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U.S. Surgeon General Gives Tips to Mothers and Mothers-To-Be

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 5, 2005
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

A Mother's Day dozen for a safer, healthier baby

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., today gave a Mother's Day gift to mothers and mothers-to-be (and dads, too) — an even dozen tips for keeping their babies healthy and safe. This is the first in a series of "Healthy Dozen Tips" that Dr. Carmona will release as part of "The Year of the Healthy Child" agenda.

"On this Mother's Day we want to thank all of the mothers, especially those celebrating their first Mother's Day, who work so hard to provide love and support for their children. And we also want to take this opportunity to thank mothers and mothers-to-be for caring enough to practice these 'Healthy Dozen' tips that will help ensure a safe and healthy life for their growing children," Dr. Carmona said.

"I've declared this 'The Year of the Healthy Child' for the Office of the Surgeon General. We're looking at ways to keep children healthy and safe, from pre-birth through their teen years," Dr. Carmona said. "Each phase of a child's life has its own series of potential hazards, and we're trying to shine a light on preventing those illnesses, injuries, and deaths that are preventable. By appreciating what parents do every day and getting the best information out to parents and children, I hope that every child will grow up healthy, happy, and able to reach their own potential."

The Surgeon General's Tips for Mothers and Mothers-To-Be:

1. Eat Healthy. It's good for you and your baby. Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Also, every woman of childbearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects (including spina bifida) and congenital malformations, which are the leading cause of infant mortality. www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/index.html

2. Don't drink alcohol when you are pregnant or might become pregnant. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. Alcohol can affect an unborn baby even before a woman knows that she is pregnant, and the problems caused by prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong. Alcohol-related birth defects are completely preventable, and eliminating alcohol will prevent all alcohol-related birth defects, including growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, central nervous system impairment, behavioral disorders, and intellectual development. www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/pressreleases/sg02222005.html

3. Get prenatal care early. As soon as you think you may be pregnant, see a health care professional for prenatal care. And continue going for prenatal care during your pregnancy. Immediate and consistent prenatal care can prevent preterm delivery, and improve pregnancy and childbirth. http://mchb.hrsa.gov/programs/womeninfants/prenatal.html

4. Don't smoke. And don't allow anyone else to smoke around your baby. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to a low birthweight baby and can reduce your baby's lung function. Even second-hand smoke can have a harmful effect on your baby's breathing and can have long-term respiratory consequences like impaired lung growth, chronic coughing, and wheezing. In addition, disorders related to preterm birth and low birthweight are the second-leading cause of infant death. Diseases of the respiratory system (aggravated by second hand smoke) are one of the leading causes of infant hospitalization and infant doctor visits. For help to quit smoking, please visit www.cdc.gov/tobacco/how2quit.htm

5. Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life has significant health benefits, and maintain a healthy diet after that. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. Mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Breast milk has agents called antibodies to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses and to help them fight off infection and disease. www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding

6. Place your baby "back to sleep." A baby should sleep on a firm mattress, on his or her back, with no fluffy pillows or stuffed animals. Following these simple steps can lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the third-leading cause of infant death in the United States. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/safe_sleep_gen.cfm

7. Always use a car safety seat. Be sure your baby rides in an age- and weight-appropriate child safety seat, correctly installed, on every trip. If you have any questions about how to install your child safety seat, many local fire and police departments will help you. And children should always ride in the back seat. www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/childpas.htm

8. Never leave your baby unattended. To prevent unintentional injuries, the sixth-leading cause of infant death, never leave a baby unattended on a bed or changing table, always use the harness on a stroller or high chair, and use baby gates and window guards. Never leave a baby unattended in a bath or near a pool. www.hhs.gov/safety/index.shtml#injury

9. Safety-proof your house. To prevent accidental poisoning, move all medications and cleaning products to high shelves. To prevent burns, set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and never leave cups of hot liquid on tables or counter edges and never carry hot liquids or food while holding your child. To prevent choking, be sure that any toys your child plays with do not have parts that are small enough to choke on. You can test any toy part by simply dropping it through a paper-towel roll. If it goes through, the piece is too small and could become a choking hazard. Never allow infants to play with balloons or plastic bags. To prevent drowning, install a toilet lid lock on every toilet in the home. Drowning can happen in less than a couple of inches of water. www.hhs.gov/safety/index.shtml#injury

10. Never, ever shake your baby. Shaking a baby, even a little, may lead to severe brain damage and death. www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shakenbaby/shakenbaby.htm

11. Fully immunize your baby. Be sure your baby gets all immunizations on time. Immunizations have prevented death and disease for millions of children throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Talk with your child's pediatrician about keeping up to date on all vaccinations. www.cdc.gov/nip/recs/child-schedule.htm#Printable

12. Learn infant first aid and CPR. Be prepared. Know how to call for help and learn infant first aid and CPR. We hope you will never have to use this skill. But if you do, the life you save could be your child's. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/firstaid.html

"Being a mom is the toughest job in the world, and I'm proud to be able to give you these tips as a gift on this Mother's Day. May you and your family have a safe and healthy year," Dr. Carmona said.

NOTE: All Surgeon General press releases, reports and other materials are available at www.surgeongeneral.gov

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: January 4, 2007