A premature baby is a baby that is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Approximately 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely. Eighty percent of prematurely born babies are unanticipated. Because of the health issues that these babies may be born with they most likely will spend time in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit) at the hospital for a period of time.
My first born was born unexpectedly prematurely and was what we call a "micro-preemie," meaning, she was born before 28 weeks of pregnancy. Of course, no one is REALLY prepared for their first baby, but having a preemie is a whole different experience. Suddenly you're thrown into being a parent of a baby weighing only 2 pounds who is intubated, having surgeries, blood draws, X-rays, and getting chest tubes. They don't know how to live without being hooked up to machines because their lungs, hearts, and brains are underdeveloped. Throughout learning all of the medical terminology and learning how to be a parent, it can be stressful. After a 123 day NICU stay for my daughter (27 weeker) and an 11 day NICU stay for my son (37 weeker) I came up with a list of the best products that helped us raise our micro-preemie. Check out my list of best resources for you and your family too.
What do preemies need in NICU?
One of the things I swear that got me through the 4 month NICU stay was NICU milestone cards. We all know the milestone cards that babies without a NICU stay use for their "1 month birthday" or "first Christmas," but babies in the NICU have so many different milestones they need to meet first including coming off oxygen or phototherapy, first feed, or no more IVs. You will also "celebrate" their first outfit, their week of age, and passing a car seat test. These milestone cards have cards for all of it! I took my daughter's picture with all of these cards and it gave me something to look forward to.
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Can you use Owlet on preemie?
Your baby has been on monitors since the second they were born, and you're probably used to them by now and wondering "how will we survive without seeing their numbers on a screen?!" Owlet gives you peace of mind because it's "smart sock" design is made for babies to wear on their foot. Using an app you can track your babies' oxygen level, heart rate, and sleep trends.
You most likely won't be planning on buying preemie clothes, because most full term babies are too big to fit in them. If you end up in the NICU, you will want to buy some preemie clothes. However, depending on how medically involved your baby is, you'll want to make sure you get NICU friendly clothes. With all of the wires and tubes they need to be able to go on and come off easily. Get sleepers that zip from the TOP down, that way the pulse ox wire around the foot can easily come out of the bottom. There are also kimono onesies and t-shirts that wrap around and button. Stay clear of pants while you're in the NICU, they're difficult to put on and take off, especially when there's so many hands on times throughout the day. Sleeper gowns are also great because they're long so your baby will be warm, but the bottom is open for easy access.
NICU Graduate Onesie
No matter what the length of your NICU stay is, leaving is a HUGE accomplishment. You'll want to plan your babies "going home outfit," because it's exciting. Get a NICU graduate shirt or onesie for them to wear. It's a great keepsake too. Announce to everyone that your baby is a graduate of the NICU.
A journal to write in during your NICU stay is important. There's a lot of information being thrown at you, especially medical information, and you'll want to remember it someday. Keep track of your babies weight, length, and any milestones they complete, along with the dates. It's a great place to make little notes about what happened each day to look back on. My NICU was great and was always making us little cards, name tags, and a 100 day paper crown. I saved all of it and kept it together somewhat like a scrapbook. Here, you can get the milestone cards and journal together.
Although your baby may still seem like a newborn when they get out of the NICU, they'll soon be going through all of the typical baby milestones. This includes teething! Get yourself a good teether for them to chew on once those baby teeth start poking through.
Low Weight Car Seat
You may have already made your baby lists and registry for all of your items early in your pregnancy. If you haven't already received a car seat, make sure you find one that can fit a minimum of a 4 lb. baby safely. A lot of car seats have 5 lb. minimum and if your baby gets to graduate from the NICU and is only 4 lbs. you'll be scrambling to get a new one. The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 XT Infant Car Seat is one example of a car seat that will safely carry a 4 lb. baby. What's great about it is it fits into Graco strollers with the easy to use click connect feature.
Your baby will be very frequently weighed while he or she is in the NICU. Weight gain and growth will be extremely important for their health and you might get a little obsessive once you're home and don't know their weight every day. Get yourself a baby scale so you can put your mind at ease knowing they're gaining weight and growing well.
Car Seat Tags
The last thing you'll want to get is a car seat tag. Your baby was most likely just very medically fragile during their stay in the hospital and the last thing you want is for strangers to come up to your baby in a store and start touching them. Car seat tags are a nice and upfront way of letting people know they can look, but not touch the baby and why.
Hopefully this list gave you some good information about what things to buy to help you and your baby out during their NICU journey. Many of the items mentioned will be useful during your unique experience.