Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Did You Know...You Can Collect SSI for your Preemie?

According to Supplemental Security Income, low birth weight babies may qualify for SSI disability benefits.

When we think of the definition of low birth weight, premature babies come to mind. However, SSI does not specify whether a child is considered premature or not in order to qualify. Instead, SSI determines the qualifications of the child based on their birth weight. 

SSI defines low birth weight as under 1,200 grams or under2,00 grams and small for gestational age. Below is the exact wording from the SSI web page:

Social Security does provide SSI disability benefits to certain low birth weight infants, whether or not they are premature. A child who weighs less than 1200 grams (about 2 pounds, 10 ounces) at birth can qualify for SSI on the basis of low birth weight, if otherwise eligible. A child who weighs between 1200 and 2000 grams at birth (about 4 pounds 6 ounces) AND who is considered small for his or her gestational age may also qualify. For this second category of low birth weight infants, the following chart shows the gestational age at birth and corresponding birth weight that satisfies our “small for gestational age” criterion.

Listed below is the gestational age criteria that your child must fall under in order to be considered for SSI benefits:

37 - 40 weeks - Less than 2000 grams (4 pounds, 6 ounces)

36  weeks - 1875 grams or less (4 pounds, 2 ounces)

35 weeks - 1700 grams or less (3 pounds, 12 ounces)

34 weeks - 1500 grams or less (3 pounds, 5 ounces)

33 weeks - 1325 grams or less (2 pounds, 15 ounces)

How to Apply For SSI for your Child  

Click on the link that states "Apply for Disability Benefits for your child" on the SSI website. The link will take you to a page where you can fill out a disability report for your child online. The disability report asks information about your child such as medical history, why he or she is considered disable, date of birth, doctor names and social security. It is important to have the social security for your child, if not you will not be able to proceed with the application. The disability report takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete but SSI has made it easy for you to save it and come back to it later. Once you sign out of the report, you will be given a reference number. It is imperative that you write it down because SSI does not save it and will ask for it when you log back in.

Once the disability report is completed, you must contact Social Security to start the application. The application is not available online. Then Social Security will determine your child's eligibility. This might take at least 2 to 3 months.

More information is provided on the Social Security website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/child.htm

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preparing for a doctors visit

For new mothers, visiting a pediatrician can be overwhelming. You are not sure what to bring, what to ask or what to expect. After experiencing my first visit to the doctor for my twin girls Mya and Milani, I decided to compile a list of do's in preparing for a trip to the pediatrician.

Assuming that you have already have picked a pediatrician that is familiar or specializes in premature babies, you want to get the following ready the day before the visit:
  • Discharge papers from the hospital: Before your preemie was released, the hospital provided you with a copy of the babies discharge papers, which had information about your baby's stay, any medical procedures that were needed, their weight at birth, head circumference, blood type and summary of their progress. 
  • Hearing Screen Test Results: The doctor will also provide you with a copy of the hearing screen test, which the results will say pass. The hospital will not release your baby if they did not.
  • Insurance card: Bring the baby's insurance card so that the doctor's office can make a copy. Make sure you are aware of the copay and be aware of the office payment policy. You can call to ask whether they take credit cards, personal checks, money orders and cash. 
  • Immunization Record: The hospital, with your consent, would have given the first immunization to your child at the hospital, which is Hepatitis B. The date and the type of immunization is recorded in a booklet that the hospital staff gave to you. 
  • Diaper Bag: The diaper bag replaces your purse. Anything and everything that you need such as your wallet, keys and cell phone should be placed in one of the pockets of the bag. Other than that, extra diapers, extra onesies, socks, hats, swaddling blankets, changing pad, pacifier and bottles of formula are necessities. 
  • Car Seat: All car seats come with a base that is placed in the car and makes it easy to pull and place the car seat. It is a great idea, if it is not already in the car, to attach the base in the back seat before the doctors visit. Make sure you have a blanket to cover the car seat while your baby is in it so that he or she is not exposed to any dust or germs.
When scheduling your visit, make sure to get an appointment after 9 am but earlier than 1 pm. It takes time to get the baby ready as well as yourself ready. From experience, it is not realistic to make an appointment for 7:45 am and get there on time. Allow yourself time for traveling. If this is your first time going to the doctor, make sure you wrote down, placed it in your GPS and understand the directions. If you are like me, you are going to need at least an extra 30 minutes to get lost.

Make sure you dress your baby appropriately. The doctors visit is not the time to dress your bundle in a cute four piece outfit. Keep in mind that the doctor will examine your baby from head to toe and you want to pick an outfit that is easy to put on and easy to take off. Remember, your baby is probably not going to like being exposed in a cold environment. A onesie, socks, a hat and two blankets to wrap the baby is more than enough.

Happy Visit!

Please share your story and any questions, contact preemietwinsme@gmail.com

Day at the Pediatrician

6:47 am and my body alarm wakes me up out of a much needed cat nap. I jumped up realizing that the girls doctors appointment was in less than an hour. Since this was our very first visit (thanks to my sorority sister for giving us the referral) I did not have a chance to write down the directions. Looking at the time, I knew that I did not have time to feed them but merely 10 minutes to get both of my girls dressed, diaper bag ready, wake up my fiance, get myself ready and head out the door by 7:15 am (I Google the location earlier and knew that it would take 20 minutes). Yet life never works out like you plan. After getting everything ready, the time was 7:30 am and we hadn't put the car seats in the car. By the time we hit the road it was 7:50 am. Immediately I called the doctor's office to inform them that I would be a couple minutes late, which we all know that means 30 to 40 minutes late. Because I chose not to keep Milani's appointment at the hospital's clinic in Brooklyn, I had to make this pediatrician visit. Of course life was full of surprises yet again. The way the directions told us to go yield to mention that it was full of bumper to bumper traffic.

Detouring, arguing with my fiance more than necessary (lack of sleep would do that) and car on E, we finally managed to make it to the doctor an hour later, not until we passed the office first and had to do a u-turn realizing that the office was not a building but a house office. Surprisingly, with only a sprinkle of babies and young children waiting, the doctors office was almost empty. A complete opposite of the hospital's clinic where I took Mya for her follow up, which was filled to capacity of snot nose children running around. Although freezing from the AC, the doctors office was calm.

You and the nurse
Before we saw the doctor, we met with the nurse who asked my fiance and I our medical history and the babies history thus far. Some of the questions were:
About us
1. Does anyone in your family smoke?
2. Does anyone in your family have diabetes?
3. Did you have any complications with your pregnancy?

About the babies
1. How many weeks were you when you delivered?
2. What was their weight at birth?
3. When were they born?
4. How long did they stay in the NICU?
4. What are their names?

After the questions, the nurse asked us for the girls discharge papers, which gives detail information on about their stay and if any procedures were done, their immunization records and their pass hearing test information. Once she collected their paperwork, she first measured the circumference of Mya's head. Placing her on table, the nurse measured her length. Next, Mya (who had to be naked and hated it!)  was taken to another room where she was weighed. The same was done to Milani. The nurse left to make copies of the information and then five minutes later the doctor came in. He did a full examination of both the girls in which he examined:
  • Eyes 
  • Legs 
  • Private area 
  • Belly button
  • Chest 
  • Ears 
  • Any birth marks, dimples, etc. Mya and Milani both have dimples on the top of their ears like their father. Mya is on the right and Milani is on the left. 
  • Heart 
The doctor told us that the babies looked wonderful for preemies. They were gaining weight and they were extremely healthy. Even though this was my second time at the pediatrician, I still was not sure what to ask. I did have a couple of questions already prepared but other than that I did not have much to say. Some of my questions were:
  • Can I increase their feeding? 
  • Are their belly buttons forming correctly? 
  • Is it okay to open a window in their room? 
I thought because my daughters were born premature, that they needed to go to a specialize doctor. The hospital, for example, gave me several appointments for their eyes, development and heart. However, I was not sure if they still need to see a high risk doctor. After doing much research, a regular pediatrician will be fine for most preemies. Because the doctor did not see anything wrong with the girls, I do not see it necessary to proceed with a specialist. However, I did receive a referral just in case.

The day started off full of stress and frustration, but the day ended with a doctor who I feel comfortable with and a great visit.

Share your story!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Must Have Bottles for your Preemie

When my twin girls left the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) the nurse gave us a huge bag of goodies, which included a dozen hospital bottles that the girls were using during their stay. The first week home, I began using the hospital bottles only because they were so use to them and so was I. However, I realized that I could not use the hospital bottles forever. I received a plethora of baby bottles as gifts from my baby shower and I knew that I had to start using them, I was afraid of how the girls would receive them. As I noticed their sucking getting better during each feeding, I decided that I wanted to ween them off the hospital bottles. During the week, I began feeding my girls from the different bottles I received and decided that it might be a good idea to share with mothers of preemies what are the best bottles for their little ones.

Some of the factors that I considered when I reviewed each bottle were:
  • Nipple size and firmness: In the NICU, the hospital bottles used standard and slow flow nipples. My girls did okay with the standard nipples but they did even better with the slow flow. Because they have to learn how to suck, swallow and breath simultaneously, my twins drank the milk very fast on the standard nipples to the point where they would forget to take a breather (they are much better at this now). The bottles that I were going to use had to have a slow flow nipple and as they got older, made faster flow nipples, which could be bought at the store. What I liked about the hospital bottles were the firmness of the nipples. If you have babies who like to hold their tongue at the roof of their mouth, like mine, you need a nipple bottle that is firm enough to bring their tongue down. A nipple that is too soft might make it difficult. 
  • Bottle Size: Right now, my girls are taken little over two ounces and just two ounces. An eight ounce bottle is too big. A four ounce bottle is a great size. 
  • Easy to clean: Because your baby is getting up every two to three hours, you need bottles that are easy to clean or do not have to do much cleaning at all. If you have multiples, this is an important factor. 
Bottles that are great for preemies

1. Playtex Nurser and Drop ins 
My mother told me that she used Playtex Drop ins when I was a baby, however they are much simpler to use than back in 1986. What I love about the bottles is the use of the plastic drop in containers that are disposable after each use. This makes clean up a breeze. Playtex also provides slow flow silicone nipples and sell different level nipples as the babies progress in age. To replicate a mothers nipple, Playtex also sells the latex naturals. However,  I find the latex naturals are extremely soft and prefer the silicone, even though the silicone nipple is soft as well. The Playtex nursers reduces hiccups during feeding, leak free and the drop ins are pre-sterilized. What is great about drop in's is that it minimize air leakage. When there is air in the bottle, it causes painful gas and colic in babies. The Playtex nurser mimics breast feeding and if you are mother that goes back and forth from latching on to the bottle, this would be a great substitute.

2. Gerber First Essentials
My sorority sister purchased the Gerber First Essentials four ounce bottles and I had to do my research because I never heard of them. Then again, I am a first time mother so I had to do my research on plenty of products. These bottles are affordable costing $10.00 at Target. Similar to the Playtex nursers, the First Essentials reduces colic and provides a silicone nipple that prevents air leakage. The silicone nipples are much firmer than the Playtex nurser and the plastic bottle is light and easy to hold. However, the bottle is not made for drop in containers and therefore requires cleaning after each use. I find that my girls latch on well on the nipple and do not spit out the milk while drinking as much. In comparison to the Playtex, the First Essentials also provides a slow flow nipple and a middle flow nipple. Where as the Playtex bottles cost around $12.00 and the drop ins cost around $10.00, the Gerber First Essentials is the next best thing.

3. Similac Hospital Bottles 
The disposable bottles and nipples that the hospital uses are great starters since your baby is already accustomed to them. The bottles have measurements in Ml's, which helps see how much your baby has taken. The bottles come with slow flow or the standard nipples. The bottles and the nipples are suppose be thrown away after each use. Hopefully before you and your baby left the NICU and kind nurse gave you a hefty supply. If not, it is okay to use the bottles at least twice but must be sterilized before each use.

After researching what other mother of preemies use. They suggested:
  • Dr. Browns
  • Avent
If you have any stories about bottles that you use for your preemie, let me know. Happy sharing!
*Next Blog, Preemies dribbling while feeding, is it the nipple or the baby's development?*