Tips for Preemie Care

babyfeet.JPGToday, Heather shares tips for surviving the nerve wracking early months of preemie care:

“Pregnant with triplets, we knew that our babies would be born premature. Studies have shown that babies born from one to three weeks early have a greater risk of breathing and feeding problems, trouble maintaining their body temperature, greater rates of jaundice, and problems with brain development. I was among the fortunate to carry to 35 weeks (considered full term for triplets). Our trio came into this world weighing 5.9, 4.11, and 3.13 pounds.

Words cannot describe the barrage of feelings when holding a 3.13 pound baby in the cup of your hands. Our triplets turned one in January. We made it through the round the clock feedings, sleepless nights, and all the wonderment infants bring. My fears and challenges related to caring for premature infants are now behind me, but I’ll always carry that experience with me. Here are a few helpful tips for those challenging early months of preemie care:

  • Restrict visitation. In an effort to reduce exposure to germs, I did not allow company (other than immediate family) to visit for the first month. All visitors were required to take off their shoes before entering the house and were asked to wash their hands. No one who was sick was allowed to visit. We made no excuses or exceptions. These were the rules we stuck by for visitation during the triplets’ first four months.

  • Weight check appointments. The pediatrician will likely require biweekly weight checks for a period of time. Rather than bundling up, traveling to, and waiting in a busy waiting room, request that a visiting nurse (VNA) come to your home. Be sure to check whether your insurance will cover the visits; many cover up to 30 days of services.

  • Breast pump. Some people thought I was insane, but since I nursed my first child, I felt committed to nursing the triplets. For 6 weeks when I wasn’t breastfeeding I was pumping. I would nurse two babies at the same time and the third would get a bottle and then I would rotate them. They would also each get a bottle of formula a day as it proved difficult to keep up with their eating every 2-3 hours for almost two months. A hospital grade breast pump was key; again, check your insurance as many will cover a hospital grade breast pump.

  • Formula. By the 6-week breastfeeding/pumping mark I was physically and mentally exhausted. My pediatrician fully supported switching to formula full-time and we were fortunate that our insurance covered their formula 100% for a whole year. Check whether your insurance will cover the high caloric formulas recommended for preemies. In addition, manufactures will often provide a one-month supply of formula free upon request. Have your pediatrician check with the sales representative.

  • Synagis shots. Synagis is a series of shots that deliver medication to protect babies against RSV. Check whether your insurance company covers Synagis medication. My trio didn't quality because they made it to 35 weeks, but my understanding is that babies under 35 weeks and who have other risk factors (like a sibling in school or other health issues) typically qualify.

  • Early intervention (EI). Early Intervention offers therapeutic, educational, and family support services for delayed, disabled, or at-risk infants and toddlers from birth to age three. Services include screening and assessment, home visits, groups, and individual center based therapies, toddler groups, parent education, and support groups. These services are available to the general public regardless of insurance or the ability to pay.”