Having A Premature Baby In The NICU - A Mother's Feelings
Emotional Impact on Mom of Having a Preemie Baby in the NICU
By: kieransmom on: Mon 14 of May, 2007 [19:09 UTC] (3483 reads)
Delivering a baby prematurely who is placed in the NICU is a particularly traumatic experience for the mother, and she may go through an intense grieving process. Typically, a mother of a preemie will mourn the loss of her pregnancy and of her healthy full-term baby. The initial reactions of these early stages of grief are shock, denial, confusion, and anxiety.
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As time passes, additional feelings pile on, and can be characterized by anger, depression, insomnia, and eating problems; the mother may go through stages of grief that are similar to surviving the death of a loved one, or surviving a violent crime.
She may feel guilt, even if the cause of the premature birth is unknown. Thus, you can expect a period of time after the baby comes home from the hospital of post-traumatic stress disorder, rather than of post-partum depression.
The NICU Roller Coaster
If you are a mother of a premature baby in the NICU, understand that your strong feelings are normal. Your baby is considered high-risk and may have serious physical problems. This is a frightening time for you, as every hour of every day that your premie fights in the NICU can be a roller coaster.
When your baby is in the NICU, it takes extra effort to bond with your baby. Forming a close relationship with your premie is difficult for several different reasons.
The Challenges to Bonding with Baby
Your preemie may be unable to respond to your voice and to your attempts to breastfeed. Building a relationship is a two-way process, and when your baby is always sleeping, it is very difficult to feel that you are bonding.
It is upsetting to see your tiny, thin baby hooked up to tubes and wires, and to hand over the daily care duties of your baby to medical professionals. You may not be able to hold, or even to touch, your baby. If you are able to hold your baby, it is most comforting and beneficial to your baby to do so skin-to-skin, which is called kangaroo care.
Breast Pumping with a Baby in the NICU
Your feelings about expressing milk with a breast pump may be negative if your baby's life is at risk. You may worry that allowing yourself to nurture your baby will leave you vulnerable to greater pain and trauma if your baby should die. However, there are many advantages to providing your own milk for your preemie.
By pumping your milk, you are establishing your milk supply for when your little one is developmentally ready to suckle. Your preterm milk is of different composition than full-term milk or formula, as it contains far more antibodies and nutrients, and contributes greatly to your baby's chance of survival.
Pumping your milk gives you something to do for your baby every three hours during this difficult time of waiting, especially if your NICU is far from home and you are staying in a hotel, friend's home, or Ronald McDonald? House.
Providing your pumped milk via feeding tube means that you are in control of your baby's feeds, and will certainly increase your confidence as a mother. There is probably a lactation consultant available at the hospital to help you learn how to use the breast pump. She will help you with your feelings about pumping, which range from awkward to discouragement.
NICU and Your Marriage
You and your husband may be going through different stages of dealing with your individual feelings. It is normal for a couple to be in varying stages of grief, but this difference impairs your abilities to communicate and comfort each other. It can increase your feeling of isolation.
Worse, feelings of anger may result in blaming one another for the cause of the premature birth, even if the cause is unknown.
Your husband's feelings of optimism and pessimism about your baby may fluctuate and not be in sync with your own. Ask the nurses if there is a support group at the hospital for parents. Even if you and your husband are close through this experience, it really helps to spend time with other moms and dads who are going through the same experiences.