Raising A Micro-Preemie: Difficult Weight Gain & Growth

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.”weight

Genetics

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 itWHAT! 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. 

Nutrition

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

At Home

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.

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EnfaCare Formula is what we liked best

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

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High-Calorie Recipes From Our Nutritionist

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…

Pediasure Grow & Gain

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Flavors include Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate, and Banna!

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. 

Seeking Volunteer Work: Volunteer At A Hospital

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Once upon a time, many, many moons ago, I volunteered at a hospital. 

In college, I had to volunteer at a hospital to satisfy some course credits for my Biology degree, or… was it my Nursing degree?  Nope, wait…maybe I was working on my Radiology degree.  My indecisive college student years really doesn’t matter,  but what really does matter is the fact that volunteering is an amazing, rewarding adventure.

Although I was not really one to volunteer for anything, except maybe pick up coffee for the office after drawing the short straw, my volunteering experience at the hospital changed my perspective on those who go out of their way to care for other people.  Did the experience make me want to join the Peace Corps?  Not really, but it did have a sizable impact on me in a way that I now have a much greater appreciation for those people who take time from their busy lives to help others.  Not only that, I also now enjoy offering a helping hand when it is needed.

My Volunteering Experience

My volunteering experience taught me, personally, that the medical field is not for me.  I am more… of a paper-pusher than a people-person.  An unexpected explosion of an unstable pee-bag will do that to you.  Understandably, it would have happened to anyone jumping up with excitement watching an intense game of The Price Is Right with Drew Carey!

At the hospital, I was assigned to “Limbo,” a private waiting room, in between waiting rooms, at the hospital for the Radiology Department.  Patients who needed an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, would gather in the Limbo waiting room from the public waiting room, where they waited for their turn in the Radiology Department.  When Radiology was ready for them, they would leave the Limbo waiting room to go to the Radiology Department.  It was an interesting process; however, my job was to check patients in and out of “Limbo.”

There were always two people staffed in the Limbo waiting room, one who checked patients in and out and the other who wheeled them in and out.  It seemed like all patients had to travel by wheel-chair when in the care of the hospital staff.  I was once elected to “retrieve” a patient from their hospital room and let’s just say, I now know why hospital walls are lined with plastic bumpers!

I very much enjoyed my job, not so much the mundane task of checking people in and out on a widely complex, colorful spreadsheet in the computer, but engaging in conversation with patients who really just needed friendly emotional support.  I soon realized the job working in “Limbo” wasn’t solely based on keeping track of patients, but to provide hope, happiness, and emotional support in effort to comfort patients who are waiting for tests; tests that might not always have good results.

Humor Is The Best Medicine

In the Limbo waiting room, a sense of humor was important.  Smiles were valued by almost every patient walking through the door.  Everyday was spent engaging in happy conversations to ease worried minds.  The best part, was watching the morning game show with patients.

Almost all the patients were actively interested in the game shows.  There were times the Limbo waiting room would be in complete nervous silence, eagerly waiting for the game show host to tell us the grand prize!  There were times, the entire Limbo waiting room of patients shushed paramedics pushing in patients on ambulance stretchers.  In fact, if those patients on the stretchers were physically able, I bet they would have shushed the paramedics too.

Helping With Medical Student Testing

The last week of my volunteering service, I was asked to assist hospital staff with medical student testing.  Now, I assumed I would just be handing out pencils and test booklets. Boy! was I wrong!  

I was to portray a hospital patient.  By laying on a stretcher, the instructors would place picture cut outs of various injuries and conditions across my body.  Then, the medical students (future doctors) was given a verbal scenario in which they had to explain the most effective way to treat me.  In one scenario, I had to wear a neck-brace, because that is how the paramedics would have brought me into the hospital after my unfortunately accident falling off a dirt-bike.  It was an interesting, fun, learning experience.

Volunteers Needed In The NICU

If I could go back to my college days, I would have volunteered for the NICU rather than the Radiology Department.  This thought flashed through my mind every time I visited the NICU to see my daughter.

Visitation periods for the NICU at our hospital were every 3 hours.  That was how often babies were due for diaper changes and a bottle.  I hated the thought of nobody being by our daughter’s side during all the visitation periods, so we worked out a schedule where the grandparents visited during the day and we (my husband and I) visited at night.

During the 4 months our daughter was in the NICU, we realized we were one of the very few parents who made frequent visits to the NICU.   Although we did see lots of parents stopping by at the front office to drop off milk for their babies, very few went inside for a visit.  Of course, it is perfectly okay if a parent is unable to visit the NICU everyday.  Personally, I can think of a 100 understandable reasons as to why parents are unable to visit the NICU, here I list a few:

  • Busy work schedules
  • Live too far away
  • Mothers still recovering from childbirth
  • The NICU being too emotionally painful
  • The 5 minute scrub takes forever, especially, when you are super eager to see your baby
  • Sometimes your visitation is cancelled or delayed due to scheduled tests and doctor visits

However, one night, we did shared our observations with a nurse, who silently paused for a moment, gazed around at all the occupied incubator pods in the NICU, and then with complete sadnessgave us an unexpected response:

“You will not believe how many parents tell us their baby is not their responsibility until their baby is released from the hospital.  They do not visit or even check in on their baby; they just wait until the doctor calls them with the good news that their baby can go home.”     

My heart suddenly broke for all the NICU babies in the room.  I wish I had the time to visit with all of them.  The nurse must have felt my heart brake into pieces, because she gently reassured me that they do have volunteers who spend time with the babies when the parents are unable or unwilling to come into the NICU.

Future NICU Volunteer

When my kids are older, I plan to volunteer again at the local hospital; except this time, avoiding all unstable pee-bags, participate in a NICU volunteer program.  I might even force my kids to join me when they are adults, so that they can appreciate all the hard work, time, love, and care that hospitals provide to their NICU miracles.

I encourage parents looking for volunteer work to look into the NICU volunteer program at their local hospital. 

Volunteers are needed to…

  • To help with care-giving, which includes bottle feeding babies, changing diapers, and swaddling.
  • To help provide comfort by gently rocking babies.
  • And also to read to babies.

 

Have you ever volunteered at a hospital, share your experiences with us!