Google+ Authentic Parenting: Getting Through the NICU

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Through the NICU

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.




My Little Buddha was born limp, which earned us a pretty rocky couple of first days, which he spent in the NICU and I spent running between a hospital room and his isolette.
Having a baby in the NICU can be nerve wrecking. It probably isn’t what you’ve expected your babymoon to be. Here are a couple of pointers to get you through this period.

Picture my daughter took of her baby brother in his isolette
  • Ask to hold your baby as much as possible. All babies thrive from a mother’s touch, no matter how bad their condition. There have even been cases of babies coming back after having been declared dead, just because of their mother’s closeness. Being skin to skin with mommy regulates heart rate and breathing. It also promotes the flow of breastmilk, which is especially important for fragile newborns. So no matter what the staff at the hospital say, no matter what ideas your baby’s doctor has, make a case of holding and touching your baby as much as possible.
  • Be present at exams. Even though some exams may be nerve wrecking and not fun to watch, maybe the nurse will try to convince you otherwise, being present for your baby is very important. Hearing your voice and feeling you near will soothe your baby. Obviously, there are some tests where you can’t be present, but you or your partner will be able to come to the exam room and be there as soon as your baby comes out of the room.
  • Insist on giving your baby breast milk only. Breastmilk is so important for a newborn, especially newborns who struggle at the start, it contains all the vitamins and minerals and antibodies your baby needs. If you’re not producing enough milk, get donated milk from a milk bank or an mom to mom network such as HM4HB.
  • Have your baby nurse at the breast as much as possible. Not only will this promote your milk flow, it will build a deep connection between you and your baby and it is goo dfor your baby’s health and recovery (see the first tip).
  • Be informed!!! Try to find out as much as you can about what your baby is going through and his treatment. Get online and find out even more. Make sure your baby is getting the best support you can get him. Don’t mind about being confrontational. This is not the time to get the Good Patient Syndrome. Ask all the annoying questions and stand your ground. If necessary, get a second and third opinion.
  • Remember: The hospital works for you, not the other way around. If you do not agree with the treatment you and your baby are getting, get another doctor, or hospital.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people only. Now is not the time to be people pleasing? Having a baby in the NICU is hard on everyone in your family, so you don’t have to put up with negative energy. If you’re feeling worn or depressed, call someone who you can really talk to and rely on.
  • Send your friends this list to help you and your family out while you're in the hospital.
  • If you’re feeling sad, cry. Don’t worry about the nurses seeing you or what anyone may think. These are hard times, you are allowed to cry, you are allowed to have feelings and you are allowed to voice them, if you can. You may even find a shoulder to cry on.
  • Spend as much time with your baby as possible. Your baby is probably feeling as lost and alone as you are, after nine months of being secure in the womb. If you can’t hold him, you can read to him or talk to him. But just being present is already a great deal.
  • Bring something familiar into the NICU if this is possible. Having a homemade or familiar item with you will make the isolette seem a little less clinical.
These are the tips I can give you based on my (negative) experience after my baby’s birth. I hope they are helpful. If they avoid at least one family of going through what we went through (formula pushing, depression, no milk flow, useless testing, hospital induced infection, no holding, daily struggles with the staff...), I will have succeeded. My heart goes out to all families in this situations.

If you have been in a similar situation, what got your through? What did you find helpful?





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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
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(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)


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13 comments:

  1. Our first child was in the NICU after three days of being home with us. Some of hospital staff was so encouraging of my nursing and then there were others.

    I couldn't hold her in my arms for her first 24 hours of being there and I was devastated. It felt like after so much mental preparation and excitement that our relationship was getting off on the wrong foot.

    When the staff emphasized how much she drank from a bottle and she couldn't latch properly, I worried she wouldn't want to nurse when we returned home. Mostly, I wish someone had told me she would still latch OK despite being fed a bottle for a few days. I also wish I had realized that the hospital put her physical health before all else. I think if I had that perspective then I could have seen so many of their recommendations and comments in a different light and not taken them to heart.

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  2. Thankyou, this is important for all parents who have a little one in the nicu to know. We were told our little one wasn't going to live and I refused to believe it. I asked everyone to see her strong and well and thriving:) After 4 days to all medical staff amazement they took her breathing tube out and she breathed on her own. They told us she would have brain damage, but again I held a different vision for her. I would sit by her and tell her how strong and full of health and wellness she was. After 10 days and a gazillion tests she finally came home, without a thing wrong. She is a dynamo 4 yr old now and the most incredible blessing. I learnt so much from that journey and the healing we have taken together has been the most profound experience of my life. Thanks for your beautiful writing and sharing your divine thoughts. X

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  3. A really lovely site - authentic parenting is a subject very close to my heart. So much so we ended up home schooling our children as we felt this was a more natural way to educate. Now our kids are moving into the wider world I'm writing to support others and raise awareness of that option through my site http://rossmountney.wordpress.com
    If there's anything I can contribute please let me know. Best wishes. x

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  4. I agree with these! Definitely bring something from home to make that little isolette yours. Our NICU had handmade quilts they gave each baby, I thought that was very sweet (and I donated some I'd made after we were out!)

    The breastmilk one might be a fight, so keep putting up that fight!! I had to really be vocal about wanting breast milk and got a TON of pressure to supplement. It was exhausting.

    Most of all, don't be intimidated. At first I felt like the nurses were in charge, it really took me giving myself a pep talk to realize that I was still the mom, I still had my son's best interest in mind, even though he needed medical care. It's easy to be scared and let them do what they want, you have to be vocal about your wants and needs and beliefs.

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  5. When we arrived at the NICU after Kieran's birth, I remember asking one of the doctors something to the effect of, "well, what if I don't think he needs to be here and want to take him home?" She said, "then we'll report you to SRS and they'll take your baby away. It is our call." It definitely was not an atmosphere of the hospital working for us. While I would phrase that question differently today (because I know the doctors have a lot of CYA to do, too), and while I would demand to be a part of my child's care, I would not let a doctor bully me like that again. These are great tips - I'd also add something about having someone unemotional advocating for you, because we are so often tired, stressed, and unable to think of everything we'd like to.

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  6. I wish I'd had this info when my twins were in the NICU, over 9 years ago. As they had TTTS and I knew they would be born a little early (34w, vaginal birth), I felt prepared for them being in the NICU, but I had no idea what I was doing.

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  7. These are great tips. I wrote about our NICU experience in my carnival post as
    well... http://theclearscamandrach.blogspot.com/2012/03/raising-babe-with-iugr.html

    I think a huge thing people need to know is their parental rights, especially in regards to their particular hospital's rules and policies.

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  8. Good tips for being an advocate for your child. I know how hard it is to navigate NICU, especially when you never prepared for it. Another thing is to make sure parents/guardians are on the same page for all procedures. We never imagined our son would be in NICU and my husband was forced to make decisions under pressure.

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  9. I think your most important tip is to cry... allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you need to feel! Great article and will def. pass it on to other mothers who may have or do have a NICU baby!

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  10. Ah, Laura, I'm still so sad about how badly you were treated. :( Thank you so much for this list of tips — I know it will be so helpful for other families who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the stress and lack of support that often accompanies a NICU stay. I just want to say again that I'm glad you all are now safely at home together.

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  11. Thank you! This list is so valuable!! It is hard to stand up for what is instinctual or natural if it goes against hospital policy or beliefs. This list will help others advocate for best practices and for the things babies and families really need. I have heard that Norwegian and Dutch NICUs are far more baby friendly... if we advocate hard enough, perhaps someday we will follow in their footsteps.
    I will bookmark this page for anyone I know who has a baby in the NICU. It is a very valuable resource.

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  12. Olivia was in the NICU for 10 days for seizures when she was born in 2007. During her first seizure, the L&D nurses snatched my baby away from me (after they scolded me for getting out of bed and carrying her out of her room instead of putting her in her bassinet in the hallway) and stood in a circle around her, convincing us by their demeanor that her condition was perilous and then sweeping her away to the NICU without a word to us for what felt like an eternity.
    One of the two consulting pediatric physicians in the NICU who was assigned to Olivia didn't even bother to LEARN HER GENDER. The NICU nurses were beautiful, fabulous - except about breastfeeding. I would tell the nurses when I would be coming (specifically to nurse), I would write it on the whiteboard in her little room, and then I would arrive to someone burping her after her bottle. I pumped like crazy to get a milk supply there for her after they gave her 1 bottle of formula.
    I was so exhausted - I had a 17 month old at home, too, and my husband didn't have the vacation time at work. So I would go to the hospital in the morning, come home and pump, find a babysitter who would loan me their car (back in the one car days), go back to the hospital, come home, pump, go back up to the hospital when my husband got home, come home, pump, sleep...
    Overall, it wasn't a negative experience, but it was one of the most difficult and frightening things I've gone through. She's a happy, healthy 5 year old now!

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  13. Olivia was in the NICU for 10 days for seizures when she was born in 2007. During her first seizure, the L&D nurses snatched my baby away from me (after they scolded me for getting out of bed and carrying her out of her room instead of putting her in her bassinet in the hallway) and stood in a circle around her, convincing us by their demeanor that her condition was perilous and then sweeping her away to the NICU without a word to us for what felt like an eternity.
    One of the two consulting pediatric physicians in the NICU who was assigned to Olivia didn't even bother to LEARN HER GENDER. The NICU nurses were beautiful, fabulous - except about breastfeeding. I would tell the nurses when I would be coming (specifically to nurse), I would write it on the whiteboard in her little room, and then I would arrive to someone burping her after her bottle. I pumped like crazy to get a milk supply there for her after they gave her 1 bottle of formula.
    I was so exhausted - I had a 17 month old at home, too, and my husband didn't have the vacation time at work. So I would go to the hospital in the morning, come home and pump, find a babysitter who would loan me their car (back in the one car days), go back to the hospital, come home, pump, go back up to the hospital when my husband got home, come home, pump, sleep...
    Overall, it wasn't a negative experience, but it was one of the most difficult and frightening things I've gone through. She's a happy, healthy 5 year old now!

    ReplyDelete

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