Attachment Parenting in the NICU

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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There are many reasons that infants end up in the NICU. Some situations are preventable through proper nutrition and weight gain for the mother. Avoiding harmful practices such as drugs, drinking and smoking during pregnancy are key factors in avoiding complications for an infant at birth. Having a trustworthy birthing team that avoids unnecessary interventions is also important. Other situations are completely unavoidable. It is estimated that 10-15% of all newborns end up in the NICU. Caring for your infant in the NICU can be overwhelming. It is still possible to practice attachment parenting with your newborn in the NICU.
My sweet Bella spent the first two months of her life in the NICU. I thought I’d share with you some of the ways that we were still able to use some attachment parenting ideas and apply them to the NICU. Of course every situation is different. Some infants may only be in the NICU for a few hours, or a few days, others are in for a longer period of time. Here is some tested advice from our experiences in parenting in the NICU.

10: Be your child’s advocate. Clearly you won’t be able to be with your newborn at all times during their stay in the NICU. While this is heartbreaking you can still make the best of it and make your wishes known to the NICU staff. Immediately request that no artificial nipples be given to your baby and post signs stating that your baby is being breastfed and is to receive no supplemental feedings. Make the signs large, colorful and also have them put notes on all the nurses notes and folders. If you have a little boy you may also want to place signs saying he is to stay intact and not to be removed for circumcision.
9: Make use of the staff available. You should request a meeting with a lactation consultant as soon as possible.They can make your life a lot easier in the hospital as a nursing mother. Become familiar with the nursing rooms and supplies and ask for support. The lactation consultants in most hospitals can also give you free meal tickets for use in the cafeteria. This helps nursing mothers stay adequately nourished and hydrated during their long stays visiting their newborns. Do not hesitate to ask your nurses and doctors a lot of questions. I know during our stay there were certain doctors that intimidating, even to the other nurses. Don’t let this hold you back, it’s your child! Keep a notebook with you and write down your questions and concerns so when the doctors do their rounds you are prepared and get the correct answers.
8: Get to know the head nurse that makes the schedules. We had three nurses that cared so well for our sweet Bella, we are forever grateful to them. We felt more relaxed when we knew they were on duty. We quickly learned after meeting with the head nurse that made the schedules that we could request them on a daily basis. It was such a relief to us. Don’t be afraid to ask for certain nurses not be on rotation with your infant. Most of the NICU nurses were wonderful, three in particular were out of this world, and a small hand full of nurses were not welcome to take care of my sweet baby. There were a few instances that came up during our stay that made me feel uncomfortable and not happy about the care our daughter was receiving at the hands of a nurse or two. I don’t like being confrontational, but this was my daughter. Again I spoke with the head nurse and had these few nurses removed from her care. Your life is much easier when you are comfortable with those taking care of your baby when you aren’t there.
7: Practice Kangaroo care and baby wearing. Initially, we weren’t able to hold our baby. She had extreme hydrocephalus and was shunted the very next day. She had a long recovery. We held her tiny hand until the time we were able to actually hold her in our arms. We brought up kangaroo care, surprisingly this was something they were only slightly familiar with. This became evident when they dug out the dusty privacy screen from storage. It was clearly not used on a daily basis. I can’t explain how uplifting it was for me to hold my daughter for the first time skin to skin, let alone the benefits to her. Sometimes you can bring your sling or wrap in and cuddle up with your wee one even while they are attached to tubes and machines.

6: Pump, Pump, Pump. (and pump some more) within first 12 hours, then every 3-4 hours afterward. The breast pump was my very best friend because it allowed my sweet baby to receive the best nutrition possible. It was also my mortal enemy because pumping sucks. However, I stuck with it for the entire 16 months of her life. Using a hospital grade pump is essential to keep your milk supply up.
5: Use a pacifier. WHAT?! Yes, a pacifier does have a place. I am not normally an advocate for the use of a pacifier. However if you are separated from your baby they need an outlet for their sucking reflex. Ideally, you would meet all your infant’s sucking needs for comfort and soothing through breastfeeding. When this is not a possibility, a pacifier can help soothe and relax the newborn. Often premature babies can use a pacifier to stimulate their sucking reflex even while they are being tube fed. In our situation, the pacifier was a lifesaver for Bella. I didn’t use them with my other two children. Bella was tube fed during her whole life, so it met the need of her sucking reflex and soothed her.
4: Use wool filled doll to assist mother-baby bonding. Wool will naturally absorb mothers scent and when the doll is left with the infant it slowly releases the mothers’ scent to the comfort of the baby. The mom can tuck the wool doll, like Zmooz or Cozy, into her bra and sleep with it a few nights, then it’s ready to snuggle with the baby afterward.

3: Arrange schedules Naturally you’ll want to spend as much time as possible with your new arrival. Planning the most effective way to use your time is essential. No doubt you’ll have other responsibilities to deal with outside of the NICU, like your other children! This can make it very difficult to juggle your time effectively. I was able to be in the hospital for 3 days with my sweet girl, then I had to travel from home. At that point, I made arrangements for me to be at the hospital throughout the day while my oldest was with her Grandma. I came home in the evening and we enjoyed dinner together as a family. We spent a few hours in the evening as a family with big sister. After she was in bed my husband went to the NICU for the night shift, until early morning. This way we were able to spend some quality time as a family, and keeping some sense of routine for my Big Z. It also allowed each of us some time alone at the hospital with Bella and we were able to get some rest at home. It isn’t ideal, but it’s only a temporary circumstance.
2: Hold your infant as much as possible. This really relates to #7 with wearing your baby and kangaroo care. One lesson I learned from our stays in the hospital is that it never hurts to ask about holding your baby. They may be hooked to machines and in incubators, but if we keep asking eventually they’ll make arrangements for it to happen. Holding your newborn does wonders for you as a new mom, and for your bonding with your new infant. If one nurse says “no”, it’s not possible, ask the next nurse, and the next until you find the nurse that will work with you to find a safe way to hold your baby.
1: Love Yourself. You may not have been prepared for your baby to be in the NICU. Regardless of when you learned of your baby being in the NICU, it’s essential to take care of yourself during this time. Perhaps you are recovering from a Cesarean during this time. This is a major surgery with a painful recovery. You will need time to recuperate. You may feel guilt, shame, and major disappointment. You may also be overtaken by grief at the loss of your ideal birth. You may feel helpless for not “protecting” your new baby. All of these feelings are normal. You’ll be exhausted, hormonal and overwhelmed. It is essential to take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. Get your rest, eat a diet full in fresh fruit and vegetables, drink a lot of water and find a support system. Let your family and friends help with siblings, meals, laundry, cleaning. You want your baby to be raised in an environment filled with love and respect, so start with yourself.

We have made a short video of our journey with our daughter Bella. It has recently been entered in the Neuro Film Festival sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology. We would appreciate you watching Bella’s journey and voting for her video. Please watch “Remembering Bella”. Voting ends March 8th at midnight.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 8 with all the carnival links.)

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Doing the Summer Wind Down

I can’t believe summer is coming to an end. Perhaps the one-hundred-degree weather is trying to convince me otherwise. I’ve been neglecting my computer duties and spending more time outside soaking up some Vitamin D.
I realized I completely missed posting about World Breastfeeding Week! I didn’t hear of anything local happening in my community to celebrate, how disappointing.  Shari Criso is offering her online breastfeeding class for free. I think it’s only until the end of the month, so you should check it out! This is an excellent link to share with new and expectant moms. What a wonderful resource, thanks Shari!
It’s that time of year to get reorganized and ready for school. We homeschool and we don’t really stop for the summer, but we definitely slow down. I’m trying to get myself motivated for a new year. My biggest struggle at this point is trying to homeschool with a toddler. My oldest isn’t exactly an independent worker, so it can make things difficult. I’m also trying to come to peace with the idea that I can’t do everything. Something is going to suffer, more often than not it seems to be the housework. Right now the house is looking good, though, my husband has been a big motivator behind that. We’ve been spending the past few weekends decluttering and getting the school area organized. Are you ready for a new school year?
On one last summer note, my garden is doing amazingly well. I struggled in the beginning of spring with having any success. My broccoli bolted and my cauliflower didn’t do anything. I planted some melons and cucumbers in their place and they are doing much better. The vines are traveling over into my yard and we’re excited to see some melons on the vines. My tomato plants have real tomatoes on them now. They just must be late bloomers. I’m still nowhere near where I’d like to be in my gardening abilities, but I, at least, have hope! How’s your garden doing?
On one final note, we’re now on Twitter. I’m a twitter newbie so be patient. Who do you follow? I’d love to hear from you.
Photo credit: Lida Rose

Baby Steps to being a Green Mummy

This is a guest post that I wrote for a UK blogger, Insomniac Mummy. I realized that I haven’t shared it with my own readers. Enjoy!

Here in the States, the idea of being a “Green Mummy” conjures up ideas of learning how to be a colorful corpse. I assure you that’s not what this article is about. What we’re talking about here is a course of small positive actions that us Moms, Mums, Mammas or Mummies (call us what you like), can take to have a positive influence on our environment, our earth, our home. It means learning that a few small conscious choices can make worlds of difference as well as a difference in our world. So we’ll discuss a few simple things that any mum can do to slowly go green. Heck, maybe you already do some of these things, if so, we’ll discuss how we can take it a little further.

1) Clean Green. It’s easy to learn how to use a few simple household products to clean your home. More than likely you already have the ingredients to clean green in your home right now. Peroxide and vinegar are very safe and effective household cleaners. For my household basic cleaning, I have one spray bottle of vinegar (any kind will do- cheap distilled white vinegar is fine) and one spray bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide. I spray one, on the counter, sink, toilet (whatever you are cleaning) then the other then wipe down. Don’t mix the combination in advance, they need to remain in separate containers for effectiveness. This combination of simple, green cleaners has been proven to even kill E-coli and Salmonella. Vinegar is very effective for cleaning soap scum, grease, and it inhibits mold and the growth of bacteria. Hydrogen Peroxide is an excellent disinfectant. To take it one step further, find and use green and earth friendly laundry detergents such as Soapnuts.

2) Compost. Does composting make you think of steaming piles of stinky rubbish? It doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple ways of turning your kitchen scraps into an organic rich soil. We currently use a barrel with small holes drilled in it to allow air to circulate, with a lid on the top. We simply toss in our kitchen scraps and roll it around every now and again. Composting can be very simple, there is no need to make it complicated. A simple wire enclosure in your yard can work perfectly for tossing grass clippings, old leaves and kitchen scraps. To take it one step further, you may want to read Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof. Learn about using worms to compost your scraps. If you live in a place where you don’t have a yard then vermicomposting may be for you. Using earthworms to turn your paper and kitchen scraps is a fun and easy way to go green. Kids love it, my daughter counted the worms as her pets!

3) Go paperless. Do you use rolls of paper towels wiping up after your kids? It’s easy to do, they sure make a lot of messes! One simple change you can make to reduce your amount of paper waste is to switch to cloth. You can easily gather a selection of rags and cloth napkins for household messes. Check at Thrift stores for cloth napkins and old fabric scraps. Cloth diapers work great to clean up too. Make cloth napkins accessible at meal times and keep old rags handy. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to break the paper habit. Simply toss them in with your laundry and wash. To take it one step further, stop using chemical-filled disposable diapers, switch to cloth! There are so many easy to use, affordable and fun choices out there.

4) Garden. Growing your own vegetables is a perfect way to teach children about where our food comes from. Many children grow up only seeing fresh vegetables at the market, never seeing them grow on a plant. Once a child takes part in growing some of their own food they are more apt to make better nutrition choices and try new veggies that come their way. What a wonderful way to connect with the earth and our children at the same time. Start small, grow sprouts at first. They are easily growing and ready to eat in a few days. Kids love this! To take it one step further, start growing your own veggies or visit a farm nearby to see where your food comes from.

5) Breastfeed. While this is not an option for all Mums, breastfeeding is really green. There is no waste from packaging, no fuel is wasted in the transport of raw materials, and there is no detergent and water needed for cleaning bottles. To take it one step further, consider your water bottle choices. Choose stainless steel reusable water bottles, and refill before you leave the house.

So whether you consider yourself a green mummy or not, making a few small changes can have a large impact. Involve your family in your choices, teach them the reasons you are making changes. As David Brower said, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.