November is International Premature Awareness month As you may or may not know, both of our children were premature. Our 3-year-old daughter was born only a few days short of being ‘term’ but is still classed as being ‘late preterm’. However, our 5-year-old son was born at 28 weeks and was classed as being ‘extremely preterm’. You can read a little more about Tristan five years after neonatal here.
One thing that I truly believed in then (and still do now) is that it was very important for Tristan to drink my milk to help him grow and be healthy and strong. I stayed in the hospital as long as I could stand it, and as long as they would allow me to be there so I was forced to leave Tristan alone at three days old (they were trying to get rid of me after only 6 hours, but I wouldn’t go). It was tough enough to find a pump to use in the hospital aside from in the neonatal ward. I was very lucky to have met the lactation specialist and she called Tiny Life and arranged for us the use of a breast pump while Tristan was in the hospital.
Tiny Life is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It was currently known as NIMBA (Northern Ireland Mother & Baby Appeal). Their name and location have changed, but they continue to raise funds to support the families of premature babies and contribute to premature research. Tiny life offers help to families of premature babies in the following ways:
- Hospital grade breast pump loan
- Lending library
- Hospital visits
- Home-based family support
- Parental support groups
- Dads supporting each other
Personally we have used the breast pump loan service as well as the lending library. Some of the other services were not offered at the time that Tristan was in the hospital or in the year or two following, which is a shame as I know I really could have used a connection with someone else who understood what we were going through. Luckily, I did meet someone nearby who has an extra couple of years experience than we did at the time and she was a great comfort to talk to.
When Tristan was meant to be one month old (but had already been around for 4 months), Phil participated in the Tiny Life zip-line event over Bangor harbour. Between he and his work colleagues (one of whom also participated), they raised a grand sum for Tiny Life and we were so proud of them.
Tiny Life also does a lot of fundraising to keep their family support programs going as well as supporting research into the causes of premature births. Some of the ways they have done this is through corporate sponsorships, abseiling down the Europa hotel, breakfast with Santa, and bag-packing at grocery stores. It isn’t just about donating money, but you can also volunteer your time to help with these events, as well as with family support.
How can you help if someone you know has given birth prematurely?
- Make a freezer meal or two that can be quickly heated up at any time of the day (or night). Going back and forth to the hospital is very tiring and the last thing Mom & Dad want to do is to cook.
- Call just to say hello.
- Ask if the new parents could use any help with their laundry. You could offer to take it to do at your house so that it can be done at your own convenience.
- Often Dad doesn’t have enough paternity leave to cover the time that Baby is in the hospital. Offer to drive Mom to or from the hospital to spend time with Baby.
- Put together a a basket/box, etc of healthy snacks for Mom and Dad to eat while at the hospital. If Mom is breastfeeding, remember not to include oranges, grapes, or citrus-type foods as these can cause discomfort to Baby’s tender tummy.
What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?
- Take care of yourself. Get as much rest as you can. This is very difficult, but you can’t help your baby if you aren’t looking after yourself.
- Seek help if you feel you aren’t coping well. Don’t wait for this, do it now.
- Ask for daily help, every mother could use a little help with a newborn, and the mothers of early babies need a little more.
- Trust yourself. This can be difficult learn to listen to that ‘inner voice’.
- Educate yourself about life in the neonatal unit, what the routines are, and what you can expect when you go home.
- Let hospital staff know you want to do as much care as you can for your baby. Let every staff member know you want to be involved in diaper changing, washing, feeding, changing the sheets, etc. This will help you to feel like a little more like you are caring for your baby.
This post has been sponsored by The Happy Badger. In exchange for me writing a post about a charity I believe in, The Happy Badger has donated £50.00 to Tiny Life. If you have any questions about the Happy Badger, Tiny Life, or any other aspect of this post you can contact me via email at Crystal@castleviewacademy.com and I’ll do what I can to help.
If you would like to learn more about the charities close to our hearts, please click over to our inspiration and charities page.