Home at last, what’s next?
I know you must be pretty exhausted so far but well done! You have done extremely well and you certainly deserve all the accolades for being a super mom!! Now the work continues but this time, at home with your little warrior. Caring for your preemie at home can look like quite a daunting task however it’s nothing you can’t handle so I hope this post serves as the perfect guide to make things easier for you.
Things you NEED to have with you:
Pulse oximeter (don’t worry too much if you don’t have this yet)
Paracetamol (as prescribed by the doctor)
Feeding your preemie is quite a task. It’s important to know that preemies can be quite slow so feeding them requires extra patience. Back in the NICU, I’m sure you were taught how to feed (breast milk or formula feed) using the cup and spoon method. You can continue with that and top up by putting baby to the breast to suckle. Because your baby might not be excellent at latching yet, the cup and spoon method is great for feeding him/her. Even though it seems slow, feeding with the cup and spoon is the best because it helps you quantify what your baby is eating so you know how much he or she ate (for example, 60 mls and then you top up directly from breast) to ensure they are fully fed. After feeding, DO NOT lay the baby on the bed immediately. Please make sure you burp them adequately until baby belches (at least once or twice) or keep baby upright until enough time has passed to allow the feed to settle. By experience, I find that the best practice is to allow at least 45-60 minutes for preemies, to be on the safe side. The last thing you want is to run to the Paediatric ER because your baby aspirated! It’s a horrible experience so as much as possible make sure the baby belched before you lay him/her down and when laying baby down, always make sure the head and upper body are slightly elevated and baby’s head lays sideways. You can also place baby in the kangaroo position immediately after feeding so you can keep him/her upright (for the feed to settle) while having your hands are free to do other things. Baby may spit up very small quantities of milk once in a while but if baby actually vomits after feeding, you need to discuss this with your paediatrician.
Ensure that your environment is clean and dust free. We don’t want baby to catch a flu or any related disease. Keep the room very warm and ensure baby is kept warm as well by swaddling or keeping baby in the kangaroo position to ensure maintenance of body heat. Preemies especially SHOULD NOT be exposed to any form of cold weather at such an early stage; remember that they are still extremely delicate so just as you were doing in the NICU, please ensure that they are kept warm. Also ensure you keep them away from too many people. If anyone else must carry/hold the baby, ensure that they wash their hands and/or sanitise; and especially in recent times, ensure they wear their face mask! Dear mama, you should not be afraid to tell people to do what is right around your baby.
Baby literally doesn’t go anywhere so constant bathing in water with a sponge, soap, etc is not needed at this point. You can clean or wipe them up quickly with warm water, dress them up, wrap/swaddle them up nicely; don’t forget their socks, hats, hand gloves etc. Please note: baby isn’t feeling “hot” so please don’t expose his/her chest. If you feel baby may be overheating (use your thermometer to check the temp is not at or above 38 degrees Celsius) you can peel off some layers of clothing at this point but NEVER EVER expose the baby. As much as possible, always place baby in the kangaroo position if he/she is not eating or being cleaned up.
MEDICATIONS AND NICU CLINIC
Please DO NOT miss your NICU clinics appointments. It’s important to see the doctor with your baby at all your appointments. Baby needs to be assessed regularly so, at your NICU clinic visits, the weight of your baby will always be checked and if there are any lab tests or any further investigations to be done, the doctor will make you aware. Don’t panic if you have to take any further tests. Like I said earlier, preemies are delicate so it’s important that they are monitored often and thoroughly taken care of. If baby is given multivitamins/micronutrients, kindly administer the medication as directed by your doctor. If you have any concerns, do communicate that to the doctor and please do not self-medicate.
With vaccinations, discuss with the doctor at NICU clinic on what’s the best time for baby to start. It’s very important to discuss with the doctor before you go ahead with vaccinations because preemies need to attain a certain weight milestone before they can begin vaccinations. Also, every baby reacts differently to the vaccines so it is good to get your doctor’s advice before you start.
KANGAROO MOTHER CARE
Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is an integral part of caring for your preemie. I’m sure you already know its benefits but let me state a few. KMC helps regulate breathing, regulates temperature, promotes bonding with caregivers, and also helps with weight gain. Until your baby has achieved the desired weight, kindly continue your KMC religiously at home. Don’t give up Mama, I know it’s tiring but at this point, it is one of the best things you can do for your baby. You can also teach daddy or other caregivers (grandma, aunties, etc) how to put baby in the Kangaroo position while you get some rest.
Dear Mama, as much as possible take some time off and get some rest. Remember, you need to be at your best in order to also give your baby the best of yourself. Hand baby over to grandma/daddy/auntie and sleep in for just a little while or take a long shower break; you can also book a spa session for your rest and relaxation because you deserve to be well. The NICU journey, no matter the number of days spent, is certainly stressful and can be traumatic so please take it a day at a time. Don’t blame yourself for what happened. Be happy for the simple fact that baby is finally home with you and try to enjoy every bit of the time you have at home with your little miracle.
Taking care of a preemie will definitely teach you patience in ways you never thought possible! Because everything is slow-paced and every day is different and full of surprises, you may feel some anxiety but don’t worry at all, when baby starts catching up you won’t even believe you had a preemie to begin with. As much as possible, do not compare yourself to other moms or compare your baby to other babies; it is the biggest disservice you can do to yourself. Everyone’s journey is different. Know that and have peace. Make memories with your little miracle and thank God for life!
Jessica Naa Adjeley Konney
Digital Marketing Manager/ blogger at Trendsandblendsgh /Founder at Preemie Perfect
Naa Adjeley Konney is a fashion blogger from Ghana. Known as “Naa Adjeley” due to her 8 years of blogging experience, she has carved a niche for herself and is one of the most popular fashion bloggers today.
Besides promoting look books of fashion brands, she interviews designers, models, and other fashion entrepreneurs, as well as covering some of the biggest fashion weeks in Accra. She blogs at http://trendsnblendsgh.com
With over five years’ experience in B2C and B2B marketing in the digital sphere, she is also a Digital Marketing Manager.
Having newly given birth to a warrior preemie, Naa launched Preemie Perfect. Its objective is to provide support to other preemie moms as well. For any mother raising a preemie, this platform is the perfect resource.