4 ways to keep your baby healthy throughout the Christmas season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s the germiest too. For babies meeting a lot of family members, there’s an increased risk of catching a cold or worse. But you can help keep your infant’s immune system in top shape. Here’s how:

  1. Ensure your infant is up to date on vaccines

Diseases that keep adults in bed for a couple days can be extremely dangerous for babies. Double-check whether your baby is caught up on all vaccines he or she is old enough for, so viruses like whooping cough won’t become an issue. Your local health department is a great resource for immunizations.

  1. Make sure everyone washes their hands before holding the baby

The entire family is going to want to hold the baby. And who can blame them? Before you pass your little one over, though, ask each person to wash their hands so viruses and infections aren’t as likely to spread. You may also want to carry hand sanitizer in the diaper bag in case there isn’t a sink nearby.

  1. Choose your infant’s clothes carefully 

Tiny Santa and elf outfits are almost too cute to resist. But if your child is too warm or too cold, he or she won’t feel well. Keep him or her comfortable and at the right temperature. Learn how to dress an infant during winter. [link to “Quick Guide for Dressing Your Baby in Winter” blog]

  1. Make sure your baby gets plenty of rest

All the holiday excitement and being shuffled from one person to another can exhaust an infant, weakening his or her immune system. Set aside time each day for your baby to nap, so you’re less likely to have to deal with a sick, fussy child.

Discover how to reduce your infant’s risk of suffocation and SIDS all year long. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/safe-sleep/]

Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.

How to baby-proof your home for the holidays

Little ones are curious – especially at Christmastime. With so many lights and bows, they’ll want to explore. A few precautions can keep the decorations – and your child – safe throughout the season.

  • Anchor the tree to the wall. Most young children like to climb, and a Christmas tree always looks like fun. Make sure it’s securely anchored to prevent it from tipping. Another option is to place a “fence” around the tree (similar to a series of baby gates) to keep the kids from getting too close.
  • Use nonbreakable ornaments. Shattered glass ornaments can cause injuries, not to mention be a pain to clean up. Plastic is the better choice for the first few years.
  • Use artificial candles and lights. Flames are dangerous when a child is around. Investing in electric lights and battery-powered candles keeps your home festive and safe.
  • Don’t set presents under the tree. Your baby will want to open gifts, which can be dangerous if he or she gets into Aunt Lisa’s new set of kitchen knives. Keeping gifts hidden eliminates the danger. Plus, your child will be thrilled to see what Santa left on Christmas morning.
  • Use fake plants. Mistletoe, holly and poinsettias are Christmas staples, but they’re also poisonous when eaten. Fake alternatives are still festive, but without the danger.
  • Pay extra attention while cooking. Between hot pans and sharp utensils, the kitchen is a danger zone during holiday get-togethers. Keep a close eye on your child, so he or she doesn’t grab something unsafe.

Want more advice for navigating the holidays with an infant? Follow Bootheel Babies & Families on Facebook.

3 surprising dangers for your baby

Things that can harm your baby aren’t always easy to spot. In fact, some of them are popular baby shower gifts. Keep an eye out for these three items that could place an infant at risk:


Blankets work great for tummy time when you’re both awake, but putting blankets in a crib increases a baby’s risk of suffocation and SIDS. Loose bedding can cover an infant’s nose and mouth, and he or she doesn’t have the motor skills to turn away. Learn about sleep sacks and other safe alternatives to blankets. [link to  http://www.bootheelbabies.org/keep-babys-crib-blanket-free/]

Car seat

Sleeping in a car seat for more than one or two hours at a time places infants at a higher risk of suffocation and SIDS. Essentially, the upright position causes fluids to pool at the opening of the trachea, more commonly known as a windpipe. Find out more about the dangers. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/blog/page/3/]

Soft bedding

This includes adult beds and furniture such as couches or recliners. As an infant moves during sleep, his or her nose and mouth could sink into the mattress or cushion, restricting breathing – not to mention the possibility of rolling off. And if they’re sleeping next to someone, that person could accidentally roll on top of them.

That old saying is the best policy: Better safe than sorry. Learn how to create a safe sleep environment for your baby. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/safe-sleep/]

A quick guide for dressing your baby during winter

With colder weather coming, your infant may need some new clothes, especially since he or she is probably already outgrowing summer’s outfits. Here are the must-haves:


The best guideline is to dress your baby in one more layer than you’re wearing. For example, if you’re warm enough in a long-sleeved shirt, your infant likely needs a jacket too. Check periodically to make sure your child isn’t too hot. He or she should be warm to the touch but not sweaty.


Follow the one-more-layer rule when your baby goes outdoors. On especially cold days, deck him or her out in a snowsuit, hat and mittens to combat the elements.

At night

Resist the urge to cover your child with a blanket, since doing so increases his or her risk of suffocation and SIDS. Sleep sacks keep your baby toasty without covering his or her nose and mouth. Thicker fabrics, like fleece, are best during winter. Learn about other ways to keep your baby safe at night. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/exactly-safe-sleep-surface/]

In the car

Like a crib, covering your child’s car seat with a blanket places him or her at risk for suffocation. Thick winter coats can also be dangerous, since they make car seat straps too loose. The best way to keep a baby warm in the car is by putting a fleece one-piece over his or her clothes.

Looking for more advice on keeping your infant safe? Follow Bootheel Babies & Families on Facebook. [link to https://www.facebook.com/bootheelbabies/]

What Causes SIDS?

“SIDS” (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) strikes fear into every parent’s heart, and that’s understandable. A normal, healthy baby can go to sleep and never wake up – for seemingly no reason. The medical community isn’t sure exactly what causes SIDS. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless.

Here are three major risk factors for SIDS, along with ways to reduce them.

  1. Prematurity or low birth weight

Statistically, more premature babies die from SIDS compared to infants born after 37 weeks. The best way to make sure your pregnancy is progressing as it should is to visit a healthcare provider regularly. This allows them to identify and address any issues, so your baby stays in the oven as long as possible.

  1. Smoking

The data isn’t good: Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to die of SIDS, and babies who are regularly around secondhand smoke are two times more likely.* If you are expecting a child, make every effort to quit smoking and keep your baby away from smoky areas. Find out more about how secondhand smoke harms infants. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/secondhand-smoke-really-hurt-baby/]

  1. Unsafe sleep practices

Because SIDS typically occurs during sleep, it’s crucial to have a safe environment for your baby during naps and at night. The ABC’S of Safe Sleep is an easy guide to remember.

Babies sleep best

Alone, on their

Back, in a

Crib, or other

Safe Sleep Surface

This SIDS Awareness Month, resolve to make a difference for babies in your area. Learn how you can help save lives. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/what-you-can-do/]

*Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.

5 little-known habits that endanger your baby

Accidental death related to unsafe sleep habits is the No. 1 cause of infant mortality in Missouri’s Bootheel. But it’s not just remembering to place your baby on his or her back to sleep or ensuring that your baby’s crib or sleep space meets current safety guidelines (both of which are very important). We know more about the causes of infant death today than we ever have, which makes it critical to educate caregivers on other key factors that put your baby at risk.

Did you know?  

– That blankets or other loose bedding in your baby’s crib are a suffocation hazard?

– That pillows, stuffed toys or crib bumper pads in your baby’s crib are suffocation and choking hazards?

– That babies should never co-sleep with adults, other babies or children?

– That sleeping in a car seat puts your baby at risk for choking and suffocation?

– That babies should only sleep in a crib or other safe sleep surface with a tightly fitted sheet?

Make sure that everyone who cares for your child is aware of these dangers. We’ve made it easy. Just screen shot the list below and text to friends, family and caregivers to help educate them.


Q: Do mesh crib bumpers increase my baby’s risk of SIDS?

It’s fairly common knowledge that traditional bumper pads increase infants’ risk of suffocation and SIDS. Recently, though, some businesses have been offering mesh or “breathable” crib bumpers as safe alternatives. But are they really safer?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “No.”

Mesh bumper pads allow more air, but they aren’t suffocation-proof. Just like regular crib bumpers, babies can still roll against them, covering their nose and mouth, and not have the strength or motor skills to turn over. This blocks their breathing and may have disastrous consequences.

At present, mesh bumper pads have not been around long enough to conclusively determine if they’re safe. Until that happens, it’s best to not put babies at risk.

If you’re concerned your child might get stuck between the crib slats, make sure the gap is no more than 2 3/8 inches.

Find out how to create the perfect sleep environment for your baby. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/preparing-baby-crib-safety/]

How you can help save lives

This September (like every September) is Infant Mortality Awareness Month – a time for us to shine a spotlight on the issue we’re passionate about every day. Infant mortality is a devastating problem in the Bootheel, with more than 140 babies from six Missouri counties (Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott and Stoddard) lost in the last nine years.

Almost everyone in the Bootheel has encountered infant mortality in some form – whether as a family member, neighbor or just seeing a report on the local news. Even if you’re not directly connected, the community around you declines when babies are lost.

Resolve to make a difference for your community this month by helping save infants’ lives. Here are a few practical ways you can do that.

Get the facts about infant mortality

The first step is educating yourself on this issue and how losing babies affects your community. Our website BootheelBabies.org has a lot of great information focused specifically on the Bootheel, so you’ll know how to start a conversation about infant mortality in your area.

We recommend starting at BootheelBabies.org/the-problem/ to see firsthand why this issue is important.

Share info

Bootheel Babies & Families is all over the internet – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. We frequently share information related to our mission, along with tips for safe sleep, prenatal care, child safety and more. By following us on any or all of these pages and sharing our posts, you’ll help spread our message and provide others with valuable info for their babies.

September is a good time to start sharing, as we’ll be posting info focused on infant mortality all month long.

Learn your ABC’S

No, we don’t mean the kind you learned in elementary school. We’re talking about the ABC’S of Safe Sleep: Babies sleep best

  • Alone, on their
  • Back, in a
  • Crib, or other
  • Safe Sleep Surface

This method of putting babies to bed is proven to significantly reduce their risk of suffocation and SIDS, making it crucial for everyone to know. And it only takes a few minutes to commit to memory.

Thank you for supporting our cause. Like us on Facebook to stay up to date with current information on infant mortality.

6 must-do’s to prepare for your baby

At some point during your pregnancy, you may feel like it’s never going to end. But every day, you move closer to the big event. Before you get there, though, you have to prepare.

Here are some things to do during your final trimester to make sure you’re good to go before labor starts.

  1. Don’t miss any appointments with your healthcare provider. As your due date nears, your provider will want to see you often – perhaps even once a week. Since things change so quickly during the final stage of pregnancy, it’s important to attend each appointment to ensure everything’s going as expected. Plus, your provider will talk through a delivery plan so you know what to do when you go into labor.
  2. Review the symptoms of labor. Every woman is different, but some common signs you’re going into labor include feeling the baby move lower into your pelvis, cramps, back pain and increased vaginal discharge. If any of the following symptoms occur, it’s time to go to the hospital:
    • Your water breaks
    • You experience bleeding or bright red discharge.
    • Your contractions have hit the consistency and frequency discussed with your provider.
  3. Make sure you have enough baby supplies. Welcome your new addition home with:
    • A properly installed car seat
    • Adequate clothing (onesies, sleepers, etc.)
    • Fitted crib sheets and receiving blankets
    • Diapers, wipes and diaper cream
    • Baby soap/shampoo and washcloths
    • Gentle laundry detergent
    • Feeding supplies
    • A first-aid kit with a baby thermometer
  4. Set up the crib. Select a crib manufactured after 2011, and place only a mattress covered by a fitted sheet inside. To reduce their risk of suffocation and SIDS, babies sleep best Alone, on their Backs, in a Crib, or other Safe Sleep Surface. This means your child’s crib should not have bumper pads, blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. To find out more about reducing your infant’s risk of SIDS, visit this blog post. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/no-1-thing-can-reduce-infants-risk-sids/]
  5. Pack your hospital bag. Once labor starts, there’s no time to search for what you need to take to the hospital. Pack your bag in advance and set it in a convenient place, so you can grab it and go. Some things you’ll need include:
    • Insurance card, photo ID and birth plan
    • Phone charger
    • Robe and warm, nonskid socks
    • Toiletries
    • Loose, lightweight clothes to wear home
    • Maternity bra
    • Snacks
    • Outfit for your baby to wear home
  6. Take time to de-stress. A lot happens during the third trimester, and doing too much can take a toll on your health. Set aside time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s shopping, getting your nails done or watching a movie. Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Aim for around seven hours each night, and take naps throughout the day if you’re sleepy. Your baby needs you to be healthy and as relaxed as possible when he or she makes an entrance.

Find more pregnancy and child care tips here. [link to www.bootheelbabies.org]

Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.

The Bootheel Opioid Crisis Affects Moms and Babies

The Bootheel of Missouri is in the epicenter of a region with the highest opioid prescription rates in America (see 2016 CDC figure below). While rates have improved recently, over 210 million prescriptions for opioids are filled in the USA annually, with 2% of Americans using opioids “regularly”.

Most women in our region receive excellent prenatal care. While there are no published statistics available for opioid use by pregnant women in southeast Missouri, large studies using insurance claims data suggest about a third of women fill a prescription for opioids during pregnancy.

Increases in neonatal abstinence syndrome have been temporally correlated with increases in opioid pain reliever use by pregnant women. With at least one infant with neonatal abstinence syndrome born every hour in the United States, the hospital charges alone are more than $1.4 billion a year. Opioid use in pregnancy also contributes massive additional costs through prematurity, birth defects, and abnormal neurocognitive and behavioral development.

Maternal risks associated with prescription and illicit opioid overuse include overdose, hepatitis, blood stream infections, incarceration, and job loss. Mental health disorders both contribute to and exacerbate substance use.

Unfortunately, public resistance to invest in care and prevention for depression and substance abuse remains, even though far more expensive care for potentially preventable heart attacks, strokes and cancers face minimal public resistance. Depression and addiction are both treatable chronic diseases. The costs of treating these diseases are minimal relative to the health and economic benefits for individuals and society.

Recent passage of HB 2280 allows substance abuse treatment for the entire postpartum year. Portions of SB 951 designate 2018-2028 “Show Me Freedom from Opioid Addiction Decade” and instruct the Department of Health to establish “Improved access to Treatment for Opioid Addiction”. While the exact implications of this bill are unclear, it is encouraging that opioid addiction and suboptimal delivery of mental health care are being acknowledged and addressed.

Gibson Recovery Center (www.gibsonrecoverycenter.org) and Family Counseling Center (www.fccinc.org) are two local treatment and counseling centers focused on caring for pregnant women with substance misuse.

My college roommate, Matt Miofsky, is an articulate pastor who describes compassion as “Not mere niceness. Compassion means to suffer with, understanding another not through preconceptions but through the other’s experiences. It means setting aside our judgments long enough to see life through their eyes. When we can begin to get a glimpse of another’s experiences, it is much harder to judge them, and much easier to begin to understand them.” It can be difficult for health care providers to display this compassion for parents whose actions may have contributed negatively to pregnancy outcomes. Pragmatically and ethically, the infant, mother, family, healthcare providers and society need compassion to be displayed toward the mother. Each mother loves her newborn. Her involvement is key to optimizing care and reducing hospitalization time and need for medications. The time in the NICU provides an excellent opportunity for health care providers and counselors to connect with mothers. While some of these mothers need medications and/or inpatient rehabilitation, all individuals (myself included) can benefit from improving coping mechanisms vital in caring for an irritable infant.

How can you can help? First, display compassion. Second, support efforts to improve prescription drug monitoring. Missouri remains the only state in America without a prescription drug monitoring program; HB 90 failed to be approved again this year.  Third, thank legislators for addressing the opioid epidemic and supporting infant and mental health care services.

Missouri House Representatives Holly Rehder, Don Rone, Kathy Swan, Herman Morse, and Donna Lichtenegger and Senators Wayne Wallingsford and Doug Libla are our southeast Missouri state legislators. Please make sure they are aware of the needs and benefits of providing compassion toward mothers and families challenged by opioid use during pregnancy. Their contact information is available at www.house.mo.gov and www.senate.mo.gov.