• Baby, it's getting cold outside

  • These chilly days mean winter is right around the corner, making it a good time to brush up on some pointers for keeping your baby happy and healthy through the cold months.

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  • These chilly days mean winter is right around the corner, making it a good time to brush up on some pointers for keeping your baby happy and healthy through the cold months.
    Believe it or not, it’s already the cold and flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for everyone, including children starting at six months. Babies under six months are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, including dehydration (watch for fewer wet diapers and/or dark urine), ear infections and bacterial pneumonia. And, because this age group can't be immunized, they depend on those around them for protection until they can be safely vaccinated. Breastfeeding mothers who've been vaccinated help by passing along some of their immunity to their babies, and vaccinated care givers minimize the chance of passing along illnesses.
    The Birthing Center at St. Mary's Medical Center provides flu vaccinations to all new moms who consent before they are discharged. Dads are also encouraged to get their immunizations as soon as possible. And, because we’ve seen a lot of whooping cough (pertussis) in the area in the last year, we also recommend new mothers get the Tdap vaccination (for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), as well as anyone over the age of 11 who is in contact with infants less than 12 months old.
    Other preventive steps recommended by the CDC include:
    n Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze—and discard immediately.
    n Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
    n Keep yourself and your baby away from people who are sick, as much as you can.
    If your baby does end up getting sick, do not use over-the-counter cold remedies. Saline solutions and humidifiers can help open up passages, making breathing easier. Be sure to follow directions for keeping the vaporizer?clean?and mold-free.
    Keep your home free of respiratory irritants that can trigger coughing spells, such as aerosol sprays, tobacco or cooking smoke, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Spray toys and areas frequently touched with a disinfectant such as Lysol.
    It’s also important to keep your baby warm. During winter, babies require about the same number of layers as adults for comfort, indoors and out. Since a newborn’s ability to regulate body temperature is not well developed, parents need to pay special attention to how the baby is dressed.
    Babies that are too cold may fuss, but they may not complain if they're too warm. Spotted or blotchy looking skin and pale cheeks may be a sign a baby is too cold. If the neck feels damp from sweat or the cheeks are especially rosy, the baby may be overdressed.
    Page 2 of 2 - When your home’s heater kicks on, you may find your baby’s skin becomes drier. Unscented moisturizers can be applied to the baby’s skin frequently throughout the day to ease dryness and a gentle lip balm can help prevent chapped lips. Cutting your baby’s bath time down to about 10 minutes can also help prevent dry skin.
    When driving, avoid putting infants in car seats with their coats on. We recommend bundling baby in blankets or using special car seat bundling materials while riding. Put on the baby’s coat (and don't forget the hat) after you've arrived at your destination. It’s also important to make sure nothing is obstructing the car seat’s safety straps. This can cause problems in the event of an accident and make it harder to determine if you need to adjust the straps.
    Finally, be careful with space heaters. Many children are burned every year from unattended heaters. If you must use them, buy a space heater with an exterior that remains cool to the touch and make sure it has an internal switch that shuts the unit off if it tips over.
    As the winter chill sets in, following these tips will go a long way toward helping your baby stay healthy and comfortable.
    Anna Rosetti, RN is a staff nurse in the Birthing Center at St. Mary's Medical Center and can be reached at 816-655-5574.

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