I believe our biggest challenge in raising a micro-preemie is weight gain and growth. Our little micro-preemie is now a preschooler, a very, very, short preschooler. In fact, her little sister, who is a toddler, is already catching up with her in size. As of right now, they both weigh about the same, share the same size clothes, and fight over the same size shoes. Although our micro-preemie is very small and proportionally petite, her medical specialists assure us she is healthy and that she is just always going to be “tiny.”
Unfortunately, her small stature is a combination of premature birth and genetics. According to doctors, they expect her adult height to be 4’8.” Oddly, every doctor seems to immediately glare at me when they say it. WHAT! My family is short! I am only 4′ 10″, my mother is 5′ 2″, and my grandmother barely reached 5′ on her tip-toes. My dad is short too, 5′ 6″, but he was also born premature. Apparently, premature births run in the family, because I also was born premature (28 weeks). My husband, however, is about average height, 5’9.” You would think genetics would compromise somewhere in between our height differences, I guess not.
In The Hospital
Before getting all judgemental, I did breast-feed for as long as nature allowed it. Well, technically, “pumped” breast-milk. Our daughter had to be kept in an incubator on a ventilator, so she had to be fed through a feeding tube.
For the first couple of weeks, I remember she took in between 1-3 milliliters of breast-milk every three hours. Imagine the size of a rain droplet; that is how much our little baby ate every three hours. Although that doesn’t seem a lot to us, it was enough to fill a tiny happy tummy.
There was a short period of time in which we had to rely on donor milk. I was completely hesitant against it, but we had no choice. I tried my best to produce breast-milk, but my milk wells had naturally dried up all on their own, like an unexpected drought. I was personally devastated over this; doctors believe it was because I was under a lot of stress. Staying in a hospital and having had surgery for the very first time in my life was a bit overwhelming. I was in the hospital for an entire month due to Preeclampsia. Then on top of that, I was a first time mom coping with having a micro-preemie newborn in the NICU!
The NICU carries supplies of safe donor milk, all thoroughly tested and pasteurized. Although the thought of using a strangers breast-milk is scary, I am extremely grateful for it, because breast-milk is very important for newborns; especially, tiny micro-preemie newborns. I do not recall using donor milk for long, I think my wells dried up just a few weeks (or even maybe just a week) before our daughter could start formula.
High-Calorie Fun: Mixing 3 Formulas For One Bottle
All preemies, generally, remain on a high-calorie formula (24 calories) until they are discharged from the hospital. Unfortunately, our daughter remained on a high-calorie formula until she was ready for solids.
Our daughter had many specialists, a nutritionist being one of them, with the sole goal of helping our daughter gain healthy weight.
To make 1 bottle, I was instructed to mix 3 different types of formulas to reach a certain amount of required calories (I believe the count was 40 calories). Our daughter also had reflux, so 2 types of formula was to increase calories and the other formula was to reduce reflux. I wish I had kept the mixing instructions that I could post to share with you, because it was crazy!
Solids: The Big Book of High Calorie Recipes & Foods
We didn’t have any problems introducing solids to our daughter. In truth, she was probably excited to have something with better flavor!
I still have the binder in which I kept all the paperwork from our nutritionist. I keep it tucked away with my cookbooks, because it contains nutrition information for normal infants, toddlers, and preschoolers; in addition, to healthy fats, high-calorie foods, and recipes. Although we no longer need a nutritionist, this is still a great resource to have for two growing kiddo’s.
Our favorite high-calorie veggie recipes:
- Broccoli with cheese and butter
- Mashed potatoes with heavy cream, butter, sour-cream, and cheese
- Carrots with brown sugar and butter
Balancing Everyone’s Diet
Truth be told, my husband and I got fat! Not only was our toddler (at the time) gaining really good healthy weight, so were we! Unfortunately, our weight gain was a bit too much, especially, since neither of us needed to gain weight. It was too expensive to make everyone different meals, so basically, my husband and I ate whatever our daughter needed to eat. This is when the nutritionist talked to us about healthy fats and individual portion control.
Basically, we can make a healthy meal for the entire family and just add calories where we could to our daughters plate. For example: I could make healthy sweet potatoes for the entire family. However, to add extra calories for our daughter, her sweet potato was topped with butter and marshmallows.
Maintaining Steady Growth With PediaSure
Every time we walked into the doctors office, it was the same routine: Measure height and weight, and talk about current diet. Then all that information was plugged into the computer and her results plotted on a graph. I hate those graphs. They compare your kids growth to normal average kid growth. Most kids end up on a graph and fall under a certain “percentile.” To be honest, I don’t know what a “percentile” is, because we never made it onto that graph. In fact, we fall far below it. Eventually, doctors gave up and unanimously agreed our daughter would never end up on that particular growth chart. As long as her own growth chart showed continual, gradual, growth, they didn’t care.
Kids can be picky eaters, its just a normal phase all kids go through. Unfortunately, it is a difficult phase to deal with when your kid is already struggling to gain weight with a healthy diet of good fats and high-calorie meals. So, to ensure steady growth through “the picky eater phase,” every morning, my daughter drinks 1 PediaSure milkshake.
Although most definitely cheaper to make my own milkshakes, my daughter not only prefers these better, but also drinks the entire bottle. PediaSure milkshakes are not cheap; I often times need to purchase them with a coupon to afford them. However, there is no doubt that they work, because even our doctors have seen significant growth since our daughter has started drinking them!
What are your favorite healthy kid recipes? Please share with us…
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you click on the link, you will be directed to Amazon where you have the option to make a purchase. If you chose to purchase through the provided affiliate link, I will earn a commission. In addition to this disclosure, I would also like to say “thank you” to those who do chose to purchase through the provided affiliate links.