For most mothers with preterm births, the right word is more PANIC. Having a preterm baby, while incredible, can be really scary and stressful for the parents at first.
A preterm birth is a birth that occurs before 37 weeks of gestation, as oppose to normal gestation which usually takes about 40 weeks. These births can even happen as being as early as 23 weeks. Birth this early can be scary and problematic in at least three different ways; for the child, for the parents, and for the relationship between the parent and child. Let's dive into some of these difficulties and talk about some ways to face challenges with preterm babies/infants.
Preterm babies are usually born with health complications that need to be closely monitored. These include being a very small sometimes disproportionately large head, low body temperature, fine hair, lack of reflexes, and thin, fragile skin. Other health problems such as respiratory distress, infections, asthma, neurological problems, immune issues, metabolism issues, or feeding problems could also develop.
All of these risks consumed the brain of Jen, a mother of a preterm baby from Connecticut when she first realized she would be delivering a preterm baby. “I remember feeling lots of panic about her weight. I was stressed about feeding and nursing. As a premie, she was not able to nurse right away and she struggled with the concept.”, Jen explains. “My greatest concern was worrying about her physical and mental development and fear of long term challenges. I was lucky because my doctor and pediatrician both specialized in preterm births.” Many babies who aren’t born preterm can struggle with the concept of feeding, but for preterm babies, it can be even more difficult.
Since these babies need to be hospitalized and sometimes mothers may become ill after birth they may be unable to breastfeed at first. Feeding the baby is an important time for mothers and child to bond and using a bottle that the baby can transition to with less agitation and difficulty is extremely helpful. The natural nipple bottle better matches the transition and flow of a natural feeding process which makes the transition much easier when it comes time for breastfeeding.
Since preterm babies need to stay in the ICU or another specialized care unit, sometimes parents can feel helpless and left out of the immediate bonding and nursing experiences. A preterm baby will need specialists and the right medical team to help with tasks like feeding.
What can we do about dealing with the challenges and emotional experiences of having a preterm baby? Well, an article from Europe’s Journal of Psychology, found that the best way for a family to deal with the situation is to have an immediate family-centered intervention. Their study found that both mothers and fathers are affected after preterm birth (Ionio C 2016). The key is getting both parents to understand that they have a huge involvement and active in the child’s development and to do this as early as possible. Early interventions are usually prevention-focused. These early interventions can include psychosocial support, parent education, and or therapeutic developmental interventions that target the infant. One study found the psychosocial support aspect was much more important than previously expected as it decreases anxiety and increases self-efficiency. To get your child started in an early intervention program, talk to your pediatrician and he or she will be able to direct you to the best place to get services. For more information about early interventions, you can visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s page on early intervention.
Knowing how big of an impact as a parent you have on the development of your child can help ease any helpless feelings, and the intervention will help you feel like you have a plan. If you are experiencing any concerns with your pregnancy, the natural nipple is here to help. The Natural Nipple is here to help you feel empowered and confident by reducing common latching problems when transitioning between bottles and breasts, and to promote the overall wellness of mother and child.
Benzies, K. M., Magill-Evans, J. E., Hayden, K. A., & Ballantyne, M. (2013). Key components of early intervention programs for preterm infants and their parents: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 13 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S10.
Ionio, C., Colombo, C., Brazzoduro, V., Mascheroni, E., Confalonieri, E., Castoldi, F., & Lista, G. (2016). Mothers and Fathers in NICU: The Impact of Preterm Birth on Parental Distress. Europe's journal of psychology, 12(4), 604-621. doi:10.5964/ejop.v12i4.1093
Premature birth. (2017, December 21). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/symptoms-causes/syc-20376730
Interview Question: Jennifer Powers