November 17th is World Prematurity Day. I’m honored to be a part of this collaboration to create help create #RSVawareness that I hope will result in better #PreemieProtection. My triplets were born at only 29 weeks and just over 2lbs. each. With two more kids at home, I was exhausted most of the time. My babies had such a hard start in the world. I was terrified for their health and safety. I was terrified of RSV, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). I was afraid I’d bring it to them, somehow. Premature babies are at an increased risk of getting RSV. I knew I had to do everything in my power to protect my babies. Even though the Hospital was their first home, I did my part in preparing their home away from the Hospital. I even withdrew my older boys from school for home study so they would not be exposed to the many viruses around school, exposing me, and likely exposing the triplets through me, during the many hours I spent in the NICU with them. Being the parent of a premature baby is terrifying. There’s also a lot to learn. Here are some scary things you might not have known.
Micro preemies often can’t swallow or digest. Instead, they are given IV “cocktails,” to sustain them. Those same life-sustaining cocktails can also cause their organs to shut down if they are on it too long.
The Dangers of Breastfeeding
Mothers hear endless PSAs and advocacy of breastfeeding their babies. A commonly carried disease in Women and passed on to a baby through breastfeeding can be fatal to a micro preemie. Hospitals will test for the virus before allowing a mother to breastfeed. The risks are specific to premature babies, which is why we are used to hearing stories of baby beginning their breastfeeding journey immediately following birth. Caring for preemies is complicated. I was very happy once my babies were able to get the benefits of breastfeeding.
Breast Milk is Only 20 Calories
Even when the triplets finally started to breastfeed, their milk also had to be supplemented to give them an increased calorie intake.
Preemies are often intubated and/or receive oxygen therapy. We all know that we can’t live without oxygen. That’s right. But did you know that premature babies often receive so much that there is a risk of toxicity? Yes. Oxygen toxicity can cause many long term problems for a premature baby, and contributes to the development of chronic lung disease.
Did you know that Kaitlyn had ROP?
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of the eye. If ROP advances, it can cause the Retina to detach! Before Kaitlyn should have even been born she was already seeing a specialist and facing possible surgery to try to reverse the path of ROP. Luckily, it resolved on it’s own.
How about those blood transfusions?
Didn’t know about those? It’s nearly unbelievable that none of my triplets required transfusions, but it’s often part of the common routine in the NICU, that parents of premature infants just get used to. Could you imagine a conversation with your baby’s neonatal specialist and asking about whether your child child had a transfusion today, just as casually as you ask what the nurses did over the weekend? Parents of premature babies learn to cope with unimaginable realities. So much often feels out of our hands. We are often at the mercy of caring doctors and nurses, relying on their expertise to educate us on things we would have never known. It can feel like there isn’t much we can do to help our babies.
Premature Birth is the Leading Cause of Neonatal Death.
It’s the leading cause of neonatal death.
Premature Birth is Too Common
Each year worldwide, 13 million babies are born prematurely. Despite these overwhelming numbers, many parents still aren’t aware of the risks of premature birth. In fact, 75 percent of parents don’t know the definition of prematurity (birth at or before 37 weeks gestation), and during prenatal care, most pregnant women don’t ask their healthcare provider about the risk of delivering prematurely and the potential consequences of preterm birth for their child.
Prevention of RSV is Critical
So what can you do? Check out this very informative RSV Fact Sheet for answers to common questions on how to prevent RSV, along with some details about what it is and why it’s so dangerous. Also be sure to visit www.RSVprotection.com
They’re almost FIVE now!