This Thanksgiving, I won't be creating any fancy recipes for a big family meal, because I'll be spending the day celebrating with NICU families and staff at the hospital. Somebody's got to care for those little ones 24/7, and this year I'm on duty for Thanksgiving. It's actually pretty fun to be at the NICU on Thanksgiving, because it's all about gratitude and family, and there's lots to be grateful for in the NICU. So, it's all good.
But with inboxes and airwaves overflowing with delicious recipes for the "perfect turkey" or the "ultimate dressing," somehow I got to wondering - what would the "recipe" for a preemie look like? Not just any preemie, but the perfect preemie! Because that's what I'll be helping to create on Thanksgiving this year.
Just as there are a million and one different recipes for Thanksgiving dressing, there are equally a limitless number of ways a perfect preemie can grow. Here's my version of how one perfect preemie might be created - What would your perfect preemie recipe look like? What ingredients were vital to your perfect preemie?
Ingredients for a perfect preemie:
- 1 parent or 2 (Gender, age, income, color, language do not matter. Any parent/s will do. )
- 1 baby or 2, even 3 or more, born before 37 weeks gestation (Only adventurous parents should attempt this recipe with more than two babies, but it certainly can be done. )
- 1 hospital (Or two, or more, depending on whether baby needs to be transferred at any time)
- 1-30 doctors
- 10-90 nurses
- 1 full set of life-saving staff at delivery, with full set of life-saving equipment and medication
- A dash of therapists and social workers
- A pinch of dietitians
- A sprinkling of lactation consultants
- One bed - either an isolette, radiant warmer, or open crib
- Three or four loud, beeping monitors
- Miles and miles of wires, preferably tangled
- 3 or 4 screens and one good reclining chair
- An endless supply of: medications, IV pumps, syringes, bottles, nipples, diapers, wipes, blankets, baby clothes, pacifiers
- The most important ingredient - Lots of love
Creating a perfect preemie will be different each and every time, so these instructions don't have to be followed exactly. Modify as needed for your particular preemie.
Directions for growing your perfect preemie:
- Preheat the warmer bed for baby in anticipation of early arrival. Prepare all staff & equipment.
- Take one sweet baby born at 23-37 weeks, lovingly place on pre-heated warmer with cardiac monitors, ventilator, O2 sat probe, TC monitor, IV's and any other equipment needed to stabilize.
- Bring family together with baby as soon as possible, and have parents touch, talk to and hold their baby as soon as possible.
- Allow a few days for baby and parent/s to adjust to new environment. Don't rush this step.
- Slowly introduce milk to the baby. If digests well, increase rapidly and don't stop until belly is full. If milk gets returned undigested, wait a day or two before trying again.
- If jaundice develops, bake under phototherapy for 2-3 days. Cover eyes and turn regularly.
- Parents - sing to your baby & talk to your baby at every visit, throughout the day. Lullabies and favorite show tunes are great choices.
- For fastest growth, place baby on mother or father's chest, skin-to-skin, daily for 2-4 hours minimum. Use soft voices and gentle touches.
- Beware of heart-rate dips and breathing stops - these are common preemie reactions, and they help indicate readiness for more activity. If many dips and stops occur, slow activities and allow plenty of time for rest.
- Check lab values regularly to be sure all systems are working well, and to optimize preemie outcomes.
- Don't forget to collect keepsakes while preemie is growing. (You won't believe, years from now, just HOW small those footprints really were.)
- Keep mouth, eyes, nose & diapers cleaned regularly.
- Nurses - instruct & include parents/s on all aspects of care, particularly feeding, bathing and changing diapers. Repeat often.
- Weigh daily (or so) to monitor preemie growth. Adjust calorie content or feeding volume as needed.
- Keep an eye out for sweet baby smiles, keep an ear out for tiny baby coos - these are all good signs of preemie development.
- Growing a preemie is a stressful and collaborative venture, so parents seek support from friends, therapists, support groups.
- You will know the baby is ready when she is growing more every day, eating all of her feedings by mouth, keeping warm all by herself, and having no breath holding or heart-rate dropping. When all of these are true, your baby is ready to take out of the kitchen and into the great big world!
- Clip your perfect preemie into carseat, exit the NICU, and don't look back!
- Out in the world, keep raising your preemie with love.
- Attend follow-up appointments.
- Ignore silly comments from people who don't know better. Just nod your head and feel great pride at your very own, beautiful, unique, perfect preemie.
- Love, love, love your preemie. No matter how yours turns out, no matter how big or small, how advanced or delayed, how long your recipe takes nor how your preemie compares to any other baby - yours is perfect exactly as is!!
There are so many "recipes" for perfect preemies - share your here with us!!
What other ingredients, what other steps would you include in your recipe?