Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Things I Wish I'd Known from the Get-Go in the NICU

Feeding S by syringe through her NG tube, day four in the NICU.
1. The Doctor's don't tell you everything right away, and that is probably a good thing. With so many possibilities of different outcomes and complications, it would be information overload if they tried to tell you everything you might need to know eventually at the beginning. Your first few days in the NICU are probably the most stressful of your life, would you really want to know all of the negative possibilities you could end up facing? Sometimes I felt angry or discouraged when a Doctor shared something that was happening with S that I hadn't seen coming. But looking back I appreciate that they saved things for a need to know basis. One day at a time. It was much less overwhelming.

2. Chronic Lung Disease is not as scary as it sounds. When they first mentioned it as a possibility for my daughter, I think I about had a heart attack. "My daughter has what?!?!?" But all it means is that your baby requires oxygen after 36 weeks gestation (adjusted age). Yes, your baby will have scar tissue in his lungs for the rest of his life. But the wonderful news is that the body keeps growing new lung tissue until age 2, so much so that the scar tissue becomes a non-issue. Will my kid have asthma? Maybe (after all I had it as a kid even without being born prematurely). However the diagnosis of Chronic Lung is by no means going to hurt her for life. Phew! Would have loved that info before having the heart attack ;).

3. Share your expectations with the staff very clearly. I will never forget the day that I came into the hospital later than my normal time, only to find out that a nurse had given my daughter her first ever bottle, something I had been longing for and waiting to do for weeks. It about broke my heart. S had done really well with it, but the joy over that fact was completely overshadowed by my disappointment at missing it. When you have a baby (especially your first) with a prolonged stay in the NICU, it is very hard to feel like a mommy. And those precious moments really make a difference for your heart! If I could go back I would have clearly, loudly, and often communicated my desire to be present for all major milestones. Let them know! Better to come across as slightly obnoxious then to miss out on those memories.

About Breastmilk.....

4. If you plan to pump milk for your baby as long as possible, buy a pump! We have been renting the hospital grade pump for five months now. With all the money we've tossed at it, we should have just bought a double electric pump ourselves. Although I have filed an insurance claim, I have yet to hear anything, and I am wishing I had something to show for all the money spent. Bonus: if you buy your own pump you have one for the next baby!

5. Your milk supply might not last forever. I had no concept of this. So many times when my milk supply was great I decided to be lazy and not pump as much as I should have. Oh, how I wish I could go back and pump like a fiend to fill my deep freezer!! Because my supply has been very up and down, and to this day I am not sure how long S will be able to have a strictly breastmilk diet.

6. Don't buy bags for your milk! One, they are expensive. Two, the hospital will continue to supply you with the plastic containers for free as long as you need! Three, sometimes milk bags leak when defrosting, and precious milk is wasted. Another way I could have saved a ton of money if I had only known.

I hope that these tips are helpful to you in your NICU experience! It would have been very helpful for me at any rate :).

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