Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today is "World Prematurity Awareness Day." The March of Dimes has asked parents to share their experience raising premature babies as a group today.

As you know, Hannah was born 5 weeks early and just made the cutoff of preterm birth. At 5 pounds, 13 ounces, she was a healthy, good sized baby, but the early days brought many unique challenges. The main concerns for babies in this age range are iron deficiency and weight gain. Full term babies arrive with stores of iron and fat to get them through the first few days until Mother's milk arrives. Even though I wanted to exclusively breast feed Hannah, it was not an option at first. However, we persevered with the help and encouragement of a lactation consultant and my aunt.

Essentially, because Hannah could have spent an extra 5 weeks in the womb, the early months needed to replicate that experience. All babies can benefit from this type of care, but it is especially important for preemies. I have so much admiration for the nurses and doctors that care for babies born any younger than this. It must be such a stressful time for the parents as they rely on the network of talented professionals and volunteers to help them get through that time.

If you know a new parent to a premie, there are a few things you could offer to help out. The most important thing to keep in mind is that Mom and Baby both need rest and time in close contact. Consider bringing the new parents dinner and offer to hold the baby while they eat. Another option is to help with simple household chores so that Mom can relax with her newborn (i.e. empty the dishwasher, vacuum, or dust.) Play it by ear, and follow Mom's lead. If she'd like to nap, encourage her to take a break during your visit.

Now that Hannah is a bright eyed 5 month old and she clocks in at 15 pounds it is hard to believe that she was an early baby.

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