OT Talk: 10 PREMMIE TIPS
Boy, am excited to share todays blog with you. It’s one written by a friend of mine whom is very near and dear to my heart, Celiané van der Westuizen. She is the proud owner of Growth Occupational Therapy. I was blessed enough to study with her and even more so, blessed that I get to continue to learn from her today. Have a read!
I just love premature babies, I mean I even married one (yes, my hubby was a premmie)!
Ever since my community service year, I was fascinated by premature babies. I just loved to see how those small 850g babies developed into beautiful little humans and so I started a support group with the mommies within the neonatal ward. Even though I knew that this meant a lot to them at the time, I didn’t fully realise the impact of it until it hit a bit closer to home.
You see, not too long age, my cousin was pregnant with her first born. We were all excited for the little man to make his arrival but then we got an unexpected call. He decided to make his appearance almost two months earlier than planned.
It was during this time that I got to see the backend of the unexpected event. Where I got to see first-hand the uncertainty and the raw emotions that parents experience when their little bundle of joy comes earlier than planned. Although at times it seemed to be daunting and scary, I witnessed how God held their hands through it all, and so, made these two parents angels for their miracle baby.
Having bared witness to this, I decided to share the following with you today. My wish is that as you read these 10 tips, it would not only bring some assurance to those parents in need but also serve as extra education for those who have been exposed to prematurity, but are unfamiliar with the experiences related to it. Here goes:
1. You are the expert
I wanted to start off with this tip as this is the most important one for me. No one knows your baby better than you! Premature babies are usually overstimulated easier than other babies. However, no one knows the warning signs of overstimulation better than you. Watch out for them and do not be afraid to tell others when you see your baby is getting fussy because they are doing something that your baby is not a fan of.
2. Learn to love the unexpected
This may not be the way you anticipated to meet your baby. You may not be able to take your baby home with you as planned. There are multiple tubes connecting him/her to unfamiliar machines. There may be a lot of medical staff around. It’s okay to feel anxious! Ask if you are unsure of anything. If you allow yourself, you might just be surprised as to how quickly the NICU staff start feel like extended family but even more so, you yourself will start become an expert in the machines and procedures taking place.
Make your baby’s incubator feel “more like home” by asking the nurse if you may put a small soft toy or soothing blankie inside. Sleep with it the night before so that it smells like you. Ask the nurse if you may place your hands on your baby if you are not allowed to pick them up. Rest your one hand on their chest or softly cup their cute little bum with the one hand and his/her head with the other to let them know that you are there. Talk softly to your baby and call them by name when you visit them. Your baby can still receive the same amount of love even though he/she may not be held.
3. They do not break that easily
Yes, your baby might be the size of your hand, but they do not break that easily. Do not be afraid to touch your baby.
4. KMC (also known as kangaroo mother care)
Once you are allowed to hold your baby, start with kangaroo mother care (KMC) as soon as possible. Undress that cute little bum and place your baby on your chest – skin-to-skin! This is a great bonding experience for you and your baby. It also includes other advantages like better weight gain, building a stronger immune system, improving breastfeeding, and even syncing sleep cycles. Now, who would not want that?
Fun fact: Did you know that a mother’s body adjusts its temperature with 2°C warmer or cooler to adjust according to their baby’s needs? I call this the mommy superpower! Unfortunately, daddies do not have this superpower, but your little one will enjoy kangaroo-ing with him just as much!
5. Remember they are allowed to be slightly behind other babies born at the same time
Premmies have some “extra” time to reach those milestones other mommies may be bragging about. When comparing your baby’s development to the developmental milestones be sure to use their corrected developmental age. This is their ‘actual’ age.
Corrected developmental age = Age (in months) since born – Months born premature
This is only applicable during the first 2 years of your premmie’s life. By then they should have ‘caught up’ with their friends.
6. It is okay to feel overwhelmed
This whole experience can be daunting. Let yourself feel the emotions involved in this uncertain time.
7. Make sure you have a healthy support system
Have someone to share the joys with and to lean on in challenging times. Consider joining a premature baby support group to chat with other parents who are in the same boat as you.
Ask for anything you need. Whether it is calling your mother to come over for a cup of tea or a friend’s shoulder to cry on. Your loved ones are there for you and want to help, but they do not always know how and what they can do. Do not be afraid to ask.
9. Tummy time
Once your baby is at home, start with tummy time as early as possible. Even if it is as short as one to five minutes per day. Let your baby lie on their tummy so that they have to lift their head. This is like a full body workout for them! It may still be extremely challenging for them when they are fresh out of hospital. Watch your baby’s cues. If they are tired, let them rest. Tomorrow is another day.
10. Make time for yourself...and for your partner
Sometimes you can get so involved in your baby’s care that you forget to take care of yourself. Make time to release pressure and to relax. Also remember that this experience may be just as daunting to your partner as to you. Be sure to make time for them as well.
Your baby is lucky to have you! Be confident in caring for them. You are doing a great job. Be excited to see what their future holds!