tempurpedic side sleeping pillow and placing it under the crib sheet. The queen size pillow fits most cribs. This angle will sometimes cause baby to slide downwards so you will need to place a boppy pillow in a reverse u shape around their bottom to keep them from sliding. Putting baby to sleep at an incline like this will help keep them from refluxing so severely by using gravity to keep stomach contents down. Think about how uncomfortable it is for you to lay down flat with a full stomach. It is the same for your baby.

· Swaddling baby tightly for sleep. This is a wonderful calming tool for babies under five months of age. Babies have a startle reflex which causes them to flail their hands and wake themselves up frequently. If you do not know how to swaddle your baby, or it is difficult for you, try using the Miracle Blanket swaddle or the kidopotamous swaddleme blankets. To understand why this is such an effective tool for calming your baby watch the Happiest Baby On The Block dvd by Dr. Harvey Karp.

· A sound machine or baby white noise CD from I Tunes. Your baby has an underdeveloped nervous system which is easily over stimulated. Baby was used to a very loud white noise while in the womb. This white noise helps baby to block out stimulation and calm down.

· The swing can be a reflux babies best friend. Be sure to purchase a cradle type swing such as the Fisher Price Little Lamb. The cradle type swing will prevent very young babies from having their heads thrown too far forward. It can be adjust to the more upright position when they are older. The motion of the swing on its highest speed will remind baby of being in the womb where there was constant movement. The combination of the movement and the white noise is incredibly powerful in calming a baby who is in pain. Save the swing for times when your baby is really suffering and unable to sleep in the bed. They can easily decide the swing is the only place they want to sleep. Try to use it as a tool when they are extremely fussy, not their everyday sleeping place.
Make a rice sock out of either a man’s tube sock or a ladies trouser sock. Fill the sock with ordinary rice. Leave enough room at the top to tie a tight knot. Microwave the rice sock for 30-40 seconds. Check against your skin to make sure it is not too warm. Place on babies tummy. The warmth and weight of the rice sock will often help your fussy baby to calm down and fall asleep.

Part I of this series covers your babie’s environment and the ways that you can create a womb cocoon for your crying baby. Part II of this series will address feeding your reflux baby. Strategies and tips for making feeding easier and managing the amount of refluxing your baby does after feeding.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Newborn PKU Test, Less Stress for Mother & Baby

Many first time parents do not realize that their new baby will have to undergo a test for Phenylketonuria (PKU) shortly after birth and again at two weeks of age. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a rare condition in which an infant is born without the ability to properly break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. Testing involves sticking your newborn's heel and milking out enough blood to fill the circles on the test form. The first test will be performed in the newborn nursery before you leave the hospital.

You will need to take your baby to the lab, usually at the hospital where they were born, for the second mandatory testing. The heel stick is painful and will most likely make your newborn cry. This can be very hard on a new mom and may cause her to cry as well. Happily there are several things you can do to make this necessary procedure less stressful for both mom and baby. Prior to the PKU test be sure to give baby a good feeding before leaving home. Be sure to burp baby well to prevent a tummy ache and put on a clean, dry diaper. It can greatly reduce the stress of a new mother to take a trusted friend, family member or postpartum doula with you for the procedure. Allow this person to hold the baby during the procedure. Many new mother's will become very stressed if they try to hold their baby during the heel stick.

Infants are quick to pick up on mom's stress and this can make them cry even more. Have your support person hold the baby on their shoulder as though they were going to burp the baby. Cover with a warm blanket so that they do not feel exposed. Hold their body close and allow baby to suck a pacifier or your finger throughout the procedure. Sucking is a very important self-soothing method for newborns. If the baby is crying, loudly shush in their ear. Your shushing should be continuous and as loud as the baby is crying. This loud shushing provides a white noise similar to what was heard inside the mother's womb. This white noise will help to calm your babies cries.

The majority of babies will quickly stop crying once the procedure is finished. If your baby has a hard time calming down after the procedure find a quiet place to nurse or give a bottle. Rest assured your sweet baby will forget the pain of the heel stick much more quickly than mom and dad. Congratulations you have just successfully navigated a stressful, new parent hurdle.

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Infant Sleep Training, Three Important Steps

Are you exhausted from trying to rock or jiggle your baby to sleep? Only to have them wake the minute you lay them down. Parents are told that you can't spoil a newborn. This depends on your definition of the word spoil. I believe parents are constantly training their babies whether they realize it or not. It is possible to teach your newborn baby to fall asleep easily on their own with very little help from Mom and Dad.

As a certified infant specialist I am called on to help exhausted parents solve their baby's sleep issues. Many times these babies are 3 months of age or older. Most infant sleep issues could be easily avoided if parents understood the three necessary steps a baby passes through on their way to a sound sleep.

The most important thing you can do to help your baby learn healthy sleep habits is to lay them down while sleepy but awake. Rocking and holding your baby to sleep is something that even a newborn will quickly get used to. You are teaching them that they need this to be able to fall asleep. It is much better to reserve holding and rocking for when your baby is awake and alert.

There are three very definite stages that a baby passes through on the way to sleep. Understanding and recognizing these stages is critical in the success of sleep training your child.

1. The Wiggle Waggle Squirm Stage: This is the point where your baby is still awake and possibly fussy. They may grunt, squirm and fight the swaddle. Many parents tell me their baby hates the swaddle because they seem to fight it. This is actually a normal part of the learned process of falling asleep. This stage will last longer if you choose not to swaddle, as baby will startle and flail. The result will be a baby who takes longer to pass through the first stage of this process. Allow your baby at least 10 to 15 minutes to settle and move on to step two. Make sure that you have white noise playing loudly nearby. The white noise allows the babies nervous system to calm down and relax. If your baby is crying the white noise should be as loud as baby's cries.

2. The Five-Mile Stare: Once baby has passed through the fussy stage, they will get very still and stare into the distance. I call this the five-mile stare. Baby may lay quietly, looking into space for up to 15 minutes. If a noise startles baby when they are in this stage, they will most likely move back to stage one and squirm and fuss for a bit. It is very important that you do not pick baby up at this point. As long as they are not crying loudly for more than five minutes allow them to cycle back through to the five-mile stare. You can jiggle the baby in their swaddle and loudly shush in their ear, but try not to pick them up. This is a crucial step in baby learning to self soothe.

3. Sweet Sleep: Babies eyelids will begin to slowly close. They may yawn or slowly open and close their eyes several times. This is a sure sign that your baby is well on the way to sleeping peacefully.

Most parents do not realize that falling asleep on their own is a learned behavior. It is a very important and necessary skill that can be taught from the earliest days home from the hospital. Laying baby down while sleepy but awake and allowing them to fall asleep naturally is the most important first step. Understanding the normal stages that a baby passes through on their way to a deep sleep will help you be successful in sleep training your new baby.