Bring­ing your preemie home

Lit­tle com­pares to the shock and trauma as­so­ci­ated with hav­ing a pre­ma­ture baby. Ni­cole Katzenel­len­bo­gen shares tips and strate­gies on how to take care of your preemie at home

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

WHILE SOME FAM­I­LIES ex­pected their baby to be pre­ma­ture and were able to plan in some ways, for many, this is not the case. Once dis­charged from the hospital, par­ents are of­ten anx­ious to have their pre­vi­ously “frag­ile” baby home in only their care.

In the hospital they had the con­stant guid­ance of med­i­cal staff and now may feel like they have been thrown in the deep end. Help is at hand for when the time comes to take your preemie home.

IT IS NEVER TOO LATE FOR KAN­GA­ROO CARE

Once baby is home and you have set­tled back into your own fa­mil­iar space, this is a lovely time to do kan­ga­roo care. No baby is too old to ben­e­fit from skin-toskin con­tact with their mom and dad. This much-needed lov­ing touch will help baby form pos­i­tive touch as­so­ci­a­tions, ben­e­fit from deep pres­sure in­put and it can help with di­ges­tive up­sets.

YOUR BABY IS USED TO NOISE

Your baby heard noises through­out your preg­nancy. They heard you talk and laugh, your heart­beat and those around you. In the hospital they heard nurses, other ba­bies and the beep­ing of med­i­cal equip­ment.

Now is not the time to ban­ish them to si­lence. While baby needs a safe and quiet place to sleep, back­ground noise will help baby feel se­cure as they have al­ways had this around them.

CRE­ATE PHYS­I­CAL BOUND­ARIES

Pre­ma­ture ba­bies have of­ten been in hospital for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time. Some hos­pi­tals are aware of cre­at­ing a “nest” for baby which gives them bound­aries in their cribs to push against. Other ba­bies, for med­i­cal or other rea­sons, have been on their backs or tum­mies with no phys­i­cal con­tain­ment.

All ba­bies are com­forted when they know where their bod­ies be­gin and end. This should help them calm and set­tle eas­ier and helps them un­der­stand their bod­ies in space.

This can be done by swad­dling your baby and cre­at­ing a nest in their cot. A nest is cre­ated us­ing blan­kets or tow­els which are rolled up and placed like a co­coon around your baby’s body, feet and head. They need to be se­cure to avoid breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

EX­POSE BABY TO SEN­SORY IN­PUT

Think about our five senses: hear­ing, taste, touch, smell and sight. Once your baby is more alert dur­ing awake time, gen­tly and calmly ex­pose your baby to sen­sory in­put.

This may mean sit­ting out­side in the gar­den to feel the grass, see­ing the leaves blow­ing in the wind or hear­ing the birds chirp­ing.

Have your baby near you around in the house while you are cook­ing to smell the var­i­ous flavours.

Make a “sen­sory tub” out of ev­ery­day items at home such as fab­ric, clothes, scour­ers, empty Be­rocca con­tain­ers with beans in­side (se­cure well!) and al­low your baby time to play with these daily.

Ex­pos­ing them to dif­fer­ent sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ences that feel safe and non­threat­en­ing will help them in­te­grate these senses.

Don’t for­get about move­ment and deep pres­sure – our hid­den senses. Dance and rock with the baby or go for walks in the park with a pram.

While the baby is small and frag­ile, she still needs move­ment in­put to in­te­grate her senses and feel se­cure.

The deep pres­sure sys­tem can be in­te­grated through mas­sage, swad­dling, nests and tummy time. GO EASY ON THE BABY Your baby is lit­tle. He or she is still learn­ing skills they would have de­vel­oped in utero and try­ing to be a typ­i­cal grow­ing baby. Take the pres­sure off your­self and your baby. This can be done by un­der­stand­ing and re­fer­ring to their cor­rected age when ex­pect­ing them to reach mile­stones re­lated to gross mo­tor, fine mo­tor or even feed­ing.

Cor­rect your baby’s age for the first two years of life and don’t ex­pect them to do what is typ­i­cal for their cor­rected age. Please re­mem­ber mile­stone ages are fluid and are usu­ally within a two-to-three­month age range.

TAKE TIME FOR YOUR­SELF

You have just been through a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence which re­quired you to learn new skills, be in the un­com­fort­able hospital set­ting and of­ten dis­tanced from fam­ily and friends. Once your baby is set­tled at home, have some­one step in to look af­ter him or her while you take some time for your­self. It’s not just the baby who needs to re­cover. Giv­ing your­self time, even just 20 min­utes, will make you more will­ing and en­gaged with your baby as you will be health­ier and hap­pier.

ASK QUES­TIONS

You and your baby have gone through a unique ex­pe­ri­ence and one that you most likely did not read about in the baby books. Seek out ad­vice from one or two trusted sources. Don’t be shy to ask ques­tions. You may want to use your doctor or nurs­ing sis­ter, or find as­sis­tance through oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, chi­ro­prac­tics or body talk. YB

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