I realised after thinking about my blogs I write on this site, that I don’t think I have ever covered the subject of Premature birth, even though Henry was a Premature baby.
As it was Henry’s birthday last week and bought back some memories as it does every year, thought I would talk about having a premature baby now, and some information which you may not have known prior to having a baby.
Having a Premature baby can be a massive shock, of course it can be the same for full term babies, but I honestly had no idea that Henry was going to be born early. I had come to the conclusion in my head that Henry would be born as planned in January 2014, not in November 2013, and I remember coming across a article in a mother and baby magazine about the subject of premature births and thought “I don’t need to read that it will be okay” and really felt bad about that afterwards, when Henry was born at 31 weeks.
I really wished I hadn’t be so dismissive and read the article because I think from my own opinion and what I have learned since this happened, you should be some what prepared should it happen because it is more common premature births than what you may think.
My waters broke on the Saturday the 9th November and even when that happened until looking back I hadn’t realised that it was my actual waters breaking. It hadn’t occurred to me, not having a baby before and thought it was too early.
I was about to watch the new series of Dracula at 9pm and suddenly all this water started pouring out of me like a massive tidal wave. I had no idea as to what to do, and so found my paper work that hospital gave me should anything happen like serious pains or bleeding, but nothing about what to do if your waters broke early than expected. I called the number on the sheet anyway but it was a messaging service and then called my mum.
In the end as we live luckily live just around the corner from our local hospital, rushed around their and went to the delivery ward.
I got to say from the moment we reached the delivery ward they took action and were brilliant. I had no idea as to what was going on, and was very distressed because I didn’t know if I was going to lose my baby or if I would suddenly give birth. NO IDEA!
I ended up being transferred to another hospital because our local one doesn’t deliver babies before 34 weeks and they thought that the babies head was engaged and so could possibly give birth.
That didn’t happen and the nurses at our local hospital got that wrong, but I still glad they did what they did. When we got to the other hospital my blood sugar level was going up and up, and apparently my heart rate was going berserk too.
In the end by early hours of Monday, once the hospital staff at the other hospital saw that Henry’s heart rate kept dropping, decided that he should be born and was born by C Section at 1:30am at 31 weeks.
Apparently before this I was contracting and only felt one thing, and that was a tightening in my stomach from my ribs down to my tummy. I am still to this day sure if this was an contraction because not having one before I had and still have no idea really as to what one is like, so still not sure if I felt the contractions or not but apparently they were happening.
I know someone wrote an article about how C Sections is a lazy form of child birth but let me tell you, SO TOTALLY WRONG. The decision of having my son, Henry at that time was taken out of my hands and I could see how ever much it was distressing at the time for me, that the staff I could see had mine and the babies best interests at heart and wanted Henry to be born with as little problems as possible.
As far as I am concerned it was the best decision, because they discovered when they had delivered Henry that he got caught with the umbilical cord around his neck and that’s why he was a getting distressed and why his heart rate was dropping.
Never feel bad about which way your baby was born especially by Cesarean because you do what you have to do, and if it saves you and the baby’s life what is more important?
Some other things you may not have known:
- Your waters can break from usually 26 weeks and you have sacks around the sack with the baby in, which can leak and that is what happened in my case as in the end my son’s wasn’t engaged but something caused the sack to leak and they gave me antibiotics as soon as they saw what was happening and once you are open downstairs, because the sack has leaked it means that you can catch an infection up your vagina which in turn can effect you and the baby. Check out this article on NHS which has further details: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/premature-early-labour/ and Tommys.org too
- Anyone even healthy people can get Gestational diabetes which was in my case and this can rise rapidly when pregnant, so do get tested if they send you to do a Oral Glucose Intolerance Test do it and if you are concerned do speak with your health professional, doctor or midwife about it. Once Henry was born though my blood sugar levels returned to normal, so please try not to freak out.
- Once your baby is born sorry to inform you but this is a warning as I wasn’t aware until I had it and wish I had, but I ended up having Piles and I know another mum did too. Very, very painful, but check with your health advisor, midwife or doctor as there are creams and medication. Check before you buy, because some oral medications may not a be able to be taken if you are breastfeeding.
- Babies make a lot of noise, more than you can expect. Neither myself or my husband knew this, and the first night we bought Henry home neither of us got much sleep as we were not prepared for that at all, and they can do this thing where they hold their breath and then breath again. Very scary but you do get used to it, and if you ever are concerned do please speak to your health visitor.
- Getting your boobs ready for producing milk can be hard work, but once you get used to it, it can become easier and if I were to do it again, I would have seeked out breastfeeding counselling, which does exist as it can stress you out and you can feel defeated when you see other mums producing a cup fall when you can’t produce a single drop. Massaging and using a warm flannel to help warm up your boobs, can help. Always use an electrical express pump not a manual, as it can take a very long time.
- If they tell you that you need to express 8 to 12 times a day, please don’t feel you need to follow exactly that, because a lot of that is what they have been advised to tell you and because that is the guide line. When I didn’t and rested as that is so important too, get rest and sleep, I produced a lot more milk compared to when I did do it that amount of times with little sleep.
- Get your hospital bag ready as soon as you hit the 25 week mark as I didn’t and it was a massive rush in the end, and one item that I never listed but would advise you to do so, is to have coldsore and moisturizer, because hospitals can be very dry places and if you are prone to coldsores, then the chances are you may get one. which in turn in my case I couldn’t visit Henry for about a week until it had cleared because of course in the neonatal ward there are other babies and they can if not careful can easily get infected.
- The neonatal ward can be a very intense and distressing place as when your baby is born premature, from that point forward you have no idea what will happen from each day to the next. Sorry to be abrupt but it is true and so my advice take a deep breath and if you need to have time to be on your own take the time, but it is important you see your baby because your baby will recognise your voice and when you hold them for the first time and they hold your finger helps you bond with your baby, and get to know them.
- The monitoring screens and wires attached to your baby can play tricks with your mind and there was one day where I was watching it like a hawk. My advice block them out and if your baby looks peaceful and okay, then they are okay and if you have any questions for the neonatal staff, ask because they will give you a peace of mind and reassurance, which often is what we need.
- The bath technique can kill your arm as even when they are tiny they wriggle and can wince, and once home you can often find your own technique. Take your time and again if you need help from the neonatal staff whilst your child is there that is a great opportunity to ask any questions and raise any concerns you have.
- One advantage about having a child in the special care baby unit, which really noone if truth were to be told, would really ever want to be in, the staff help prepare you more for when it is time to take your baby home, and you can in our case, spend the night in the neonatal ward the night before you take your baby home.They can send you home with your baby around the 35 week mark and can inform you literally the week before. Sometimes with a full term baby you don’t get this attention and can be left in limbo and sent home.
- Babies should be in a crib or Moses basket when they are first at home, not a cot, especially as they can still be tiny. Make sure their feet touch the bottom of their crib or basket, with blanket around them, away from their face, and never cover their face.
- Don’ trust free nappies at baby shows, because in our case they were rubbish and so when Henry had a massive pooh explosion the nappies didn’t hold any of the pooh and was all down our sons legs and in his babygro. Sorry to put you off your food if you are eating but I have to tell you this because the more prepared you are the more I hope it will save you from getting distressed which can happen especially when you first bring you child home, and can save yourself a lot of time and have more time to recuperate whilst baby is happy sleeping.
- They can grow teeth very early. The midwife I worked with when I used to give tips and advice on Avent products, because I worked for the company for a little while told me that her daughter was born with a full grown milk tooth.
- Your C Section scar can become sore. When I did my first 10K run in 2014 after I had my son and crouched down once run was complete, boy did my scar hurt and was not aware and did catch me by surprise.
- When babies reach the 8 week mark they are classed as full term babies by then, and I was advised not to do any form of exercise until I had my 8 week check.
- Do practice your Pelvic Floor which is allowed after baby and you return home and the nurses will usually give you advice and a leaflet on this, as after baby is born you can end up quite loose down their and have embarrassing leaks.
- Babies can have what I used to call “Milk snots” where basically they have milk coming out of their nose. Again my husband and I had no idea and when it first happened when Henry was in his cot in the neonatal ward were both in complete shock, the neonatal nurse was like “Yes that’s normal”, we were like “How come no one told us?”. It can be a nasty shock if you have never had or looked after a baby before who’s had this. It can feel like you are in a scene in an Alien film.
- The painkillers that they give you in the hospital after you have had a baby and the numbness wears off, as they numb you from I would say the rib cage to your private area before your C Section, and the surgery room was very cold. I was shivering, but the painkillers can have some side effects. The main one was that I couldn’t read a book as the lines were wavy and disorientated.
- I didn’t sleep for two days only on the Tuesday once Henry was born, as they prick your finger if you have gestational diabetes every half hour to an hour, because of my blood sugar level being so high and was attached to two drips, which made it very hard to go to the toilet and had to use a bedpan. I managed to find a way to pee whilst it was on the bed and I didn’t have to go very far.
- This leads me to the next thing. Your dignity can go right out of the window, but you end up not caring.
- The hospital after Henry was born gave me the option to go home on the Thursday after Henry was born or go back into another ward. I was because of my situation put in a single ward, but it depends on the hospital but due to needing the room for another patient which I totally respect was offered to go into another ward with other people or go home. It is entirely your choice, and if you decide to go home, remember your baby is being very much cared for in the neonatal ward and you can spend as much time in the neonatal ward as you like, as in our case the staff there encouraged us to be as involved in our baby’s care as much as possible.
- Expect a lot of bleeding after having a baby and can stop for a bit whilst breastfeeding.
- You need as much rest as possible. Yes it is good to be active whilst pregnant but it is especially once your baby is born that you allow yourself time to properly recover as any kind of birth going on my own experience is hard and your body is traumatized. You have delivered another human for heavens sake, so it can take its toll on you, and it can be a culture shock.
- Other relatives are not allowed to hold your baby in the neonatal ward, because of infection. This may have changed but be aware and do wash and tell your friends and family visitors to wash their hands, as it did bother me when people didn’t when I always made sure my family and friends did. Being in the neonatal ward is hard and so the less you have to worry about the better.
- All belongings are kept in the clockroom outside the neonatal ward too and the staff may refuse you from taking photos, in our case you wasn’t allowed a mobile phone in the neonatal ward but we were allowed to take a photo with a normal camera.
- The hospital staff will usually give you some information once your baby has been born preterm about premature birth and what to expect, but I think this should be given prior to having a baby aswell, because even though it can still be a shock you can have some idea of what to expect and give you more reassurance that its not all doom and gloom, even though it may seem so at the time, and often your baby is okay and will still thrive from being born so early.
- Do read the stories and letters from other parents outside the neonatal ward if you can, as these really helped make me feel better when I did worry about our son in the ward.
- Premature babies can often have difficulty in breathing at first, and will be given different type of breathing equipment to help them. Henry had a C-Pap, but was off this after a day or so, and you are often if your waters do break and there is a chance the baby may be delivered early be given an injection to help the baby’s lungs, to help them breathe if they arrive.
- Babies can develop jaundice. Nothing to be too alarmed about as they will usually test this early as soon as they are born, and if they are on the line or under they will usually be put them under a blue light with a face mask over their eyes to protect them, and can recover from this quite quickly. You can often tell if they are slightly jaundice as they can be a yellowy colour.
- You may need a special insert for the car seat as the normal baby car seats can be too big, and at our hospital they provided this or you, which you did have to pay for, or you can get these elsewhere. Check this link on Amazon for an example: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kiddy-41905EK008-Premature-Inlay/dp/B00DGF0F2E
- There are tiny baby nappies and clothes, but you can bring in normal size nappies not clothes, to use on your baby in the neonatal ward too.
- Don’t use wipes when baby is first born but use warm water and cotton balls and expect their pooh to be black like tar and sticky.
- Babies will tend to lose a bit of weight at first and then gain weight afterwards.
- I know this may seem obvious but many parents including us got this wrong when first nappy changing our son. The nappy goes on with the end with the sticker strips at the back of the baby (so the bottom) and you attach the strips at the front of the nappy with the smaller part at the front of your baby. If you have a baby boy make sure their penis is pointing downwards not up. Very important because they can leak out of the nappy and pee can come shooting out over the top, making you change it again.
- Lay the clean nappy under the dirty one (so the one you are changing) because often than not, they can pee and pooh before you have put the fresh one on. Check out his video by Emily Norris of Baby Changing Hacks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eALsRJctUSY
- Change their nappy before they have had their milk as do it afterwards, they can bring up their milk.
- With Henry because he ended up having reflux was given Infant Gaviscone in his milk, which were sachets and read the instructions before giving this and the neonatal staff will usually give you instructions on how to apply this, but can only have a certain amount per day, so do check before using. Please see link for an example of this product: https://www.your-pharmacy.co.uk/gaviscon-infant-sachets/prd-0146650?gclid=Cj0KCQiAtrnuBRDXARIsABiN-7BY8qhAC8yJQ4mnNWt43jQB4ZFU170QSMOGOB9H292566zVvpzV6rUaAup4EALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
- They may advise for no visitors for about a week or so once you bring your child home and if anyone has a cold, be polite but keep them away, as children that are born premature are more likely to get ill too especially being still tiny and this can lead to serious consequences. Any children visiting make sure they are out of uniform and have been cleaned and showered, and again make sure they have washed their hands before holding your baby for the first time.
I was shocked when hearing this, but one of the neonatal staff told us how one child was given a piece of food when they were first bought home by a visitor and was rushed to hospital because they almost choked. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS AND ADVISE ALL VISITORS TO NEVER TRY, AS IT MAY BE A BIT OF FUN TO THEM BUT NOT WHEN YOUR CHILD IS CHOKING AND BEING RUSHED TO HOSPITAL
- If your baby is returned to the hospital doesn’t mean they will return to the special care ward, but to a normal ward with other different aged babies and can often get further infections. Please do not think I am scare mongering but wanting you to be aware in case you didn’t know and glad I was told, because it did make continue to be vigilante and we can often forget when we are at home, in a normal environment, and it can happen.
- When a baby cries doesn’t always mean their hungry, and make sure you feed them again, if it is for example 4 hours it is from when they first began their feed not after their feed has finished, and we did get that wrong. Don’t worry as a child will never go hungry and will give you signs like, they will move their head and lips to indicate they are hungry, and never have a room too hot, as they an overheat and in Henry’s case got more distressed and felt the warm more when it was hot rather than cold. Of course every child is different but a room doesn’t have to be overly warm, just comfortable, and don’t put their cot if you can help it by a door or window because there can often be a draft, and keep away from a radiator.
- One item to invest in,is a room thermometer. So handy and you get different ones. Check out this link on Amazon for examples: https://www.amazon.co.uk/
- They can grow very rapidly and so don’t over do it with premature or full term baby clothes and nappies because with Henry some clothes didn’t even get worn, and same for the nappies. I found at one point I was clearing out his draws quite a lot, every week, because their growth spurts can be every week or more. You can usually tell if they are having a growth spurt because they can become extra hungry, so feed more and doing new things which you may not have seen before and have more dirty nappies. the more they grow, eat and drink the more waste can come out of their bodies. BELIEVE ME!
- Always have a thermometer to check their temperature and you can get ones which measure both baby and their room, as sometimes you can’t always tell if they have a temperature and I didn’t know this until it happened and speaking with another mum who’s son was also born premature at the same time as Henry and were in the same ward, and hospital is that they are prone to getting chest infections when born premature. Not sure why, it didn’t seem as if the doctor knew why, but from his knowledge and expertise discovered this to be the case. A cold can often lead to a nasty chesty cough, which can lead to a chest infection, and Henry was given antibiotics and an inhaler with a mask that you put over their mouth and nose because they at an early age unable to inhale on their own and independently as of yet.
- They can put anything into their mouths up to in our case 6 years old, especially if like Henry they have development delay and still use their mouth as a sensor to test and get to know different things they handle.
- Same goes for chewing, Henry keeps chewing his clothes and you just have to be persistent to let them know that this has to stop now but to use their hands and talk. If they are chewing something say “We don’t chew that, we do this” and show them.
- Children usually learn through pictures, sounds and actions, rather than by words, and if you can make learning fun rather than structured you can get better results sometimes, again depends on the child.
- Don’t trust all bottles and teats as some babies can often take to different ones. We wasted money one brand and was advised to use another because our son didn’t take to the teat. If your child does struggle drinking from a bottle do seek support as in our case they advised us of the best one to use, which was an Avent bottle Variable flow teat.
- Premature babies can have more have difficulty at times to latch onto the breast. Please do not be put off or disheartened as all babies are different, and some take to the breast rather than the bottle, so just try what is best at the end of the day for you and your baby.
- The neonatal ward will often sterilize your bottles and teats for you, you may just have to provide the bottles and nappies, etc.
- They may have some clothes to hand in the ward, but do help them by having your own aswell.
- Babies often like to be swaddled as it gives the feeling of being held still and can feel restless if their arms are constantly free, and if you are not sure how to do this get the neonatal staff to show you.We had a swaddle blanket which was very kindly bought for us by family, can’t remember who and came in handy. Check out this Swaddle Blanket on Very for an example: https://www.very.co.uk/ Check out this video below of how to Swaddle a baby in a blanket: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikBYRi5f32g
- Henry would become wide awake and stare at lights when he was first born, as often they are attracted by lights. Everything to them is new so let their eyes explore and do talk to them as you’ll be surprised as to what they take in.
- Some babies and going on Henry when he was first born, loved being winded and it was how we first bonded as mother and son. He found it comforting and would, you may not believe me but it’s true, move his head forward to be winded and this was whilst he was still in hospital. You will be surprised as to how they communicate to you so small, but they do TRUST ME ON THAT ONE!
- The dream feed doesn’t always work, because babies can often sense when they are back in their crib or cot and come alive at midnight. My advise use calm music and do tell them quietly that you are going to return them to their cot during their feed, and try not to talk then on as this can cause them to become alert. Keep voice low and calm, and as you would before their midnight feed create a ritual so they start to know by music, lighting and quietness that bedtime is coming up again.
- Indications like certain songs, even bubbles and lighting can help children learn what is coming up next and really helps with different transitions, as no one likes being landed in the deep end without a warning and babies are the same, they like being given a sign and indication, and it helps them learn about when its morning, lunch time and evening. THE MORE INDICATIONS YOU USE THE BETTER THEIR UNDERSTANDING IN MY BOOK!
I hope this has covered everything and if you are due to having a baby then congratulations, and from my own experience try to keep yourself relaxed and calm as possible. If something makes you fearful about having your baby or lowers your mood, turn it off and just prepare yourself, but practice self care as much as you can, as you do need to put yourself first and others second when pregnant, more often than not.
Please do not feel I am contradicting myself by giving the advice above, I just wanted to tell you because there are many things I didn’t know, which you don’t get told, which I wished I had so I could prepare and have items like Piles cream, coldsore cream, what not to buy and be aware of how to deal with such things should they have occurred. Little details make a difference aswell as the bigger details.
If you are reading this and had a baby and have other tips and advice for new mums please share. You can leave a comment below.
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