Thursday, January 08, 2009

Must Haves

...for moms (and/or dads) who have babies in the NICU or Level 2 Nursery.

Having a premature baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a difficult and very emotional experience. With all the worries we have for our babies and having to be with them in the hospital all day, it can get a little stressful and overwhelming at times.

It's hard to have to see your child go through all that they are going through in their early days in this world. IVs, spinal taps/lumbar punctures, x-rays, blood tests, eye exams...All things one would cringe at when seeing it happen to a tiny baby. It is not easy when you have to watch as your infant goes through this.

Here are a few things I've found particularly helpful in helping me get through those long days in that room with alarms, flashing lights, and ringers that never seem to stop:

1. The support of family members and the other parents who are going through the same thing as you are. I have made a few really great friends during Little One's stay at Mt. Sinai. It helps to be able to unload, vent, and share feelings of worry, frustration, sadness, people who understand because they know what you are experiencing.

2. The help of the support staff, doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. Use the resources you have at the hospital. That's what they are there for. Mt. Sinai has an EXCELLENT support system for parents of infants in the NICU and Level 2 Nursery.

3. The Internet. Of course, not for Googling all the medical terms, procedures and illnesses/conditions you hear the doctors talking about with regard to your baby! I don't advise anyone to Google anything like that. It will just overwhelm you and make you worry more! Use the Internet to divert your attention sometimes. E-mail, search for baby products, shop...whatever. Just try to get a couple minutes a day to yourself and just distract yourself for a bit. I found that getting out of the nursery for a few minutes was helpful. I'm there all day, so it is a bit wearing on a person to be by the baby's bedside all day without a break.

4. Baby books. I read to Little One as often as I can. It's a good idea to have your baby hear your voice. They know your voice since they've heard it in utero. Plus, I'm a bit biased. Being an ESL teacher, I think it's important to introduce children to the wonderful world of books and reading right from the start :)

Some of the books I have been reading to Little One at the hospital are:
I Love You Through and ThroughI bought these two books for Little One because they illustrate perfectly just how much I love my little girlie.

5. A BPA-free water bottle. Being at the hospital all day can get a bit dry. It's important to keep hydrated anyway. I also find that when I'm nursing or pumping, I get really thirsty all the time.

Sigg Bottles are reusable, eco-friendly, and fashionable. SIGG specializes in aluminum bottles lined with a resin to protect you from off-tastes in the water and any stray aluminum molecules. I've got a great BPA-free BIOS H20 bottle, but would love to get myself a Sigg.

6. A good pump! Of course, this is for you moms out there and not you dads! Mt. Sinai Hospital uses the Medela "Symphony" pump and Sick Kids Hospital uses Ameda's "Purely Yours". Both are very good pumps. I was given the Purely Yours as a baby shower gift and it works very well. I do find that in my case, the Symphony yields more milk though. (Sorry for the breast pump talk! Probably TMI for some, eh?) The Symphony is also designed to simulate a baby's sucking patterns. It helps for build up and let down periods. "This breastpump for hospitals and home rental gives the mother the most natural of feelings along with unique technical refinement. Ideal for long-term and frequent pumping needs."
The reason I mention breast pumps being a must have for NICU/Level 2 moms is because if you want to give your baby breast milk, it's a good idea to pump while you are at the hospital if you're there all day. Since most of us with babies in the NICU cannot breastfeed right away because our babies are too small or not ready to breastfeed, the lactation consultants/nurses try to get moms to start pumping right away to get their milk flowing. I pump because I want to make sure to keep my quantity up, but am wondering how I'm going to pump when Little One is now breastfeeding ad-lib while I'm at the hospital during the day! Again, sorry for all the boob talk, guys!

The Symphony is not for sale to the public. The hospital rents out the machines for a small fee per week. I think the machines cost $3000 a piece (or so I've been told)!

7. A camera. You won't want to miss out on any of those precious early moments! I know I've taken a zillion photos of Little One already and she's only (Gah! I should say already instead of only!) 60 days old!

8.The Nestle Baby Backpack. It's free if you go on the website and request one by joining the Nestle Baby Program. My sister-in-law is expecting twins and when she had her first baby she told me about the Nestle Baby site. The backpack is a convenient diaper bag that comes with a change pad and is insulated. It's pretty roomy, yet not bulky. I've been using it to lug around my Purely Yours pump, bottles and other things like my notebook, pen, cell phone, etc.

9. A notebook and a pen. You might want to do some journal writing while you're there. I've been keeping a journal to keep Little One's story for posterity. It's an amazing keepsake for her to look back on when she is older. Though I have the blog and have chronicled her story here, there's nothing like the tangible properties books have and the written word (and I mean handwritten) is so special too.

If you're not a journal writing kind of person, it's also handy to keep a notebook and pen anyway in case you need to jot down any questions or concerns you may have. I've done this many times in Little One's early weeks. I took notes for Hubby since I had to sift through all the medical jargon myself and speak with doctors about things like Bilirubin levels, repeat levels, phototherapy, Trivisol, RSV, apnea of prematurity, spells, retinopathy of prematurity, bradycardia, desats, etc.

*sigh* There are so many things I never thought I'd ever need to know until I gave birth to my preemie :) I hope this post helps other parents out there who have infants in the NICU/Level 2 Nursery.


Dee said...

this is a great post Chris! I definitely have my "must haves" list but it is so different from the needs of a mom of a preemie!
I loved the medela pump i rented when DS was born. The manual one i have is great too- makes such a difference having a good pump!
i love that you are keeping a private journal as well. That is very special and private, which is important. I wish i'd done that too!
keep up the great work and i hope to come see you again soon!

J said...

I had a home use medela pump when Maya was little. Nowhere near as fancy or efficient (or expensive) as the one you're using. But still pretty decent. I have opinions on trying to pump while nursing as well (mostly just things like pump after she feeds, so you can empty out the breast...that will stimulate your milk production), but I would suggest talking to the hospital lactation consultant and see what she/he suggests.

Maya LOVED Goodnight Moon when she was a baby. Before she could crawl, she could scoot around, and she would scoot to the book and chew on it. :)

Another book she LOVED at bedtime was "Sun is falling, Night is Calling". Such a calming bedtime song. I see it's out of print now...I wish we hadn't worn Maya's copy out from so much use...I'd send it to you.

J said...

I said bedtime's a story. :) If I can find her worn out copy, I'll photocopy the pages for you and send them.

Tracy said...

I think this post could help a lot of people! Very informative. :)

louann said...

I agree with Dina. The list differs from babies born full term.

I'm feeling a bit sad. My officemate gave birth today but her baby girl died. Sad.

You'll get through all this C! Just keep looking at the bright side =)

Jeanna said...

Nice to see you decided to keep blogging, but don't stress yourself more than you have to.
Great finds, that baby pack looks really handy. Are the rest of the books as classic as Good Night Moon?
I like the sound of that book J mentioned, Sun is Falling, Night is Calling. Not many real little ones around these days to read it to, but it is too bad it's out of print.
Remember all those years Eloise was out of print?

Uncivil said...

Yay!!!!!You're still blogging!

word ver "uriolog"

sounds like a weblog with a urinary tract infection?LOL!!!!

Dee said...

i meant to mention that we LOVE goodnight moon here...and I love you through and through is a fave too. We also love Sandra Boynton books..many of which have tunes (you can get them online)
reading together is such a special bonding time between baby and mommy

Unknown said...

Thanks, D! I was curious about the manual pumps. I find the electric ones fantastic. I've never used a manual though and was wondering if it was hard to use/more work.

So true about the journal writing. So special and so private. It's been cathartic and so helpful throughout the past few weeks.

I hope to see you soon...before LO gets sent home!! :) Miss you! I'll talk to you soon. I was going to call you today, but then got sidetracked when LO decided she wanted to feed and wanted to feed right then! XOXO

Unknown said...

Ohhhh! I have heard so much about "Sun is falling, Night is Calling".

I am enjoying reading to LO. It's so important to me to introduce her to books at a really young age. Even just hearing my voice as I read to her is important. Plus, it may be selfish on my part, but I just love our quiet moments sitting in a comfy chair with her on my chest while I read to her. She makes these sweet little cooing sounds. Too cute.

Unknown said...

Interesting about the nursing and pumping. I talked to the lactation consultant just yesterday about that! I was so confused before! I'm breastfeeding her most of the time while I'm at the hospital, so do I still pump? When do I pump if I'm nursing her? So many questions. The LC pretty much answered my concerns. Pumping after feeds helps a lot! I find myself really NEEDING to pump sometimes!

It's weird. Sometimes I'll be having lunch or something and all of a sudden feel the "OMG! I've got to go pump!" sensation. Crazy.

Unknown said...

I hope it helps some people, because any info I had received from parents who had been in the NICU longer than me was really valuable to me. These are just tiny things but it makes a small difference during the time spent in the hospital.

Hello!!! Was just thinking of you and your little one! How are you doing???

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

Awesome list Chris - I know of someone who might need it.

I have the Purely Yours and I found it worked well but not as good as the hospital grade on.I rented the Ameda hospital grade one for 3 months.

Little one is going to be one clever and well read girl.

I am so glad she is doing so well.

Cherry said...

Not that you are into checking your page hit stats, but I bet over the years, this post is going to get a lot of traffic!

What a great list!

Chronicling our experiences is really going to help a lot of people. Even though I know that's not why you are doing this.

Unknown said...

Hey, girlfriend :) I miss you!!! How are things where you are?

I don't think the rest of the books are as classic as Goodnight Moon. They're cute stories though. You know, all about how much parents love their little ones, etc. It may sound ooey-gooey and mushy, but it really is how I feel for LO! LOL! I was reading "No Matter What", "I Love You Through and Through" and "How Do I Love You?" to LO and I was CRYING! I sad. I'm pathetic! LOL!

Word ver= preasame

Unknown said...

LOL! Uriolog! That's pretty funny! I get a kick out of these word verifications :)

Yes, you are stuck with me for a while yet. I am going to continue blogging for a while longer. It's hard to stay away from the blog world when I have you, Jeanna, J, Ms.Mamma, Cherry, Autumn's Mom and everyone else out there on my mind :) XOXO

Dee said...

absolutely NOT PATHETIC that you cried reading certain books. I BAWL hysaterically every time I read I Love You Forever to E or M. It starts out all good then about 1/2 way through the waterfalls start and E looks at me as if i'm crazy! Now G won't let me near that book!!!
i suggest waiting a few months before even attemting to read that one to LO!!

J said...

Hey C, I've photocopied more than half of the book, but I ran out of the 'good paper'. So I'll get some more and then finish it. :)

And regarding the need to pump? Wait until she's a year old, and big, drinking you'll have so much milk you'll have that sensation a LOT. Crazy.

Unknown said...

Awwww! Thanks! You are sooo sweet! XOXO

Funny you should mention that book! I ALWAYS cry when I read "Love You Forever"! I sing the song to LO (I love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be) from the book (if you've ever heard Robert Munsch tell the story, you'll hear him sing the song. So sweet). I CRY when I sing it to LO and I think the nurses MUST think I'm totally bonkers! LOL!

Angie said...

Seeing this brings back so many memories of my little one, who was born at 32 weeks in 2007. It was a very emotional 4 weeks after his birth, he spent a number of days on a ventilator and then CPAP before he was finaly strong enough to breathe on his own. The constant worries, the many little joys, holding him for the first time, different nurses wanting us to do things slightly differently, made this a rollercoaster ride I am more then happy to have left behind. The list you have given for parents of preemies is fantastic and is sure to be of help to others going through the same.

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