Tuesday 23 February 2010

Snakes and Ladders

Title courtesy of Kylie - Llewllyn's mum

When a baby is born and goes to special care, everyone gets "the conversation". A run down about how the ward works, about expressing, and about the peculiar special care "snakes and ladders" phenomena.

Premature babies are, quite simply, not ready for the world. They have no fat and cannot maintain their body temperature, their skin hasn't formed so it doesn't act as a barrier to the outside world and they are incredibly susceptible to infection, they are not ready to breathe, they are not ready to eat. It's all alien and strange, because us, as mothers, should be protecting, feeding and nurturing that baby inside the safety of the womb. But nature (or in my case a consultant team) have decided the baby is safer on the outside.

So the reality is there is a lot that can go wrong. And this scenario is without any underlying problems that even a term baby can face, such as heart defects. Many premature babies develop life threatening problems particularly in their first weeks in special care.

One is warned that the journey will be two steps forward, one step back. One day, you can walk in, the baby is breathing on their own, looking good, maintaining their body temperature. The next day you walk in and they're back on assisted breathing, a funny colour, and the incubator is turned up.

The baby might be feeding like a pro, using a bottle, and then just not able to for a day or two, gets too tired, and you feel like your back in the beginning again. It can be crushing, and so hard to remain positive and stay strong for your baby.

And to a lesser extent, once a baby is discharged this can continue. Weaning (which I promise I will get to tomorrow!) is a case in point.

You have finally got feeding, whether bottle, breast or mixed feeding, down to a fine art. You know when feeds are due, you know how the baby is likely to react, what size teats to use, how much to make, and then you have to add solids.

This can be a frustrating and difficult time for parents, and their babies. It can also be a joy, as its another step in your tiny baby's journey to join the world.

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