As expectant moms and dads we prepare for as much as we can for the arrival of our little ones. However if our little ones arrive sooner than we expected, we are often thrown for a loop, and everything we planned for shifts to a lot of total unknowns.
When your baby is born early, an important factor in determining their readiness to go home is their feeding abilities. We all know how important weight gain is in those first few weeks. A baby born prematurely sometimes needs some help with feeding at first in order to gain weight; this may be provided by a small feeding tube. This is definitely scary for a new parent to think about, however it is important to remember is that this is safe and short term. The goal is to provide your baby with nutrition to gain weight and become strong enough to go home with you!
As an SLP working in the NICU, my role is to guide the parents and staff on the safest and most efficient ways to feed the baby.
We help figure out what position is best to hold them (sometimes cradling your baby next to your body while feeding makes them so cozy that they just want to sleep, not eat!), teach feeding strategies and even which bottle nipple is safest for them on the bottle.
Most importantly, we help advocate for the mom and baby, helping them to attain feeding goals so that the baby can go home.
I hope this information shed a little light on the NICU and what you can expect should you find yourself or a loved one there for a bit. Remember, this is a short term stay. The most important thing I’ve learned in my years of experience working in the NICU is that these babies, though young and tiny, have perseverance and strength like I’d never imagined. They are fighters, and they thrive because of the wonderful team members taking care of them and most importantly the love they get from their amazingly strong parents while they are there!
Lauren Ruffage, MS CCC-SLP is a Hoboken mom and medical speech-language patholgoist, specializing in feeding & swallowing in babies, children and adults. When not working, she can be found exploring town with her husband & son.
For questions related to NICU feeding and/or feeding after discharge from the NICU, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will direct your inquries to Lauren.