Life After NICU: A Survival Guide

preemie mom

Germs and Public Outings.

Before we brought Jack home from the hospital, we made the decision to limit his exposure to public areas for the first year. No shopping malls, or grocery stores, no parks, restaurants, or coffee shops. Basically, we don’t take him anywhere but doctor appointments. We do take him out for walks in his stroller, he loves being outside. Close family members and good friends may come and visit (as long as they are germ-free.) When Jacks cousin Ryan comes to visit (he’s 7 years old) he wears a mask. This choice may seem extreme, or unusual to some people, but it’s a choice that feels right for us in our situation. I must also note that I have a very strict hand washing policy…It’s likely that I would ask the Queen of England herself if she had washed her hand before I shook it.

Kangaroo Care

Here’s Jack’s thing; Jack wants to be held ALL THE TIME. When he first came home from the hospital, he wouldn’t let me put him down even for a minute. He has gotten better about it as he’s gotten older. He will let other people hold him, and he likes to play with his toys on the floor and in the high chair, but I still hold him as much as he wants. If napping on me means he has proper rest…well that’s obviously what he needs. If we are not snuggled up in the rocking chair, then I wear him in a Moby wrap or ergo baby. In the NICU, you learn a lot about the benefits of what they call ‘kangaroo care’, but the benefits they get don’t stop once you are home with your baby. So when Jack wants me to hold him, I do, everything else can wait.  I know that a time is coming, much too quickly, when he will be too mobile to want to snuggle anymore.

Hungry Jack

When Jack came home from the Hospital his appetite increased dramatically. He has always been a good little eater, but he really started to thrive once he came home. Jack was mainly drinking fortified breast milk from a bottle, and his doctors wanted me to limit the breastfeeding to once or twice a day only. As Jack’s demand went up…my milk decreased. Between not being able to put him down, pumping, mixing, washing…and everything else. I just couldn’t keep up.

Jack got to where he didn’t even want to try to nurse…he just wanted that bottle. I decided to accept that breastfeeding just wasn’t happening for us…that he wanted to be a bottle baby…and I wanted our schedule to be less chaotic…we needed a little order. So I switched to formula exclusively. It was a hard decision for me to make…I felt defeated. I had planned to breastfeed…but I also planned to carry my baby to term…sometimes things just don’t work out the way we planned.

So Jack made the switch and we were all much happier. We found a nice family rhythm. Jack has a bottle every 2.5 to 3.5 hours. His formula is Enfamil, Enfacare 22 Cal with Iron. Jack started really getting into solid foods around 6 months actual age. He just wasn’t quite ready before that…he acts more like his adjusted age in the food department. So I have slowly been introducing things, and he loves eating now.

Some baby foods I make myself at home, some baby foods he prefers store-bought. He loves my applesauce, banana-avocado, carrot-avocado, but he prefers store-bought sweet potato, green beans, and peas. Jack also loves oatmeal, I give it with his bottle for his reflux.

 Tummy Time

Tummy time? You mean tantrum time? As I stated above, Jack does not like me to put him down even for a minute, and tummy time is no exception. However, he has become much more tolerant of it now that he is older and bigger. When he was smaller, he HATED tummy time, he would either have a tantrum or fall asleep. Now he plays with his toys on the floor and likes to roll over onto his back and play with his feet. He is absolutely desperate to get his foot into his mouth but hasn’t been successful yet.

As far as his milestones at this point, he can roll from tummy to back, he can sit up very well with just a little assistance…and can sit on his own without assistance for 30-90 seconds. He does not fully crawl yet, however he does do a version of crawling we call ‘inch worming’. He loves to smile and laughs out loud, and makes a ton of faces. He baby talks, but not a lot. He mostly likes to yell and grunt. He is very interested in all of our pets, especially our male cat. He loves to look at things, he has great focus, and seems to study everything around him.  He’s discovered his fingers. He loves it when we clap our hands for him. He reaches for toys and grabs toys, he even throws them. He likes to hit different things and see what happens. He’s doing new things every day, and it is such a joy to watch him develop.

Bed Time

When Jack first came home with us he would only sleep well, if he slept on me. He started sleeping thru the night in his own crib, at around four months old. He has his last bottle between 8-9pm, then snuggles with me, or dad, or grandma, until around 10pm. After which he goes in his crib, and typically sleeps from that point until around 8am. He does not wake to eat at night, however, sometimes he will cry out so we come running and pick him up, and he falls right back to sleep.


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