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A New Beginning: Home with Your Premature Baby

By Kristine Repino, author of the preemie book Jacob's Journal

After your preemie comes home, managing expectations.

Your baby will soon be home and all he has gone through will be a distant memory for him. As you may have struggled with his long stay in the hospital and agonized for all he has gone trough, he will forever be better off the chance he was given through modern technology and a well trained NICU staff. By now he has accomplished tasks that for a preemie were once thought impossible. He has managed to hold his temperature steady, gain weight consistently, breath on his own (free of apnea), and keep his oxygen level up (free of bradycardia). These are but a few of the many tasks he has been expected to achieve.

Some factors to consider before your baby can come home:

  • He needs to be gaining weight steadily.
  • He needs to weigh at least 4 pounds (some babies may be able to leave the hospital sooner if all criteria are met).
  • He must bottle or breast feed.
  • He must breathe on his own without apnea or bradycardia.
  • He must be able to keep his temperature steady outside of the isolette.

Just as he has done thus far, your baby will develop at his own pace, but will follow a reliable process of development. His experiences have been unique and will continue to be. There is no dispute among the experts that premature infants tend to reach milestones closer to what is called their adjusted or corrected age. It may be difficult to deny his true age and I don not suggest you do. Figuring out your baby's corrected age isn't difficult. Take his actual age, subtract how many months premature he was, and this gives you his adjusted age. This is important for recognizing his development.

Jacob was born three months early. When he was six months old, he was doing things that a three-month -old baby could do, not what you would expect a six-month-old to be capable of. As long as your baby's progress is following close to his adjusted age, he is right on schedule. Your pediatrician will probably monitor his progress closely. Your little one will struggle… struggle and succeed in his own time.

How will you handle the first few months your baby is home? Some parents are able to leave the experiences behind them especially is the baby goes home without any equipment. But that's not always the case. Others bring home more than a diaper bag with their child, they carry a load of expectations of when he'll be sitting up, walking, and talking. Especially between mothers - after all that is what we have in common - our children. We share funny stories and some not so funny ones, too. We confide in each other when we need advice from time to time. Mothers are innately curious about what baby "so and so" is up to. We want to know what we can expect from our own pride and joy.

It is natural to anticipate whet your new baby will be able to do as he goes through each stage of development. So how do we deal with the inevitability that at some point or another, our child won't be at the same stage of development as another child his age? I can't county how many times someone said it doesn't matter that Jacob wasn't pulling up to stand, or crawling, walking, and feeding himself yet. I knew that in the long run it didn't matter. He had been a "preemie" for so long I just wanted him to be like every other baby. It seemed as though everywhere I went people just assumed he had to have been premature because of his size and inability.

I tried not to use developmental standards as a comparison, but as a guide to measure his development. Sometimes I did notice the things Jacob was not doing. I felt guilty about expecting something from him that I knew he just wasn't ready to do. As each month passed, he did start to catch up to his age.

Shortly after he was born, we joined a group for parents of premature babies. We talked about the everyday issues: from having a new baby to having a walking talking toddler. In our group, Jacob belonged. You might find a group like this to be very supportive. The hospital is where we were hooked up with our preemie-group. For several years after Jacob's birth, my husband and I were part of a parent volunteer program in which families that have had a child born premature, lend support to new moms and dads whose baby was also born prematurely.

If I've only learned one thing form it all, I hope it was to appreciate each day with my son just a little more. When I fall short of being the kind of parent I want to be, I remember God's grace and am thankful for the second chance he gives me tomorrow.

Kristine Repino is the mother of three, her oldest son was born prematurely weighing just under 3 pounds. This article is excerpted with author permission from Jacob's Journal, Evidence of Hope, a sweet and encouraging book for parents of new preemies. Read review or order Jacob's Journal, Evidence of Hope.

Surviving the NICU - Premature Baby
Surviving the NICU

Preserving Preemie Memories
Keeping a Preemie Baby Diary
The Emotional Roller Coaster
Developmental Supportive Care
Feelings of Touch and Pain
Breastfeeding Your Preemie
Kangaroo Care Benefits
Physical Care of Your Baby
Every Preemie Parent Needs to Know
NICU Baby Monitors

Parents Stories
Born Too Soon
Tommy's Early Start
Living Miracles - Powell
Living Miracles - Wilson
Kangarooing My Little Miracle
Where Am I? Who Am I?

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