An estimated 15 million babies are born preterm every year – more than 1 in 10 babies around the world. Today, 17th November, is World Prematurity Day and to show my support and help raise awareness I’m sharing our story and a bit of the baby stuff that helped me.
My baby arrived unexpectedly 5 – 6 weeks early. He was a good weight though of 5lb 10oz when he arrived. I’d actually been to work that day, returned home, and at midnight woke up to a dream that my waters had broke. They had! I won’t bore you with the labour details, you know the drill, but he was born naturally and was healthy, without the need for caesarean.
We did have to spend 7 days in St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, UK, where he received treatment for jaundice and to regulate his temperature. Baby Ben spent every day under his sunbed, for photo light therapy, and I couldn’t cuddle or comfort him. In fact, I wondered if I’d given birth to the masked ‘Zorro’ or another superhero.
Anyway, we eventually came home and ‘normal life’ could resume. Or so I thought…
I think the thing is, whilst it’s a shock for every new mum, premature babies offer their own difficulties for us to manage. Namely, everything is way TOO BIG, and their bodies aren’t fully capable to function, particularly when it comes to digesting milk.
I found it so hard on my own, whilst my man was still in Australia (he had booked flights for the expected birth date and there was no chance of him making it to the UK in time once premature labour began!). However, I trusted my instinct and kept talking to other mums, picking up as many ideas and recommendations as I could. But I wish you were encouraged more to prepare for the possibility of a preterm labour. It was certainly not mentioned in our antenatal classes at all and I was disappointed there seemed to be nowhere that gave you the advice and solutions I needed to cope with my tiny baby.
Hand knitted clothes – I’d had visions before he was born, as I rubbed my growing bump, of my baby being dressed head to toe in matching white designer outfits as a newborn, everyone cooing on my facebook about how cute he looked, and him making it big as an insta baby. But I soon learnt that NOTHING fit my boy and he looked ridiculous in everything, even the bibs were ginormous. I hadn’t even finished packing my hospital bag. I remember sending an SOS message to mum asking her to bring maternity pads and nappies. The nappies hung off baby Ben though. So, my family all rushed around and I eventually got a packet of Papmers micro. They were considerably better!
Because baby’s temperature would not regulate, every time he came off his “sunbed” I had to quickly dress him for his feed. But it wasn’t in the designer white onesies and matching hats…no. It was in the hand knitted wooly hats and cardigans that were donated to us from the hospital. They too were a bit big, even over his oversized babygrows, but they did the trick. I was so touched by the kindness of the hospital, I felt like every cardigan and wooly hat was saving his life. So much so, that I wouldn’t dress him in anything else for about a month after we came out! So, just in case, have a word with your grandma or auntie, or get on ebay and get yourself a hand knitted cardigan on order. They keep the baby’s temperature better regulated than cotton or synthetic material. And whilst they may not look as ‘cool’ they do look so damn cute.
Dr Brown Bottles – The worst thing for me, has been feeding time. I thought this was when a new mum could bond with their newborn bundle of joy, but honestly, I hated it. I think at one stage I developed severe ‘milk anxiety’. My baby has always been hungry with a good appetite, but his stomach couldn’t digest the milk and we immediately entered an agonising cycle of feeding, winding, vomiting, and hysterical crying which went on for about 3-4 hours. So as soon as we’d settle, it would start all over again. I thought I was losing my mind and the will to live, but a friend told me to try Dr Brown bottles (we’d been using Tommee Tippee). They weren’t a miracle cure, but they definitely helped and he still uses them now. The specially designed Internal Vent System (green in colour) helps reduce feeding problems like colic.
Gaviscon – The other thing I wished I’d done sooner was persist more in the beginning with my GP. I went to my appointments and always discussed the issues he had with vomiting and colic like symptoms, but I was too easily dismissed by them. I was too worried they had me marked down as an over-paranoid first time mother, who wasn’t coping well on her own. Eventually, I made such a fuss that a female doctor listened. I’m pretty sure she heard the desperation in my voice and could see I was about to crack, and she prescribed baby Ben with Gaviscon. The little green sachets of powder that I mixed into every bottle, actually worked! And eventually, Ben caught up and by about 12 weeks he could enjoy his bottles without bringing them all back up. Gaviscon is free on prescription for babies in the UK but is an over the counter payable item here in Australia. Ben’s eating habits could prove a lot more expensive down under!
Babymoov Cosy-dream – There’s so many more things I want to share, like the fact that the car seat was too big and I remember on one of the first drives with daddy, we nearly decapitated baby! So, we found an insert online to place inside the car seat newborn insert. Or that if I hadn’t bought muslin squares, my life would not have been worth living. And if you want to know more or have your own stories and prem baby advice to share, just get in touch. But for this blog, my last must-have item for a prem baby is the babymoov cosy-dream.
It looks like a wedge and has been used every single day. I can’t remember where I discovered this online, but I am so glad I did! Because of baby’s digestive issues and colic, he was constantly sick. So the 70 degree incline meant I wasn’t worried about him choking and it helped his milk digest. I originally had bought the cosy-dream for his crib, but when I first took baby Ben out in his pram, he ricoshayed around the bassinette so much I was scared I’d give him brain damage. So, I soon placed the cosy-cream wedge in his pram and it’s stayed there ever since. It’s kept him safe and secure as such a tiny baby, and now he’s bigger, I know he is comfy and he can see out of the pram better and have a nosy.
At the time I’ve posted this and on World Prematurity Day, baby Ben is now over 5 months old, and boy has he grown! He’s weighing in at a whopping 16lb 1oz and has chubby legs and rosy cheeks and rolls of fat. Something I never thought I’d see when I cradled my skinny twiggy legged alien about 23 weeks ago. It’s not been easy. But I guess it isn’t for any new parent. And even now, Ben being a premmie still presents daily problems with his development. However, once you’re over the shock of preterm labour, there is so much support out there. I’m so proud to be mummy to a premmie a.k.a a little miracle child who defies the odds. Share your story too and help shine a light on premature birth. You can get involved and find us on insta/FB. #worldprematurityday
From THIS TO THIS in 5 months