The Realities of Having a Baby on NICU

Blog post by guest contributor, Sam The NICU Mummy

I became a first time Mummy in 2017, although my entrance into motherhood was not the way in which I had planned or hoped for when we had planned to start our family. My husband and I attended our 20 weeks anomaly scan and were asked to return the following day to see a foetal medicine consultant as the sonographer was unable to see our baby’s anatomy in its entirety. We were informed the following day, that our son had a large lesion growing on his left lung, so large in fact, that it had pushed his heart to the other side of his chest. We felt blindsided. Never in a million years did we expect to be told that our baby was poorly, even before he was born.

When our son was born at 39 weeks, we had been told that the medical team were unaware of what his condition would be, that we should expect him to be taken to NICU for an assessment. Giving birth with a room full of people and then 30 minutes later, to be alone, without husband or baby, was the most bizarre experience. I had given birth, with intervention having needed forceps at the last moment, and yet, there was no “golden hour,” no photos of our new family, no skin to skin for my husband. Instead, I was sat with my toast, by myself, waiting for my husband to return with an update on our son.

We spent a total of 31 days on NICU, at both our local hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Our son, T, was in fact born with 2 lesions on his left lung, one of which was causing him a lot of issues and required surgery at GOSH when he was 19 days old. He is still living comfortably with the other lesion.

NICU tested me massively, and it took me a long time to be able to talk about it like I can now.

It was the worst experience of my life so far. NICU tested me massively, and it took me a long time to be able to talk about it like I can now. It took me almost a year to realise that I wasn’t myself, and that my mental health had taken a hammering due to the experience that we had. I felt very conflicted about my feelings around NICU knowing that we were so fortunate that we were able to take our baby home, knowing so many families are not able to do so. I felt like I had no reason to find it so difficult to come to terms with, but now I realise that my feelings were perfectly valid.

I have thought a lot about our NICU experience ever since it happened and have realised that there are things that I would do differently. Hindsight. It’s a wonderful thing! I wish I had been kinder to myself and taken better care of myself and my husband. We had a great support network around us, but with our days spent in hospital from around 9am-7/8pm, we weren’t giving ourselves time to have any respite.

At the time, it almost felt like we couldn’t do anything that could make us happy, because we couldn’t possible feel happy during the worst time of our lives.

Self-care is spoken about a lot more now, and I wish I had taken more walks outside the hospital, we should have had a couple of days a week where we went home early to have the long bath, eat a proper home cooked meal and got lost in a boxset on Netflix. At the time, it almost felt like we couldn’t do anything that could make us happy, because we couldn’t possible feel happy during the worst time of our lives. Thinking about it from another perspective now, I realise that it had nothing to do with feeling happy. Doing those things would have given us a change a scenery, given us the time to rest and recoup and gather our thoughts at a time when it was a struggle to articulate exactly how we were feeling.

For any families who find themselves in NICU now, or in the future, be kind to yourselves. Cut yourselves some slack. There is no rulebook when it comes to NICU, everyone’s circumstances are different, and everyone will deal with their experience differently. It doesn’t matter if you’re there 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months, the effect it can have on your mental health isn’t determined by the length of your stay.


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5 TOP TIPS FOR ESSENTIAL BABY FIRST AID

Let’s face it, being a new parent is stressful enough and in those first few days, weeks, months, you’re number one goal is keeping your new baby alive.

When you’re out of the safety of the hospital walls, medical emergencies can happen and may seem extremely daunting, so knowing some basic first aid skills may help you feel more prepared if an incident should arise.

Here are five top tips, by first aid training specialists Tigerlily, for essential baby first aid.

1. DON’T PANIC.

Easier said than done of course, but try your best to remain calm and focused. Take a deep breath and then fully assess the situation in front of you.

2. FOLLOW D.R.  A.B.C. 

When assessing the situation, follow these steps:

DANGER – Ensure that you and your baby are safe from any danger.

RESPONSE – Is your baby responsive? Do they respond to your touch or voice? If not, shout for help, ask someone to call 999 or 112.

AIRWAY – If your baby is unresponsive, tilt their back head slightly, to allow oxygen into the lungs.

BREATHING – Look, listen and feel for normal breathing. If you discover your baby is not breathing normally, you will need to start CPR immediately (see tip 3 below). If your baby is breathing normally, good – this is a positive outcome and you can now move on to next stage.

CIRCULATION – Once you’ve established your baby is breathing normally, check for any signs of bleeding. If there is bleeding stem the flow to preserve circulation. If your baby’s circulation is good, ensure their airway remains open and hold the baby in your arms, facing you, with their head supported and tilted slightly downwards. This is the Recovery Position for babies. Continue to monitor their airway until help arrives.

3. SIMPLE CPR. CPR will be needed if your baby is not breathing normally. It can seem pretty scary thing to do to your child, but doing something is way better than doing nothing. If you can, you should also have the ambulance crew on the phone, talking you through each step as you go and they will also stay on the line until they arrive.

Start by giving 5 RESCUE BREATHES – to perform rescue breaths, ensure the baby’s airway is open and seal your mouth over the baby’s mouth and nose. Steadily blow the amount of breath you can hold in your cheeks into the baby’s mouth for about 1 second, just enough to see the chest rise. Repeat this 5 times.

Having breathed oxygen into the baby’s lungs, you now need to circulate that around the body and to the all-important brain. You do this by performing CHEST COMPRESSIONS (this is the part many parents are afraid of, but don’t be).  Using the index and middle fingers together, press them into the centre of baby’s chest / sternum to a depth of at least a third
Do this 30 times at a rate of around two per second. Don’t worry about the numbers here, just remember to push at a nice regular rhythm and deep enough to squeeze the heart.

Then start a cycle of 2 rescue breaths to 30 compressions.

4. ASSIST WHEN CHOKING.

If your baby is choking, you’ll need to act quickly and assertively. And follow these simple steps:

  • Shout for help immediately and ask the helper to call 999/112.
  • Sitting or kneeling, lay your baby face down over your arm which should be resting on your thigh and ensure your baby’s airway is open.
  • Using the palm of your hand, give up to 5 firm back blows between the shoulder blades. Between blows check in their mouth to see if you have cleared the obstruction. Stop if you have.
    If that is unsuccessful, will need to perform CHEST THRUSTS:
  • Remain seated or kneeling and turn baby over so they are face up and lying along your arm with the support of your thigh as before.
  • Keeping their airway open and their head supported slightly lower than their chest for gravity to assist, use two fingers on the chest and give up to 5 firm chest thrusts in the same way as CPR but sharper and slower. 

    Check between thrusts and stop if the obstruction is cleared. Seek urgent medical assistance to ensure baby is recovering fully. If the obstruction is still not cleared keep repeating as above.
    If the baby becomes unresponsive, start CPR as before. Always get the baby checked by a medical professional, even if your treatment is successful.

5. DOs & DON’Ts OF FEBRILE SEIZURES.

Febrile Seizures are quite common and occur when a baby’s temperature exceeds 38C – usually due to an infection. Seeing your baby have a seizure can be frightening but they are usually harmless and over quite quickly.

DO: 

  • Stay calm and confident.
  • Take note of the time.
  • Protect your baby from injury using soft items or your hands.
  • Remove warm clothing and bed covers.
  • Cool the room.
  • After the seizure, check the baby’s airway for normal breathing and place in recovery.
  • If this is your baby’s first seizure, it lasts over 5 minutes or breathing problems persist, call 999/112.

DON’T: 

  • Over cool the baby or use a fan or wet sponge.
  • Leave the baby at any time.
  • Medicate the baby without professional advice.
  • Mix Ibuprofen & Paracetamol without the go-ahead from a medical professional.

We appreciate this can sound terrifying and overwhelming, but remember, there is is plenty of support out there and NHS 111 is a fantastic source of information and guidance.  

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The information above is taken from first aid training specialists Tigerlily, and complies with all currently accepted first-aid practice. 

 

10 things you actually need for your newborn

With so many products on the market and the endless stream of targeted ads, as a new parent, it’s hard to know what you need and what you can trust to make your life with the little one that bit easier.
We polled our online community and asked them what was the one item they – or their newborn – couldn’t live without.
Here’s a list of the top ten most suggested items (in no particular order):
  1. Nappy bags and bin
  2. Breast pump (top two recommended were Haakaa and Elvie)
  3. Baby carrier (Ergo was the most recommended)
  4. Muslins (multi-purpose for dribble, sick, swathing, you name it!)
  5. Baby bath seat
  6. Baby bouncer
  7. Sleep pod (Sleepyhead was the most recommended)
  8. Nipple balm (top recommendation was Weleda)
  9. Stroller that’s also a car seat (Doona came recommended)
  10. Baby monitor
Join our community online for future polls or to just say hi.

Have you thought about your baby’s sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits, practices and behaviours before going to sleep. According to newborn specialist and sleep consultant Dawn Grey, sleep hygiene (or lack of) can affect the quality and length of sleep for your toddler.
Here are some things to consider:
1. Bed and wake-up times need to be as consistent as possible
2. Keep it short! Don’t over complicate their bedtime routine. Kids need to be calm enough to fall asleep but if the routine is too long (more than 35 mins), they loses focus and can get another burst of energy
3. Allow ‘winding down time’ before the bedtime routine commences
4. No screen time in the 2 hours before bed
5. Ensure appropriately timed and length of naps
6. Check for the correct room temperature and lighting
7. Use the day wisely. If possible, get out in the daylight and have plenty of fresh air and exercise
8. Ensure they’re eating a healthy diet
You can hear more from Dawn at our upcoming pop up on the 25th Jan 2020, where she’ll sharing her tips on holistic practises for family sleep. Limited spaces available; book here.