6 Ways to Support Your Premature Baby in The NICU

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For most people the birth of a premature baby is a shock. It is a whole new world you are stepping into and it can be pretty daunting. Your tiny fragile baby, in a large plastic incubator, surrounded by wires and tubes. Sometimes it can feel as though your baby is unreachable. You can feel helpless and unable to be the parent you had anticipated. It is ok, these feelings are natural. Being separated from your baby is one of the hardest things any parent can go through. But there are things you can do that can really help to support your preemie.

To your baby the outside world is a loud scary place. The only sound that will be truly familiar is your voice. Talk to your premature baby, hold him and soothe him. He is just as frightened as you are, you need each other to complete this journey. Have a look at the infographic below for some ideas of what you as parents can do to help your premature baby through this difficult time.

These are simple ideas to help you bond as a family and look after each other. If you need more support or want to talk to people who know how you feel have a look at the BLISS website. This fantastic charity has been supporting parents of premature babies for many years and they really understand the emotional ups and downs of having a preemie.

Want to know a bit about what the nurses in the Neonatal Unit do? Check out our post on the Day in The Life of a NICU Nurse.

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A Day in The Life of a NICU Nurse

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‘Oh wow what a lovely job, cuddling babies all day’ says a Mum when I tell her that I am a NICU nurse. Well yes it is, a great job. A privilege and a huge responsibility. But it’s also an emotional roller coaster. Knowing the life of these delicate babies is often held in my hands.

The NICU can be a loud busy place. Walking through the door you are often met with a barrage of alarms and a flurry of activity. Not all mornings start like that, sometimes there is time to take a breath. But other days you hit the ground running. These little people have you on the hop before you even begin. Such fragile little things that even the most stable on the unit can take a turn for the worse in the blink of an eye. I watch them like a hawk, respond to their needs. Turn them, snuggle them into tiny nests. Providing comfort care when the outside world all becomes too much for their preemie brains to take.

I watch in wonderment as their tiny bodies fight to maintain themselves. Encouraging their parents, supporting them in this most trying of times. Comforting their families as we ride this roller coaster together. The ups and downs of being born to soon. I explain the technical interventions required to keep their precious baby breathing and growing.

I Spend time with Mum, enable her to hold even the sickest of babies. Calm her when her breast milk starts to dry up through the stress of being in the NICU. Feeding her baby is one of her most important roles, but it’s not easy. She is in the unit every day, keeping her vigil by the bedside, she won’t eat properly or sleep properly. Feeling guilty, desperate and alone – my support to her is almost as critical as that to her baby. Bonds are created with families, they are trusting you with the most precious thing in their lives.

The ward round comes and the doctors make their plans. Plans that effect the whole family. Mostly there is hope but sometimes there is none. Hard decisions are made. Babies and their families keep coming. Some have completed their journey and we are waving them out the door. Home to a normal life, after the longest of roads travelled. Others are moving elsewhere requiring treatments we cannot provide or stepping down to local units. Completing that final phase of feeding and growing.

Of course there are cuddles. A break from the routine of caring for the sickest babies. A quick snuggle with a feed whilst Mum gets some rest. It is short-lived. The page has gone another baby needs the team. We race down the corridor, emergency bag in hand. Sometimes we know what to expect when we arrive. We know that this is a premature baby that will require our support. Other times it’s a term baby who hasn’t delivered as expected. The adrenaline rushes through your veins, it’s not excitement, it is a fight or flight response. I am trained for this, technically I know what needs to be done. But I never feel relaxed, this young life deserves my all, the best of my abilities. This family is counting on us.

There are times when as a team we are shocked to the core after events. You can’t help but become emotionally involved with these tiny babies and their families. Whilst everyone maintains their professionalism, ultimately it is the compassion and empathy that we feel that makes us the doctors and nurses we are. In the hardest of circumstances we are there for each other, who else could understand what this job does to a person? Tea and coffee are drunk by the bucket load and biscuits are consumed in vast quantities.


Yes this job is a privilege. It can be both beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. Watching these babies grow, flourish and eventually go home with their parents is one of the most satisfying parts. The journey is hard, for everyone. As a nurse it is technically challenging and emotionally wearing. I can’t imagine doing it without the amazing team of doctors and nurses around me.

After 12 long hours the day is finished. Notes are written, babies are tucked into their beds. But the NICU doesn’t sleep. The next shift is here. Their turn to ride this train. Continually watching, responding, comforting and caring for the babies and their families. For me its time to return to my own family, to try to decompress from the events of the day. Do I spend the day cuddling babies? Sometimes; but there is a lot more to a day in the life of a NICU nurse.

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Petite Puddings Gift Guide 2016: Trolley Bags

Have you seen these before? I did last year and thought I really need these, they would make my life so much easier! Thank goodness that this year Trolley Bags” offered us the opportunity to try them.

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If like me you love to shop at Lidl or Aldi you will know the sheer panic at the checkout as things fly at you and there is nowhere to put them. You desperately chuck them in the trolley and then have to move out the way to pack them ‘properly’. Well enter Trolley Bags! No longer is this an issue. I can face even the largest of shops now with these in my trolley.

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Super easy to use, you just spread them across the trolley and start packing your shopping in them. The Trolley Bags stay open so you don’t have to keep fighting the bags. I did have to fight Pudding who kept trying to dive into the nearest bag and unpack it. But you can’t have everything right?! Then when I got to the car, it was stress free. All the bags came apart easily, allowing me to lift them into the car. Seriously it was a breeze. Sorry not so much of a breeze I could take pictures!

Trolley Bags come in a variety of colours, personally I like the pastels ones that we were sent. But you can also get them in bright colours and in a slightly smaller size to fit in the small trolleys. You can even get a special cool bag for your frozen items. For £19.99 for the original size I think they would make an excellent gift for the busy parent.

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You can order Trolley Bags online here . I know that I shall be using mine for that huge Christmas food haul we do every year. At least packing at the checkouts won’t be stressful this time, just the unpacking when I get home! Unfortunately I haven’t found a product that can squeeze all the items in to my already bursting cupboards!

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DISCLAIMER: We were given the Trolley Bags for free in order to conduct this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Rough and tumble babies – How it never stops! Guest Post from Dave Freed

Your first newborn is tough to look after. And not because of the sleepless nights, feeding troubles, and poo explosions. It’s because nothing in life had ever prepared you for these things, and their constant wearing away at your normally well rested self. You’re sub-consciously wondering when your weekend will come, or if the baby has an off-switch. When will you get to sleep! When will you shower! Then you clock that it’s only been a week (felt like a month), and you’ve got the rest of the next 20 odd years to do… at least.

Fast-forward 8 months into parenting… It starts to feel like you can do this, and it’s getting pretty fun. It’s like you tasted your first pint of bitter (beer for non-Brits) 8 months ago and it was disgusting, but now it’s turning out pretty refreshing and has become your drink of choice.

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A few months back I noted how amazing it was that your unresponsive little potato of a newborn becomes a practicing yoga master in such a short space of time. Well, no surprise, it gets even better. Not to say he’s easier to look after, no. He’s now more than a full-time occupation.

The little trolls have a habit of doing away with one problem and then quickly giving the poor unsuspecting first-time parent another one. When will it end! The tough stuff like battling colic and being terrified of breaking the baby goes away, but you get some new things. Little Bear now has some serious opinions. Not just that all solid food is disgusting, but he now demands that Pappa never leaves his play area, and continues to read the same book again and again, or hand him balls to bounce.

[I say ‘Pappa’ I’m now being referred to as ‘daddy’ despite our attempts at only talking Swedish… Who am I kidding, he calls everything daddy, and I’ve been called ‘baba’, ‘mummy’ and fart noise in the last hour]

Me: ‘Stop chewing on that coaster Little Bear’ – LB: ‘Stop cramping my style!’
Me: ‘No you can’t eat the DVD’ – LB: ‘What else is it good for? Oldie’
Me: ‘I’m just going to make myself a coffee’ – LB: ‘NO! Come here! Make me fly! NOW!’
Me: ‘Stop trying to get through the gate’ – LB: ‘Why are you always following me? Get a life… Looser’

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I was hoping I’d get till he was a teenager before this started.

His newly discovered mobility means that the second his nappy’s off he must attempt a gymnastic vault off the changing table. Holding him back from such a plummet prompts some surprised shouts and stamping his foot on the table. The only solution is to make fart noises on his tummy as giggling is better than a vaulting. But somehow the foot is always strategically aimed at the fresh poo in the old nappy. Not that his foot is the worst of him by this point after the wriggling.

Wriggling… He wont stop. It started when we were in Sweden a few months back. Whatever soft play area we’d make for him, he’d fidget and wriggle his way straight to the hard floor on the edge (way more fun as grown-ups keep pulling him away from it). By the time we got home, his once perfect jungle gym which could keep him content on his back for what seemed like hours, became the object of destruction.

First it got a baby-rage attack, with a bear growl his strong little arms managed to tear of the toys, with dolly and robot being innocent casualties in his Incredible Hulk moment. Shortly after, he rolled out of the jungle gym, and began dragging it across the floor… Ok, so it was time to upgrade his play area.

The new play area I built took up half the living room, and has since expanded to nearly the whole living room as he scurries around hiding ball-pit balls in various places for Pappa to step on. It temporarily expanded to the dining area and the kitchen, as we watched him make a b-line for the robot-hoover, switch it on, then attack the fire-extinguisher and finally head for the stairs… A fence was erected an hour later.

He shuffles all the way over to me from the other end of the living room to bite my feet (I think this is him trying to tell me he wants to be held). After a giggle and two seconds in my arms, he then fidgets round and continues his gymnastics practice from the changing table and tries to dive head first into the coffee table, only to find himself put back on his mat and start the process over again. You’d think he’d tired of this level of activity, but he just starts giving bad attitude rather than falling asleep.

I feel like this is the toughest and most fun stage of a baby, but then I thought that about when he was newborn too, and I’m pretty sure I’ll think that when he’s trying to walk, and when he’s a toddler. Simply because it’s new, and you quickly forget about the tough stuff you went through in the past.

Head bumps, getting stuck under the coffee table, attempts to escape from his pushchair, but he’s getting all the more fun to be around. I don’t go very long without thinking, ‘crap, how did he learn how to do that!’ Wouldn’t miss this for the world.


Introducing Dad’s Turn, Raising Little Bear – Dave Freed

In my early 30s and normally working in the energy sector in London, I’m sharing parenting equally with my wife for our first kid, The Little Bear. I’m from London, but my wife is from Sweden, and we’re planning on bring up the baby in both languages. It’s now my turn to take Shared Parental Leave and look after the little guy. Little Bear is now 8 months old and growing fast.

You can find Dave on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

How can you tell if your parenting is good enough?

I was laughing with my husband tonight whilst discussing the daily parenting fails. It’s a regular occurrence. We buoy each other up after another less than perfect parenting day. For example today my eldest has gone to bed with a black eye (bouncy castle related injury) and a grazed elbow (he engaged legs before brain…) But both he and Pud’s went to bed smiling. For me as a parent that’s what counts.

The media is packed with unrealistic view of parenting. You know the ones. Beautiful pristine nurseries (always in bloody white, go figure!) Fantastic photos of families enjoying days out (no sign of whinging or ice cream covered clothes, shoes, ears…) Mum’s and Dads dressed in designer gear, no bags under their eyes or worry lines.  Not so the worlds portrayed by parent bloggers who can, in the search of humour, paint parenting in a light so unfavourable that it’s a surprise people pro-create at all. These honest and witty accounts provide a more realistic view of the highs and lows of parenthood. Although nothing can prepare you for the truth of raising a small human into a reasonable balanced adult. But how do you know if you are doing a good job?

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When professionals talk about ‘good enough parenting’ they mean you have met a child’s basic needs. Physically and emotionally they are cared for and safe. They aren’t insisting you take them to the zoo, chase them round soft play or shower them with presents. Children need to be loved and for you to be emotionally available to them. They need to be fed and watered (bit like a plant really) they need to be excercised, stimulated and put to bed. A child needs to be kept safe, clean and warm.

Clearly everyone has good and bad parenting days. Those times when everything comes together and great memories are made. Your confidence soars. Give yourself a mini fist bump, you have this parenting shizzle down. Next morning though, the clock has reset. What amazing parenting can you pull out of the bag today? Nope you got nothing have you? Because you can’t be A1 parent 24/7. There are too many variables that cannot be controlled. You’re tired, the kids are tired, the weathers bad and the mother of bad parenting days; you just don’t feel like parenting today! What you really want is to sit on the sofa and watch total shit on TV. No interruptions, no questions, just you and that remote. Don’t worry it doesn’t mean you are a crap parent, it just shows that sometimes we all want to get off the world for a while.

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We get so carried away with making everything perfect all the time. Trying to reach that elusive parenting dream, thrust upon us by advertising. We forget that it’s not the big gestures. It’s that cuddle, that story, that time spent together. Think back to your childhood memories. Was the first thing you thought about a material thing or was it time you spent with your parents?

Of course the days out are fun. As are those times when you provide children with new experiences. But what children want more than anything else is to feel loved and safe. To know that they can come to you, that you will be there for them. Not too busy to listen or too stressed to care. You know your parenting is good enough when that little person kisses you goodnight, snuggles down into his bed and whispers I love you, you are my best friend.

Beauties & The Bibs: Be the parent you want to be!

I remember when I was pregnant I had all these ideas of the type of parent I was going to be. I had in mind that I was going to be this calm collected parent that had it all sussed out. I was going to make sure Ava slept in her own bed had a strict routine. I wasn’t going to stray away from that.

The first few months I did pretty well at this. Ava was such an easy baby I mean she very rarely cried so it made being new parents so much easier than we expected. Then things change the tiredness starts and you will do anything for a few hours shut-eye. Most nights now me and Ava co-sleep in the spare room. I mean she goes to sleep fine she must just miss me in the middle of the night. Every night she screams at about 12. Then as soon as we get in bed together she is comforted and goes straight back to sleep.

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You are constantly having people’s opinions thrusted into your face with how you should be doing things. Especially when it comes to sleeping and weaning. You can become so lost in a sea of opinions and which one is the best to listen to.

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I have come to learn that you need to do what is best for you and your little family. Be the parent you want to be not what other people want you to be. If something doesn’t agree with you like letting your children cry at bed time, don’t do it. It may work for other children but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for yours. If you want to do baby led weaning then do it! Don’t let anybody persuade you to do it another way. You need to do what is best. Let’s face it only you know what’s actually best for your child even though others may think they do.


Introducing Beauties & The Bibs

Jessica is a new mum to baby Ava, born this year. Currently on maternity she is just starting out in the blogging world, whilst juggling a foundation degree in Early Childhood Studies! Aided by her trusty dog Kya you can follow her journey at Beauties & The Bibs. Some beautiful pictures of Jessica and her family as well as fantastic writing. Would also be fab if you followed Jessica on Twitter and Facebook.

The Other Side of the Operating Table

Tomorrow Pie will be having his operation to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. He is also having grommets inserted. I know that this is the right thing for him as he is deaf as a post. He also snores like a beast!

I am nervous, more nervous than I thought I would be. Mr Pud is doing the hospital bit. Not out of choice but someone has to stay with Pudding. She totally plays Mr Pud so she has to stay with me. Meanwhile I am sending my gorgeous boy off to the surgeons. I have been the nurse in these situations many times. But this is different. This is my child.

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I know how the whole thing works.  How they will arrive and be greeted by a lovely nurse. Pie will meet his surgeon and have everything explained. Daddy will dress him in his hospital gown and together they will go down to the operating theatre.

I want to be there. I can’t. This is the joy of having two children and family to far away to help. I am his mother and he needs me.

So many times I have comforted parents. Steered them from the ward. Promised to call as soon as their baby is in recovery. Offered empty words or cups of tea. Held their hands. Given out hugs and tissues. Usually in circumstances much more serious than a tonsillectomy.

This time I am on the other side of the operating table. I don’t like it. It’s my baby, my boy who is at the mercy of someone else. I have no control over what happens. All the risks run through my head and crash over me like the tide. My rational brain is fighting with my emotional neurosis.

The boys are staying over night in the hospital. In a way this is good. Really all I want to do is scoop Pie up and tuck him in his own bed. I want to hold his hand and stroke his hair while he sleeps. Rock him in my arms like I haven’t done since he was a baby. Tell him Mummy loves him. Apologise that I couldn’t be there.

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Being the other side of the operating table is hard. Harder than I ever imagined. My heart goes out to all the other parents whose children go through this. You are so brave. Braver than me. I can’t imagine what I would do if this was life saving heart surgery. Or one of several operations. I have been lucky to have a strong, healthy boy. I am sure he will bounce back like the trooper he is. But tonight? Tonight I will squeeze him a little tighter. Keep him up a little longer and read just one more story…

 

The Lily Mae Foundation

This is the first post in our Inspirational Parents series, this week our guest is Amy Jackson from The Lily Mae foundation. This is a charity close to my heart as its one of the ones that my Special Care Baby Unit work quite closely with and I was chuffed when Amy agreed to answer some of my interview questions, I will leave her to tell you a bit about how The Lily Mae Foundation began and what they are doing with all the money they raise.

 

LILY MAE FULL COLOUR LOGOTell me a bit about your amazing girl Lily Mae and her story;

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Amy and Family

Lily Mae was born on the 7th Feb 2010, she was our much longed for 2nd child. We didn’t know until we found out her heart had stopped that she was a girl. This was a bitter blow to us as we had a four year old boy at the time and had hoped for a little girl to complete our family. Lily Mae’s pregnancy was relatively uncomplicated and I was 36 +5 when we found out that her heart had stopped. I had noticed a lack of movements one day so went into be checked but unfortunately a scan revealed the sad news. I was sent home from hospital that Friday evening and asked to return 2 days later to be induced to deliver Lily. The day Lily was born will stay with me forever, I remember every tiny detail like it has been etched into my memory.

Who or what was your most important support network/mechanism

Following Lily’s birth I started receiving support from our local Sands (Still Birth and Neonatal Death Charity) group and met a really lovely girl who gave me great support in the early days. I also spent hours trawling the Internet and made another great friend virtually through a forum who had lost her little girl just before me and lived in Devon. We became great friends and having her going through it at the same time as me really helped. My friends and family were also amazing, they were there for me 24/7 and supported us as a family.

What would be your best piece of advice for other parents who are going through similar experiences 

Get support from other bereaved parents, they know exactly what you are going through and will be a great pillar of support and advice.

Why did you choose to set up the Lily Mae Foundation? 

We initially started fundraising by holding a Golf Day 12 weeks after we lost Lily to raise money for our local Sand’s who had supported us and also it was my husbands way of coping and keeping busy. After two years we then decided to go it alone so we could do exactly what we, or other parents, wanted with the money we had raised. I also wanted to start providing Memory Boxes as I felt that collecting Lily’s memories was so important. We had struggled to do this and source the things we wanted when under such time constraints.

Has it been tough returning to the hospitals where Lily Mae was cared for?

I found it very hard to go back to the hospital and luckily didn’t have to for a while. Eventually I had to go back to see a dentist, who found it very strange that I cried the whole time. I think she thought I was very scared of seeing her!!!

What has been your proudest moment since starting the charity?

Seeing how important our memory boxes and support for families is.

   .Memory box boy Lily Mae Foundation

What kind of fundraising have you been involved in for the Lily Mae Foundation?

We have held a Golf Day and Dinner Dance every year since losing Lily. We have just held the 7th Golf Day on April 8th 2016 at the Belfry where we had over 260 people attend and raised £11300; our most successful year yet.

Have you got any events this year that people could get involved in?

We run a Fun Run every year in Balsall Common, this year it’s on Sunday 25th Sep, entry is now open and you can apply here:  http://www.lilymaefoundation.org/funrun/

I would like to say a huge thank you to Amy for writing such honest answers, she is truly inspirational. Amy and The Lily Mae Foundation are doing a really great job at providing bereaved parents with a beautiful memory box, it doesn’t take the pain away but it gives them something to treasure while their hearts are breaking. If you would like to make a donation or get involved with The Lily Mae Foundation, please visit their website or click here to go to the justgiving page.

If you would like to know more about Sands you can find them online at https://www.uk-sands.org/ 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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