Just in time for Prematurity Awareness Month, I (Aly) wanted to talk to you about a few important things that we should all know about one particular phenomenon that, for me, hits home—premature birth.
I was a preemie (also referred to a preterm baby or NICU baby) myself—I weighed 1 lb and 7 oz and was the size of a dollar bill! ☺ There are about 15 million babies born to early every year in hospitals in the United States alone. However, not many truly know what premature babies and their families actually go through in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
We at Kinder Keepsakes fully support these babies and their families through their trials, and we aim to support and spread awareness through our NICU Grad Project. By reading this, you are already fulfilling our wishes, so thank you! ☺
So here are some things you need to know about premature babies:
1. Every baby is at risk.
Statistically speaking, more than 10% of all babies in the United States are born prematurely—that’s more than 1 out of every 10 babies or two-thirds of babies in the NICU! A mother could have a perfectly healthy pregnancy without any complications and still end up giving birth too early, despite her and her doctor’s best efforts and, sometimes, for no apparent cause. Another mother could deliver her baby full-term and her baby could still end up in the NICU for complications that could endanger their little life.
Premature birth remains to be the leading cause of newborn and infant death. Then again, there are also many common risk factors that can cause preterm labor, such as preeclampsia, infection, placental abruption, smoking, obesity, substance abuse, diabetes, high blood pressure, having multiple babies, or even giving birth as a very young or much older woman.
Thankfully, preterm babies in recent generations are now more likely to survive due to advances in modern medicine and technology—even those born as early as 24 weeks and weigh less than a pound at birth!
2. Undivided care and attention is crucial.
Infants generally require utmost care from birth. However, premature babies need about 10 times more attention than normal, healthy babies. Because they are underdeveloped, they’re more susceptible to infections and permanent disabilities and literally any day could present an emergency situation!
They may also need to undergo standard treatments like temperature regulation in incubators, phototherapy to help them cope with jaundice or elevated levels of bilirubin, and being on the respirator to assist their underdeveloped lungs in breathing. On top of that and other necessary treatments for them to thrive, they’re required take in only breastmilk, sometimes by the tube if they’re too young to digest on their own, in order to avoid gastrointestinal problems and acquire helpful antibodies essential for survival.
During their stay in the NICU, the teamwork between the medical staff and the parents are vital to the baby’s for survival. It’s a good thing that the NICU is always filled with selfless doctors and nurses who go beyond what is expected of them and care for these babies like their very own! They really do such an amazing job of attending to both the babies and the families for extra support and assurance. For any NICU baby’s family, constant assurance can really go a long way in keeping their spirits and hopes up.
3. They turn newborns into amazing little fighters.
Just a few seconds after being born into the world and way beyond their understanding, premature babies have to get poked by needles and strapped down in their incubators in order to get the immediate care that they need to thrive. I know, it all sounds scary—because it is! While other babies get to cuddle with their moms and head home a couple of days later, a premature baby may have to wait a couple of days or weeks before getting to feel the warmth of their mother’s embrace and hear her comforting heartbeat.
Despite all the obvious hardships that preemies go through, they’d still be more than willing to grab your finger with their tiny hands to let you know that they’ll be fighting their hardest with you. After all, they truly deserve a real chance at life!
4. It doesn’t make an infant any less special than full-term babies.
Many newborns who had to spend weeks in the NICU will have to undergo continuous therapy, experience some delays in development or have certain disabilities. Even then, there’s a huge chance that these babies will get to catch up—even as early as the first year, especially in size.
If you need further assurance, premature babies are capable of maximizing their potential despite difficulties immediately after birth. Think of Albert Einstein, Sir Winston Churchill, Mark Twain and Isaac Newton who were also preemies. Need I say more?
5. There’s nothing quite as challenging for both premature baby and family.
If it’s hard for the baby, one can just imagine the pain and heartbreak that the parents go through. The NICU is often filled with helpless parents who wish they could hold their babies close and bring them home but are restricted to watching them from a distance or holding them with protective gear.
Until they are strong enough, the premature babies will need to spend their first few moments of life in the NICU and, as we all know, such medical care does not come cheap. Spending over 2 months in the intensive care unit can easily amount to more than half a million in medical expenses. This leaves a huge hole in the family’s pockets and gives insurance companies a major hit.
These are just few of the many reasons why we all need to have a heart for these little angels and their struggling families—and what brought our one-of-a-kind baby boutique to life 7 years ago. ☺
NICU babies and their loved ones deserve all the pride and accomplishment, and that’s where Kinder Keepsakes comes in. It makes me beyond happy ☺ to be able to share in those sweet moments of relief and success as they “graduate” from the NICU and finally bring their precious bundles of joy home where they truly belong. I know I wouldn’t be here today if it weren't for the wonderful team of doctors and nurses, and the faith and prayers of my parents, family and friends. Like these wonderful babies, I am also a fighter, and I am now here to fight for these babies and their families too! ☺
Please join us as we help families through their memories, struggles and celebrations by supporting Kinder Keepsakes and our NICU Grad Project! ☺ Drop us a line, be part of our mailing list to receive more information and updates about preemies, and get a 10% off gift code on your first purchase of any of our items. With every item sold, you become a vital part of our progress in turning NICU Grad Project into a non-profit organization for premature babies everywhere!
And for those who continue to become part of our journey, thank you for becoming our special baby brand ambassadors! Please don’t hesitate to share those adorable photos of your very own NICU Graduates with us ☺ . We’d love to see them in our warm and fuzzy baby blankets and of course the baby caps and gowns!