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Premature babies and Kangaroo Care

 
Mikey at about a week old under the Billi Light with all his tubes and wires


Nearly 2 years ago, Mikey was born prematurely at 32 weeks. I talk about it a lot, it's something that obviously has had a huge impact on our lives and on his development as he has grown older. He was in the hospital for a month after his birth, he stopped breathing on his first night and had to be resuscitated. He stopped breathing several more times during his hospital stay, a couple of times while I was holding him.

From the moment I went into premature labor, right up until he left the hospital and even later, sometimes now I still check to make sure he's breathing while he is sleeping, we were terrified that he wasn't going to make it. He still has scars on his little hands from where the tubes and wires were attached. I can't watch a hospital drama or anything involving babies being born early or in danger without crying. If I'm speaking honestly, when I hear of mothers not wanting to hold their babies the second they're born I feel sick inside because I (and many other mothers) don't even get the chance to make that decision. I wanted to hold him more than anything.

I read this story a while ago. It's absolutely amazing.

It was to be the one and only cuddle Carolyn Isbister would have with her tiny, premature daughter.
Rachael had been born minutes before - weighing a mere 20oz - and had only minutes to live. Her heart was beating once every ten seconds and she was not breathing.

As doctors gave up, Miss Isbister lifted her baby out of her hospital blanket and placed her on her chest.

She said: "I didn't want her to die being cold. So I lifted her out of her blanket and put her against my skin to warm her up. Her feet were so cold.

"It was the only cuddle I was going to have with her, so I wanted to remember the moment." Then something remarkable happened. The warmth of her mother's skin kickstarted Rachael's heart into beating properly, which allowed her to take little breaths of her own.

Miss Isbister said: "We couldn't believe it - and neither could the doctors. She let out a tiny cry.

Please go and read the whole story.

What the mother did is called Kangaroo Care. It's something that has been used for a while in hospitals that do not have the necessary equipment to properly care for premature babies, such as in third world countries. It just seems to be starting to catch on as something that is important for mothers in the western world to do with their premature babies (or even healthy babies, it has benefits for all).

The mothers warmth helps to regulate the body temperature of babies who cannot regulate their own temperatures, the mothers respiration helps to regulate the baby's respiration and the heartbeat of the mother helps to regulate the baby's heartbeat.

After Mikey had been in the hospital for about a week, he was still not regulating his body temperature well, his heartbeat was erratic at times and his breathing would sometimes stop. A Canadian nurse told me about Kangaroo Care, how they did it in the NICU's she had worked at in Canada. We started doing it, both myself and my husband would take it in turns. I would sit in the hospital for hours at a time holding Mikey on my bare chest, both of us covered with a blanket. It was wonderful. It was the first time I was able to hold him for any serious length of time out of his incubator, I had been just staying at the hospital to sit and stare at him, only able to take him out for 30 minutes every 3 hours. We could see the good it was doing right away. He started eating more, his body temperature started to rise, he was slowly but surely getting better. We continued it when he was finally at home. He still loves to sleep on mine or my husbands chest even though he's starting to get a little big for it.

Our story is nowhere near as amazing as the story of this woman and her baby. But this is something that more hospitals need to be aware of and to encourage.

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I am a 24 year old British stay at home mother to a two year old boy. Married to a U.S. soldier and currently living in Germany.

I have seen the Vatican from the very top of St Peter's Basilica, the mud in the World War I trenches outside Ypres. I have walked through Montmartre side streets bustling with people in the evening, gotten lost in the streets of Greenwich Village NYC, run through cornfields on the Welsh border and sat outside with a cup of tea watching fireflies in the fields of the outer Chicago suburbs.

I have held the hands of others through addiction, fear, suicide, despair and come out the other side. I have left everything behind to begin anew.
I have fought mental illness and walked through snow in the mountains of the lake district, England. I have explored the morgue in the bowels of an abandoned hospital on a summer evening, climbed to the top of scaffolding on the outside of a five floor warehouse to look at the city lights of Nottingham at night and I have watched the sun setting on the Texas horizon.

I have held my son's tiny hand through the plastic window on an isolette in the NICU ward. Walked, speaking only in whispers, through the catacombs beneath the ground on the outskirts of Rome and seen the fireworks over Heidelberg castle.

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