Need Preemie Baby Advice...

Updated on January 12, 2007
B.W. asks from Salem, WI
8 answers

We're suddenly faced with the very real prospect of having our baby sometime between 32 and 37 weeks (possibly even sooner depending on tests -- I'm 30 weeks now and they think I have developed pre-eclampsia). It sounds like it will be much closer to the 32 week end than the 37 week end. So, I have a couple of questions for moms who've been there.

1.) Does anyone have any experience with the NICU at either St. Alexius or Alexian Brothers? What were your experiences?
2.) We've been doing a lot of research on Kangaroo Care with preemies. Has anyone done this, or known someone who has?
3.) I need general preemie baby advice. Anything you're willing to share.
4.) Also, breastfeeding a preemie... any advice anyone has there would be helpful too!

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answers from Chicago on

Hi Becky,
My thoughts are with you & your baby and wishes for a healthy delivery! My first child, Olivia (just turned 2 last Thursday) was born at 28 weeks due to pre-eclampsia. My husband and I were totally unprepared for our first child, much less a preemie at 28 weeks. Olivia was 2 lbs 2 oz when she was born by c-section. I’m not sure anything could have prepared us for the 71 days we spent in the NICU by our daughter’s side. Every day is a new day full of ups and downs and ups and downs again. If anything, that was the best advice/preparation given to us. Positive outlook but ready for anything.

I can't express how thankful I am for our NICU experience and the wonderful care our daughter received. The staff was so helpful in teaching us the medical terms, tube feedings, changing diapers, breastfeeding and general baby care. (Unfortunately, I don't have experience at any of the surrounding hospitals/NICU as we recently moved to the area.)

Your questions: Kangaroo care is wonderful bonding for you and your baby. (And dad.) In the first weeks of Olivia’s birth, we were only able to hold her for 10-15 minutes every other day. We were able to touch her in the incubator but just not able to bring her out. I wasn’t able to hold Olivia in her first week because she was too fragile and was on a ventilator. I was definitely ready for kangaroo care when we finally got the ok. It’s quite simple and I could sit with Olivia on my chest for hours if allowed. Since I wasn’t able to have the initial bonding a mother/baby has right after birth, this was the second best thing.

Breastfeeding: I pumped from Day 1 so she was able to get my breast milk through her g-tube. I barely produced enough milk for her during her stay but I had the help of lactation consultants encouraging me all the way. I started nursing Olivia around 31/32 wks (in the NICU they refer to your baby by gestation until their original due date) and she latched on right away. I was very lucky.

I’d be happy to share more with you about our NICU experience beyond kangaroo care and breastfeeding or answer any additional questions you have --- I know I could have used it two years ago. If anything, just someone who would listen to my many fears.

Good luck,

P.S. Also, I’d check into your hospitals to see if they have a Family Involvement Council. FIC is usually parents of preemies from that NICU and staff who can help answer questions, etc. and do programming for current NICU parents.



answers from Chicago on

Well I only JUST opened your message, so I hope I'm not too late. I had pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. I think I had this (undiagnosed) for approx 3 weeks. My little boy was delivered by c-section at 33 1/2 weeks. He was 4lbs, 14oz and perfectly healthy!!! He was in the NICU for 7 days, mostly for observation and to teach him to drink from a nipple. They would offer him a bottle in addition to using a tiny feeding tube through the nose (not as bas as it sounds). He had no trouble learning to nurse. He latched on the first try while still in the NICU. I pumped as much as I could in the hospital. Make sure they get you a pump right away. You're baby will be just fine!

In regards to development, you would anticipate milestone achievements (i.e. sitting unsupported, cooing, crawling, etc.) to occur based on your baby's due date - not the birthdate. This is the adjusted age. That was the only thing to remember.

Good luck! You'll do great! Don't forget to post an update!



answers from Chicago on

Hi, Becky- I didn't have any pre-eclampsia or any other indicators whatsoever, but my little boy was ready to come out at 36 weeks. I was totally unprepared--had just started to THINK about what to put in the hospital bag--Silver lining for you is that you can at least have a chance to PREPARE for an early delivery! I delivered him at NWCH (my daughter just last year at St Alexius---much preferred the staff and accommodations at St Alexius) and while we didn't need to utilize the NICU, we did have some premie issues to deal with of our own. My son was fine through delivery, had APGARs of 9 across the board-- yet he had a very difficult time bfeeding and had elevated bilirubin levels (jaundice) which kept him in the hospital an extra day longer than me.

For the bfeeding, the lactation consultant at NWCH was AMAZING (good, too at St Alexius, but my daughter was a champ at it and didn't need much support). I told the staff that it was very important to me to bfeed and they supported my decision. I was so engorged when my milk came in but wasn't getting any relief from my son because he wasn't latching on. I was hesitant to give him a bottle to prevent nipple confusion. I actually bought the Medela pump through the hospital (very reasonable pricing), pumped my milk and then--and this is the crazy part--filled syringes (provided by the hospital of course) with the milk. At the end of the syringe, we attached a catheter tube, then taped the other end of the tube to our index finger. When it came time to feed, I'd first try him on the breast, and after 5-10 minutes of crying (by both of us) and frustration, we used the catheter tube/syringe combo to feed. We tickled the roof of his mouth with the index finger, and then when he sucked, we'd "reward" him with milk from the syringe while he sucked on the finger. This went on for five miserable days and nights after getting home (so glad my mom was here to support us through the nights) and then he just figured it out and took it from the breast directly one day. It was so heart-breaking, but in the end it was good. My husband had the opportunity to "bfeed" the baby in his first days, as did my mother. It was a great chance to bond.

The jaundice was tough to deal with, too. We had him on a bili-bed (light therapy) and then were sent home with a bili-blanket. It was especially tough b/c one of the ways to treat the jaundice is to bfeed (which he wasn't doing!). He pulled through wonderfully out of that as well.

One thing I would highly recommend though is to interview a pediatrician before going to the hospital. Again, we didn't get a chance to interview ours before-hand, and were disappointed with our choice. She was more interested in discussing her payment via our insurance than looking at our jaundiced child! Needless to say, we quickly switched dr's, and love our new one. It would have been a lot easier had we had our wonderful ped from the beginning so that at-home care could continue without interruption.

I'm not trying to scare you--it was very difficult--but it is achievable. And in the end the joyous bonding happy moments will outweigh and outnumber the painful, frustrating, and depressing ones. And then, before you know it, he'll be 4 and talking back to you refusing to go to bed! ;-)

Good luck to you and baby!



answers from Chicago on

I have heard really good things about Lutheran General NICU. I know one of the neonatologists.



answers from Missoula on

Hi Becky, I am an NICU nurse and mother of two preemies. Sorry to hear about all that you are going through. First of all, to answer some of your question, I personally know the neonatologists at St. Alexius and have for years, they are fantastic Dr.s and people, your baby will be in excellent hands. Keep reading all you can about preemies and you will get additional info once you deliver also. Kangaroo care is something the nurses will help you with and encourage you to do with you baby, it has endless benefits as long as your baby is well and tolerating it. The lacatation consultant will help you in the hospital and the nurses will be there also to help. I am the co-owner of a company called Baby Just Home Nursing Services, LLS that specializes in providing NICU nurses in your home to help you and your baby with whatever you need. Our website is and please feel free to call and ask for me if you want to chat about all and any advice I could help you with. I can give you a referral for a lactation consultant that you could talk with about what to expect also. From my experience, the more prepared and educated you are, the easier this time will be for you and your family. Good luck, and call if you need any other advice! ###-###-#### N.



answers from Chicago on

Hi Becky
I know what you're going through as I too developed pre-eclampsia around the same time in my pregnancy. I had experienced up to this point a very easy pregnancy & never dreamed I'd have anything like this. I was sent home with orders of complete bedrest, but my doc's wanted closer supervision so I spent 2 weeks in the hospital, then had a c-sec at 34 weeks. Thankfully, everything went great for both of us - our son was 5 lbs 14 oz. He spent about a week in the neo-natal at Central Dupage (+3/4 days after I was discharged).
Regarding premie advice - what I'm getting at is that although it's not the textbook pregnancy/delivery - it can work out fine. I was determined to breastfeed, so while I was in the hospital recovering after c-sect, the lactation dept arranged for a hospital grade breast pump to get me started and so my son would have that 1st milk even while he was in neo-natal. After a day or two, while I was still in hosp, I was able to start breastfeeding. After I was discharged & he stayed (hardest thing ever - never dreamed that scenario) I kept using the pump every few hours when I wasn't with him & brought milk back to hospital for when I wasn't there. It was actually a blessing as I was able to get a couple nights sleep, and then when I went back to the hosp each day, I had more 1-on-1 help with the lactation nurse which made a WORLD of differencein getting him to latch on. No problems going back & forth with bottle/breast. I rented the pump for a while after leaving the hospital, and then ended up buying a Medela Pump in Style as I went back to work after 14 weeks. I tried getting to take formula for simplicity at daycare, but he wouldn't have any part of that, so I pumped & stored, and his daycare gave him those bottles. I ended up nursing for over a year and am so glad I did.

Hope this helps..... let me know if I can answer any other questions for you & GOOD LUCK! J.



answers from Chicago on

Hi Becky,

Our twin boys were born premature at 33 weeks and spent 3 weeks in the NICU. They received great care from the staff at NWCH for which we are so thankful! As far as advice goes, I would recommend having a notebook - to write down questions you think of, keep track of your baby's progress & milestones, etc. I had one for each of our boys and I found it very helpful to remember everything. And don't be afraid to ask questions to the nurses and doctors. The whole NICU experience can be overwhelming at times, but you can get through it!
Breastfeeding was a challenge for us - the boys just were not up to it even though we tried consistently. I did pump and kept bringing it into the NICU for them to use for feedings. I would recommend talking with a lactation consultant - there should be one at the hospital - who can give you more advice. There is also a wonderful magazine - Preemie Magazine - that has great information and articles about preemies. It's free and you can find more information at
Hope this helps you. Please email anytime if you need anything!




answers from Chicago on

Our little girl was born at 34 weeks and I also had serious issues with my blood pressure that came out of nowhere right around 32 weeks ...I can answer the breastfeeding question. Since she was a preemie and my breasts were already huge before pregnancy, it was tough. We did the breast (attempted) first and then did a bottle when she wouldn't take the breast. So basically, it took a month before her development caught up and she started to the meantime, I pumped and she got the bottle with milk. Sigh, so yeah, the first month was little sleep, frustration and lots of mental games with myself like, okay, I'll do this one more week....okay, I'll make it to my check-up, okay, I'll make it to her due date and just when I thought I couldn't do it, she just got it two days before. Now that said, not to scare you, but honestly, it was tough but now we do one bottle at night of formula so I could have a break and she can take the bottle from anyone and with no problems and we have the whole breastfeeding thing down is so easy. Another thing too about our experience, she is our first and I am actually an ed professor, so I had read and thought I knew a lot but you know, it was the people I trusted and loved that I asked a ton of questions to that helped teach me and supported us. And just time, cause I was really afraid at first with a preemie- like I wouldn't do a diaper for two weeks because she cried but now at four months, I am a diaper ninja....just time will help and trust yourself and your partner. Good luck...didn't mean to scare you with the bfeading but it can be done even if it is tough for a while.

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