Posts Tagged ‘NICU’

Breastfeeding your baby in the NICU can be challenging

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Many babies, even those born very premature can learn to breastfeed. Breast milk provides many health benefits for all newborns, but especially for premature or sick babies in the NICU. Feeding a premature baby may be much different than what you had planned. If you must pump, you may feel disappointed that you are not able to feed your warm baby on your breast. But, providing breast milk for your preemie is something special and beneficial that you can give him.

Here are tips to help you breastfeed your premature baby while in the NICU.

If your baby is unable to feed or latch:

• Start pumping as soon as you can to establish your milk supply. Ask a nurse for a pump and assistance.

• If your baby is tube feeding, your baby’s nurse can show you how to give your baby his feedings.

• Pump frequently, 8 to 12 times during a 24 hour span of time.

• Practice skin to skin or kangaroo care if your nurse says it is ok. Both are beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines and tubes.

If your baby is able to suckle:

• Ask to feed him in a quiet, darkened room, away from the beeping machines and bright lights.

• Many mothers find the cross cradle position very helpful for feedings. Start with kangaroo care. Then position the baby across your lap, turned in towards you, chest to chest. Use a pillow to bring him to the level of your breast if you need to.

• Babies born early need many opportunities at the breast to develop feeding skills regardless of gestational age. This requires practice and patience.

• You may need increased support to breastfeed your premature baby. Look for support from your nurses, the hospital’s lactation consultant, friends or family.

Not every tip will work for every mom. Try to find the feeding methods and solutions that work best for you and your baby. More information on how to feed your baby in the NICU can be found here.

If you have questions about how to feed your baby, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Premature birth and the NICU: a personal experience

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Every day I read and answer lots of questions on topics like pre-conception care, prenatal care, and how to have a healthy pregnancy. I also answer many questions about complications in pregnancy, like premature birth. So when I found out I was pregnant last year, I felt pretty well-prepared and knowledgeable. However, like many first time moms, I had a little anxiety those first few weeks.

The first half of my pregnancy was completely healthy and free of problems. However, at 23 weeks during my prenatal check-up, my doctor told me that there was a problem with my cervix. She told me that the ultrasound was showing I had a short cervix and explained I would need to go on bed rest and be treated with progesterone in order to help me stay pregnant longer. Unfortunately, having a short cervix is ​​a risk factor for preterm labor.

I had been on bed rest for 11 weeks, when during a routine prenatal check-up, the doctors told me that they would need to induce labor. My amniotic fluid was very low and they suspected that I had preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) I was 34 weeks and 1 day. My son, Theodore (Theo), was born the next day, November 22nd, weighing 4 pounds and 14 ounces.

Although I was able to hold him in my arms for about 10 minutes after delivery, while in the recovery room, he was quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for testing and put in the incubator. Theo was born with very high levels of bilirubin (jaundice) and had problems controlling his body temperature. Despite knowing that he was in good hands and receiving the necessary treatment, it was such a hard moment.

When I saw my son in the NICU for the first time I felt so many emotions. He was in the incubator, with the special blue lights for jaundice, and a small IV that was supplying his first nutrients. A few days after, they inserted a tube through his nose to feed him my breast milk because he didn’t have enough strength to suck and swallow on his own properly. The good news is that he had no breathing problems.

Despite these challenges, I was determined to practice kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) and feed him breastmilk. Since Theo was still learning to suck and swallow, he couldn’t latch, so I pumped my breast milk for his feedings. Kangaroo care is especially good for preemies because it helps them stay warm, helps them sleep better, and helps with bonding.

Having to leave our son in the hospital was a very difficult experience for my husband and me. Every day we headed out to the NICU early and came back home to eat dinner and sleep. I pumped every 2 to 3 hours and stored the milk to bring to the NICU for the next day. Theo stayed in the NICU a total of 10 days from birth until being discharged. The day we took him home was one of the happiest days of our lives.

The month of November will always be special month for me. In exactly 9 days, we will be celebrating Theo’s first birthday. He is a healthy, curious, independent, and sweet boy who can make anyone’s heart melt with his sweet smiles and giggles. It’s amazing how time flies.

November is also Prematurity Awareness Month. As overwhelming as the experience of having a premature delivery and birth was, I feel even more connected to March of Dimes’ mission, to all the women and families who share their story with us, and to all those who fight to give babies a happy and healthy tomorrow.

What is a respiratory therapist?

Monday, October 30th, 2017

If your baby is in the NICU, you know that there are a lot of people caring for her and helping her to get stronger each day. One of those NICU team members may be a respiratory therapist. A respiratory therapist (or RT) cares for babies with breathing problems.

When your baby first arrives in the NICU, a respiratory therapist evaluates her breathing. The RT looks to see if your baby is breathing too fast, if the breaths are shallow, or if she’s struggling to breathe. Then, together with the rest of the NICU team, the RT develops a treatment plan to help care for your baby.

Here are some common conditions that a respiratory therapist may see in the NICU:

Breathing problems: Premature babies often have breathing problems because their lungs are not fully developed. Full-term babies also can develop breathing problems due to complications of labor and delivery, birth defects and infections.

Apnea: Premature babies sometimes do not breathe regularly. A baby may take a long breath, then a short one, then pause for 5 to 10 seconds before starting to breathe normally. This is called periodic breathing. Apnea is when a baby stops breathing for more than 15 seconds. Apnea may be accompanied by a slow heart rate called bradycardia. Babies in the NICU are constantly monitored for apnea and bradycardia (often called “A’s and B’s”).

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS): Babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy often develop RDS. Babies with RDS do not have enough surfactant, which keeps the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.

Pneumonia: This lung infection is common in premature and other sick newborns. A baby’s doctors may suspect pneumonia if the baby has difficulty breathing, if her rate of breathing changes, or if the baby has an increased number of apnea episodes.

Many babies who need treatment for breathing problems benefit from respiratory therapy. In fact, neonatal respiratory therapy has become its own medical sub-specialty. A neonatal-pediatric RT is trained to use complex medical equipment to care for the smallest babies with mild to severe breathing challenges. They visit their patients daily or as often as needed and are an important part of your baby’s NICU team.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What is newborn screening?

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Newborn screening looks for rare but serious and mostly treatable conditions. Babies with these conditions often look healthy at birth, but if the disorder is not diagnosed and treated early, a baby may develop serious health problems. Newborn screening identifies babies with these conditions so they can get the treatment that they need. Newborn screening includes blood, hearing and heart tests.

When is newborn screening done?

All babies in the United States get newborn screening before they leave the hospital, when they are 1 or 2 days old. Some states require that babies have newborn screening again, about 2 weeks later.

If your baby is not born in a hospital, talk to her provider about getting newborn screening before she is 7 days old.

What happens if your baby is in the NICU?

Babies in the NICU may require a special process for newborn screening. If your baby is born prematurely, at a low birthweight, or needs special care in the NICU, it’s possible that some of the treatments and procedures she’s receiving may affect newborn screening results. Often, babies born early will require more than one newborn screening blood draw to make sure that the results are accurate. Talk to your baby’s NICU team if you have questions about newborn screening.

How is newborn screening done?

Newborn screening is done in 3 ways:

  1. Your baby’s baby’s heel is pricked to get a few drops of blood. The blood is collected on a special paper and sent to a lab for testing. The lab then sends the results back to your baby’s health provider.
  2. For the hearing screening, the provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
  3. For heart screening, a test called pulse oximetry is used. This test checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood by using a sensor attached to his finger or foot. This test is used to screen babies for a heart condition called critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). CCHDs are the most severe heart defects. Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life. Without treatment, CCHD can be deadly.

When will you get the results?

In most cases after your baby has had newborn screening, you won’t hear any more about them. Most newborn screening results are normal and if that is the case, families are not contacted. But you can always ask your baby’s health care provider for the results.

In rare cases when the screening results are out-of-range, you will receive a phone call about 2-3 weeks following the screening. This call can come from either the state newborn screening program or your baby’s health care provider and it usually means that your baby simply needs more testing.

How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?

The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 34 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early. Each state decides which tests are required. You can find out which conditions your state screen for here.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Do you have questions? Ask us

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Have a question about becoming pregnant? Do you want to learn more about what to expect during your pregnancy? Is your baby in the NICU? Let us help.

Our Health Education Specialists provide women and families with evidence-based information about having a healthy pregnancy and reducing the risk of having a preterm birth. Our specialists have been answering questions from women and families since 1997.

How can you reach our specialists?

Our specialists can answer your questions in both English and Spanish. For English, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. For Spanish, text or email preguntas@marchofdimes.org. You can also submit your questions through our website. Just complete our online form and one of our staff will respond within 2 business days.

Health Education Specialists all have master’s degrees in health fields such as public health, health science, nutrition and genetic counseling. We also have a certified lactation counselor on staff.

What information can our center provide?

Our specialists can provide information on many topics including:

  • starting a family
  • how to have a healthy pregnancy
  • pregnancy complication and risks
  • newborn health
  • prematurity
  • the NICU experience
  • lasting effects of prematurity
  • birth defects and special needs
  • pregnancy and infant loss.

If you are looking for information related to any of the topics listed, you’ve come to the right place. Reach out for resources and support. Our Health Education Specialists are here for you.

Getting ready for discharge from the NICU

Monday, July 31st, 2017

In general, your premature baby will be ready to go home around her due date. But your baby will have to reach certain milestones first. Her vital signsPreemie going home–temperature, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure–must be consistently normal. This means that your baby:

  • Keeps herself warm
  • Sleeps in a crib, not an incubator
  • Weighs about 4 pounds or more
  • Has learned to breast- or bottle-feed
  • Breathes on her own

What can you do to get ready?

Make sure you talk to your baby’s health care provider and the NICU staff about caring for your baby at home. Here are some things to think about:

  • Do you have everything you need at home to take care of your baby? Do you have medicine and equipment your baby needs? Do you know how to give your baby medicine and use the equipment?
  • Are there any videos, classes, booklets or apps that may help you learn how to take care of your baby at home? Ask about taking a CPR class prior to bringing your baby home—knowing what to do in an emergency may make you feel more comfortable.
  • What do you want discharge day to be like? Do you want family or friends to be there when you and your baby get home? Or do you want it to be just you and your partner with your baby?

Many hospitals let parents “room in” with their baby for a night or two before going home. This can be a good way to practice taking care of your baby on your own while the NICU staff is still right there to help.

Car seat

You will be required to have a car seat before you leave the hospital. Preterm and low-birthweight infants have a higher chance of slowed breathing or heart rate while in a car seat. So your baby may need a “car seat test” before being discharged. The NICU staff will monitor your baby’s heart rate and breathing while she is in her car seat for 90 to 120 minutes. They may watch your baby even longer if your travel home is more than 2 hours.

Follow-up care

Make sure you have chosen a health care provider for your baby. You can choose a:

  • Pediatrician. This is a doctor who has special training to take care of babies and children.
  • Family practice doctor. This is a doctor who provides care for every member of a family.
  • Nurse practitioner. This is a registered nurse with advanced medical education and training.

If your baby has special medical needs, you may also need a provider who specializes in that condition. The NICU staff, hospital social worker or your baby’s general care provider can help you find someone.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How does buying diapers support the March of Dimes?

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

pampers photoToday’s guest post is written by Natalie Diaz, preemie mom, bestselling author of “What To Do When You’re Having Two” and founder of Twiniversity. Read her inspiring story below and how you can help support other families.

I’ve spent my share of time in the NICU; 31 days to be exact. Delivering my twins at exactly 34 weeks due to HELLP Syndrome (a variant of preeclampsia), my family got to learn the ins and outs of a section of the hospital I thought I would never want to visit, let alone stay in. In hindsight, the time I spent at the Mt. Sinai NICU in New York City was not only therapeutic for my twins, but life changing for me. The team there taught me more than I thought any new mom could learn; not just from the medical side of things, but also how to heal my heart emotionally after the trauma of an unexpected early delivery.

After the twins were born, I got involved with the March of Dimes. I participated in their “March for Babies” for years and raised money that went towards research, education, support, and advocacy to help preemie parents like myself. I know the only “cure” for my prenatal condition was the delivery of my twins, and perhaps just taking some literal steps could prevent that from happening to the next mom.

In 2009, I took my desire to help preemie twin parents a step further and launched Twiniversity. With over 60% of twin babies born prematurely, I wanted to offer a place online where families of twins could read about issues exclusive to our community and gain knowledge and insight, along with connections with other twin parents who’ve walked in their shoes. So not only could I support the March of Dimes during their annual walk, but now I could support families daily.

On July 11th, you can help support the March of Dimes without ever leaving your chair on Amazon’s Prime Day. Sign up for a new Pampers subscription on Amazon Prime Day and Pampers will donate $10 to the March of Dimes to support families with babies in the NICU – up to $160,000!

If you aren’t familiar with Prime Day, it’s an online shopping celebration exclusively for Amazon Prime Members, featuring amazing deals, exclusive opportunities, and now a way to give back. Not only can parents make sure their baby has the diapers they need at an affordable price by purchasing a Pampers subscription, but on Prime Day this purchase also provides information, expert advice, tools, and comfort for families with a sick or premature baby in the NICU as part of Pampers support of the March of Dimes.

Pampers will not just be making donations on Prime Day thanks to your subscriptions, but they will also host an hours long Facebook Live on the Pampers Facebook page, kicking off at 9am EST. With social media celebrity guests, real parents with real advice, and parenting experts, you can join the Prime Day party by tuning in and using the exclusive hashtag #Pampers4Preemies.

So join the Prime celebration, save money with Subscribe & Save, know your babies are covered with up to 12 hours of leak free protection from Pampers, and help support the March of Dimes all at the same time.

See you online on the 11th! I wouldn’t miss the Pampers Online Prime Day celebration for the world.

The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.

NICU dad x 2 – the story of Jack and Josie

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Kyle Daddio and son JackIf there is one father who can talk about being a NICU dad, it is Kyle Daddio.Kyle Daddio and daughter Josephine

His son, Jack, was born at 26 weeks, more than 3 months prematurely. His daughter Josephine “Josie” came along three years later, born at 26 weeks as well. Both babies weighed one and a half pounds at birth.

Jack spent 121 days in the NICU, while Josie clocked in at 91 days.

Fortunately, Jack is doing well now, and Josie has recently gone home from the NICU to join the family.

In honor of Father’s Day, we asked Kyle to share his feelings about being a NICU dad, and to offer tips to new dads going through a similar experience.

What was the hardest moment you experienced in the NICU? 

February 13th, 2014, when our son Jack was 7 weeks old. It was the worst day of my life. It was a Thursday and, like I had been doing every day, came into the NICU early in the morning before work to read the newspaper with Jack while he was in his isolette. On Monday evening of that week Jack’s nurse had noticed that his belly started to become distended and was concerned. They began pumping him with antibiotics, running tests and getting x-rays.

The result was that he had Necrotizing Enterocolitis, NEC, which is an infection in the bowels. By Thursday morning his condition had not improved and the NICU staff was doing everything they could not to have to perform surgery. On that Thursday morning while I was reading the paper with Jack, he flat-lined. I was rushed out of the room while all the nurses and doctors ran in. His stomach was so distended that his lungs did not have enough room to fully expand, and it eventually became too difficult for him to breathe even on a ventilator. I was let back in the room about 30 minutes later to see Jack on an oscillator. I called my wife Katie to come down to the hospital and the doctors notified us that surgery was now more possible.

When he flat-lined again at 2pm, surgery was now necessary and the surgeon came in to speak with us. He notified us that given Jack’s small size (2/1/2 lbs) they were unable to know exactly how severe the infection was, and that this type of surgery at his size, given his current condition, had a success rate of less than 50%. A nurse then approached Katie and I with some holy water and said “I read on your form that you’re Catholic. You should baptize your son now.” We baptized him, and then followed the nurses and doctors as they wheeled Jack into the operating wing.

In the hall approaching the OR, Jack flat-lined for a third time. They resuscitated him and brought him into the OR for surgery. At that point we had no idea what was going to happen. We went back down to the NICU family room and sat silently waiting for a report from the OR. Many of the NICU nurses came and sat with us during that time, which was an incredible gesture. After nearly 2 hours, a call came down from the OR that the surgery was successful and Jack would be back down to the NICU for recovery in an hour or so. They removed his sigmoid colon and gave him a colostomy bag. The surgeon later told us that from a surgical standpoint it was a very good situation. The infection was focused on a small area that could easily be removed and should not have long standing effects on Jack’s GI tract. He is now a happy and healthy 3 1/2 year old and has had no resulting issues.

As a father and husband, how did you take care of yourself as you were taking care of your family throughout this difficult period?

My one advice I always tell other dads is you have to cry. You have to process your emotions at some point otherwise you will never get through it. For me, it was most mornings in the shower. On the nights that we actually slept, I would wake up in the morning and think “how am I going to get through another day of this. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.” Once those emotions hit you, you can’t push them down, you have to let them out, otherwise you’re not helping yourself and its going to begin to affect those around you.

The second thing you should do is use your support system. We were lucky enough to have our family near when Jack was born in NY, and they were absolutely amazing. When Josie was born in Colorado, family began jumping on flights the second they got the news. My father arrived the day before we delivered and my mom and brother arrived the day she was born. They made sure we had nothing to worry about other than being at the NICU with our kids, and they were very good about taking us out to get our mind off of everything. Taking us out for dinner, taking us to the movies, anything to step away from everything for a few hours.

Any tips for new NICU dads on how to support your wife or partner during this process?

My wife takes care of everything in the house, so anything I could do to shorten that list was help to her. With our son Jack, he was born while we were visiting our family in NY, so we were living at my aunt and uncle’s house for the nearly 5 months while he was in the NICU. It was an incredible gesture for them to have us but it wasn’t home. So I traveled back to Chicago to get some items that would help with our everyday lives.

With our second trip to the NICU with Josie, we had our 3 year old son Jack at home, so spending time with him so that Katie could be at the hospital with Josie was my main focus. Jack had school every day and therapy in the afternoon 2 days a week, and I was lucky enough to be able to work from home for the first 2 months of Josie’s NICU stay and help with Jack.

The most important focus for me was to make sure that Katie was getting as much time as she needed with our baby at the hospital.

What’s some advice you wish you’d had when your baby was born prematurely?

Knowing the possibilities. What are the chances that our child could be born prematurely? Why could they be born prematurely? If they’re born prematurely, what are the risks and things that can happen in week 1, week 2, etc.? We had no knowledge of anything dealing with prematurity. We had never been introduced to the March of Dimes or knew anything they did with prematurity research. It wasn’t on our radar and so we never thought about it. Our doctors never spoke about it and we never thought we were at risk so why would it ever happen to us? We joke now that after 212 days in the NICU between our two kids that we have a full year of nursing school under our belts. I have learned things and seen things that I would never have thought of prior to this experience.

We want to thank Kyle for sharing his story and giving his advice. We wish him, other NICU dads, and all fathers, a wonderful Father’s Day.

Please feel free to send a message to Kyle and his family or to share your NICU story with us.

Thank you to all nurses!

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Nurse holding babyIf your baby was in the NICU, you most likely spent a great deal of time with her team of nurses. Likewise, if you had a difficult pregnancy, a nurse was probably by your side assisting you the whole way.

Nurses are critical in the care of mothers and babies. Many families who have had a baby born prematurely or with a health condition have told us just how fantastic the nursing staff was at their hospital. Nurses are hardworking, compassionate, highly educated professionals who work around the clock to ensure that you and your baby get the care you need.

In honor of National Nurse’s Week we want to thank all of the nurses that have impacted March of Dimes’ families. In particular, we wish to congratulate the four nurses who won the March of Dimes Graduate Nursing Scholarship Awards.

To recognize and promote excellence in nursing care of mothers and babies, the March of Dimes offers several $5,000 scholarships annually to registered nurses enrolled in graduate programs of maternal-child nursing. The March of Dimes Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship Award was established in 2016 to honor long-time March of Dimes National Nurse Advisory Council Chair, volunteer, and friend, Dr. Margaret Comerford Freda. This award is given each year to the highest scoring graduate nursing scholarship applicant. Congratulations to our winners!

Did you have an amazing nurse that took care of you or your baby? How did he or she impact your NICU stay?

Share your story and help us thank all nurses for their unending dedication and incredibly hard work.

 

Why reading aloud to your baby is so important

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

AA baby mom dad brother in NICU.jpg.resizedDid you know that reading to your baby helps promote language skills? Science has shown that reading to your baby helps build vocabulary, speech, and later reading comprehension, literacy and overall intelligence. Yet, less than half of children under the age of 5 are read to every day.

Reading aloud to your child is such an important aspect of language development that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidance on how to read to your child, including book suggestions for every age.

But what if your baby is in the NICU?

Even if your baby is in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it is still incredibly valuable to read to him. The March of Dimes is partnering with Jack and Jill of America, Inc. to provide books to families who have a baby in a NICU. Parents are encouraged to choose books and read to their babies as often as they can.

In this resource, the AAP explains “Why it is never too early to read with your baby.” They say: “When parents talk, read, and sing with their babies and toddlers, connections are formed in their young brains. These connections build language, literacy, and social–emotional skills at an important time in a young child’s development. These activities strengthen the bond between parent and child.”

Why start reading today?

Today is World Read Aloud Day, a perfect time to start a new routine of reading to your child.

If you’re not sure what to read, you can ask your local librarian in the children’s room. You can also acquire books for a home library at second hand stores or even recycling stations. The “dump” in the town where I raised my kids has a book shed where you can drop off or pick up used books for free. And don’t forget, garage or yard sales are great places to get books for nickels. Having a mini-library at home has been shown to help children get off on the right academic foot.

But perhaps the best reason to read to your child is because it brings you together. The snuggles and cuddles, laughter and silliness that may result from reading a wonderful book, brings happiness to both parent and child.

Whether it is in the NICU or at home, reading aloud to your child is one of the most powerful things you will ever do. So grab a book, snuggle up, and enjoy!