It’s 3:00 a.m. and Brittany Shives, 33 weeks pregnant, gets up to go to the bathroom. When she gets back to bed, her water breaks and and all of a sudden it’s a mad dash for the hospital.
Like all first time moms, Brittany Shives had high hopes for her baby. She had two baby showers planned and a maternity shoot fully paid for and scheduled the next day. As she lay there being induced, scared to death of bringing a 33-week-old baby into the world, panic sets in and seeing her tiny 4 pound daughter being wheeled away after just a brief glance made her even more fearful for her baby’s future.
In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), her little girl was hooked up to so many tubes and wires that it wasn’t possible for Shives to breastfeed. When it was time to leave the hospital her baby wasn’t ready yet.
If you find yourself in such a situation; here’s what you should know:
AT THE HOSPITAL
A pre-term baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. 1 in 9 babies in the U.S. are born prematurely and almost half of those have no known cause.
Pre-term babies spend time in the NICU before they can be sent home with mom and dad. The earlier the baby is born, the higher the chances of complications. Babies born before 28 weeks may have serious issues.
Doctors urge parents to be involved with their baby’s care, though it may be scary seeing your baby with wires and tubes attached to them. Ask the staff for help if you are worried about the equipment.
If you plan to breastfeed, start building a milk supply by pumping as soon as possible. Your baby may not be able to breastfeed but milk can be given in other ways.
Premature babies have a hard time breastfeeding so be patient when you eventually get to take your baby home.
Ask for a trial run
Many hospitals allow mothers to spend a few nights in a separate room with their baby before they are discharged. The parents have an opportunity to practice while the nursing staff is close by.
Each case is unique but premature babies are usually discharged from NICU once they:
- Can breathe on their own
- Keep a constant body temperature while in the crib
- Take and finish all feedings by bottle or breast in a 24-hour period
- Steadily gain weight
The last mile of a marathon is the most challenging. It’s hard on parents to see their babies in the hospital and it’s understandable to be frustrated. Rest assured, the hospital is doing all it can to ensure your child survives.
When the day comes to finally take your baby home you will feel excited, nervous, relieved, and apprehensive all at the same time. Make sure the minimum weight of the car seat is okay for your preemie. You may be required to bring your car seat beforehand for a trial run.
Doctors will sit your baby in the seat for at least an hour and monitor their breathing and heart rate.
Preterm babies sleep a lot more than full term babies but also get up a lot more frequently.
Preemies are extra sensitive and often the best place for them to be is on their parent’s chest; skin-to-skin contact helps keep their stress levels down.
In this first month, your baby should have weekly doctor appointments. The doctor will chart your baby’s development using his corrected age. This means that if your baby was born 8 weeks early, when he is 6 months his corrected age, will be 4 months old. Most preemies catch up to full term babies by the time they are 2 to 3 years old.
Limit non-parent contact with the baby. If anyone does touch them they should be fully immunized and healthy. Don’t neglect yourself while taking care of the little one.
first published at www.webmd.com