What a beautiful name for babies born before they’re ready. It’s also the name of a New Zealand charity whose statement on their website is ‘Supporting parents of premature babies in a Christian context, offering love, hope and support’It was set up in 2010, after the birth of an ‘early bud’ at 28 weeks of gestation.
One day around six months ago, Emma, my ace marketing girl and gifted illustrator and I were discussing the possibility of ‘adopting’ a suitable charity and that this charity should be ‘baby based’.
It didn’t take long to find ‘Early Buds’ and already I have donated eight books to be given away to mums on that website. The charity supports parents and close family members who are wading their way through the trauma of an early and often unexpected early birth.
I’ll never forget, as a young Karitane Nurse in training, seeing for the first time a tiny baby whose head fitted easily into the cupped hand of a nurse.
This baby, not much heavier at birth, than a lb of butter ( that equates to around 250 gm) was being cared for at the Karitane Hospital in Wanganui as she no longer needed specialist care in the General Hospital and the need for an incubator. She was breathing unaided but needed the expert care available in those days at the Karitane Hospital, before being re-united with her parents.
Apart from being tube-fed by the Plunket Nurses under whose tutelage we were tutored (!!), the baby was learning to feed from a bottle, a very exhausting procedure for such a tiny baby.
Times have changed since then. Highly trained neo natal doctors and nurses, high tech. Incubators, with much of this technology coming from within our country, neo natal infant care units (NICU) where parents are encouraged to be an intragal part of their tiny baby’s life or in a special care baby unit (SCBU).
I have been into the Auckland SCBU unit where the mum and dad could stay – sleep together in a bedroom close to the nursery in the final days before discharge. This means that the parents receive support and assistance with the handling of the baby and so when they arrive home, it’s not such an overwhelming experience. ‘Premature’ is the name given to a baby born at 37 weeks or less – full term babies are born at around 42 weeks. The smallest baby born has been recorded at 4 months premature weighing in at ½ lb. Over 95% of premature babies survive born between 27-30 weeks.
For many premature babies, other than being very small, but healthy, Karitane Hospitals played a big part in their final stages of development from life in an incubator to being feeding well and at a good weight to be able to finally become part of a loving family.
I have a twin sister – we are 12 hours apart born on different days. My mother had a traumatic natural birth and after giving birth to my sister, was given an anaesthetic so that the Dr. could turn me as I was in a breach position. When my mother woke from the anaesthetic and asked the sex of the 2nd baby – me – she was told to get busy as she had another delivery to go through. We were probably around 4/6 weeks premature. My mother was discharged – not sure how long after the birth – but we were kept in the maternity hospital of a small North Island town and my parents, farmers, lived around 10 or 12 Km away.
Each day, my mother expressed milk into a glass jar with a screw top lid. My father took this precious jar on his bike up to the small railway station maybe 1 ½ km away, gave it to the guard and off it went up the line to the small town where someone from the hospital met the train and took charge of that precious jar of milk! My sister and I were never without breast milk – but at that stage, always from a bottle. On returning home, we were successfully breast fed until we were 6 months old.
In my book I suggest that all breast fed babies get used to a bottle at least once a day. I have many, many mothers who contact me, asking for help. They are pulling their hair out when, upon deciding to return to work, discover that the baby refuses to take a bottle.
In all my experience – more than 50 years and probably around 500 babies, I have yet to come across a baby that is confused between a nipple and a teat – if the baby is introduced to a bottle very early on.
Back to my incredible mother – a little boy of 5 – another one at 2 and twins in cloth nappies. No washing machine, but a copper filled with boiling water. My father lit the fire under the copper on the way out to work on the farm. A hand turned wringer and no dryer. No vacuum cleaner and all the cooking done on a coal range. Are you all shaking your heads in disbelief by now? This was NOT in the dark ages – but you young mums may certainly think so!
I believe that my twin sister and I returned to our home already in a 4 hourly routine – I still have our Plunket Book – yes – we shared one! We were not snackers and snoozers and if you go to page 31, paragraph 4 of my book ‘Baby on Board – Mum is Driving’ you will find out more about how not to fall into this trap – but better still – read the whole book!