My sister had a preemie in Russia

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby on. Posted in HEALTH

Up until recently, Prematurity Awareness month would have been as far from me as a Leukemia month or something equally unrelated. I do know a few people personally who had premature babies, but I never actually heard exactly what they went through. It can be tough and heartbreaking. But I doubt that most mothers who had premature babies had to worry about their baby’s wellbeing IN RELATION to how the doctors are treating them. We all know, doctors are there to help and we put our trust into them.

This is different from the experience some people have in other countries.

Today I wanted to tell you the only premature story that directly affected my family.

My sister who lives in Russia was due in November. On her 32-35 week ( there was a dispute as to how far along she was) her water broke and she went into labor.  Just for the sake of the story, she lives in a big city with all the amenities we enjoy here in the US, including medical facilities, and was taken to the biggest hospital in the city. The baby, Ivan, was thankfully a big boy by then (over 5 pounds), so after being born, he was placed in the nursery with the other full term babies. (Is that common in the US?)

He was not given to his mom immediately, neither was she allowed to attempt breastfeeding. He was not put into the NICU, he was not given to mom, he was placed into the nursery with full term babies.

In Russia, a woman actually stays in the hospital after birth for a week. That’s standard procedure to make sure there is no hemorrhaging and the baby is gaining weight. No one is allowed to visit the hospital, NOT EVEN THE FATHER. The mother can come down (when she is able) and see the people who came to visit her and receive certain ( approved) items. She cannot bring the baby ( even a healthy full term infant) with her to show to her family. ( from what I know some hospitals across the country are now allowing a father to be present for birth for an additional fee)

My sister was held in the hospital for about 2 weeks while her baby boy struggled to gain weight. In contrast to Lexi who barely slept as a newborn, they couldn’t wake Ivan up for feedings. They WOULD NOT let her send colostrum to feed him. They didn’t even bring him in to breastfeed for 2-3 days. They were giving him formula even though the mother was right there capable of breastfeeding. When he was too sleepy to eat, they would administer the food through a feeding tube every 3-4 hours . After he was unable to gain weight rapidly enough for them, he was put on some glucose.

Being the breastfeeding advocate that I am and knowing that my sister wanted to try breastfeeding this time ( last two times she decided she didn’t have enough milk after a month or so because of the growth spurt that a baby goes through and starts acting like it’s not getting enough), I was appalled at the fact that her baby was TAKEN AWAY from her and not brought to her to breastfeed. I told my mom to buy her a pump and instructed her to pump every 2 hours. Needless to say that with her baby not present, staying in a shared hospital room, my sister couldn’t pump much. And we all do know how discouraging it is when nothing comes out at first and how it is in no way an indication of supply. But there was little I could do from here aside from try giving advice and hope they take it.

For whatever reason, my sister was told that unless she could pump 40 ml, they would not give him breastmilk. Is that not  asinine?  Am I missing something here? What valid reason could there be to deny mother’s milk to a PREMATURE baby because it’s not enough? How about supplementing the rest with formula? Please correct me here if I just don’t know a vital piece of information that would prevent even a drop of breastmilk being beneficial to a preemie.

When they finally started bringing him to Natasha, she attempted to breastfeed, but again he was too sleepy and from what I could gather she was too self-conscious to pursue it too much and it had been too many days since he was born. So there he went on formula full time. The tummy pains and constipation started, because the formula was dairy-based, I am sure of it. Eventually they added some kind of supplemental formula to help with the gastrointestinal discomfort. Later I found out that it was a hydrolyzed formula (where cow’s milk proteins are broken down into smaller pieces for digestion) they put him on that helped ease his tummy pains.

On Friday she was told that if he gained a bit more weight, they would release him. Over the weekend, in care of the nurses, he actually LOST weight. Apparently there were some shift changes, not enough people for the weekend, and he was JUST NOT FED. NOT FED! And because he kept sleeping through his feeding, noone remembered. I am honestly filled with shock and anger as I type this. A PREMATURE BABY WAS NOT FED. HE WAS NOT WITH MOM WHO WOULD HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN. HE WAS LEFT HUNGRY.

I also found out that the way it worked there was the babies get fed one last time for the night at midnight, and then not again until the morning. I honestly cannot even imagine how this would work. I don’t even want to think about what they do… Ignore them? Ignore their cries? What about babies like Alexis who would wake up EVERY 30 minutes at night to be fed as a newborn? *Shudder*

So due to the fact that Ivan couldn’t gain weight (or wasn’t fed enough, to be more precise), they were transferred into a children’s hospital and he quickly got to the weight goal they set for him and was released within a week of that. One good thing I have to note, among all these horrors, is that in Russia, if your baby is put into a hospital (NICU, ICU, admitted for a UTI, anything-anything, at any age till they are old enough to be on their own, which is 10 years of age or something like that), the mother is admitted WITH the kid.

Despite all the atrocities, they did finally make it home. Baby Vanya is TINY TINY. Such a cute little boy. Watching his videos makes me want to just squeeze him soooo tight.

But the whole ordeal left me feeling sick about the lack of knowledge and care that the medical personnel displayed there. It wasn’t a rinky-dink hospital. It was a major teaching hospital. My sister wasn’t planning on giving birth there, she had planned on going private ( as in, paying for private healthcare rather than going with free government provided one), but as we all know, babies are nothing but predictable.

So I am thankful that there are free medical options out there that do take care of the mother and child, keep them in the hospital as long as needed and don’t hang thousands of dollars worth of medical bills on them upon leaving.  But at the same time, why the carelessness? The strict scheduling of feedings? The cold and uncaring treatment of both mother and newborn?

While she was in the hospital, I put together a box of some of our newborn favorites and necessities that they can’t get in Russia, or cost too much compared to US:  a baby monitor, ModSwads, Kiinde bottle warmer, bottle sterilizer, Boba Air, cloth diapers, a few other msc items.

Among the items sent  there was a  little care package  by Ava Baby’s Boutique with Rabbit Moon clothes for boys since it’s difficult to find any preemie sized items in Russia. My sister said “OMG! That is the cutest little outfit!” when she received it, and she is not one to gush. lol Even at such a young age, Vanya is becoming a dapper dude. If you know anyone who has recently had a preemie or are at risk yourself, bookmark Ava Baby’s Boutique, it sells clothing starting from micro-preemie (1-3 lbs) to small newborns and newborns. It’s a good resource to know of, because you just never know. 

 

 

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Comments (69)

  • Becca

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    I am a mom to a preemie, born at 29w GA, and I feel so, so sad for the way your sister’s baby was cared for after birth! Not breastfeeding right away isn’t strange to me, because a lot of preemies have a harder time than term babies because of the immature sucking reflex, and tube feeding is common. However, it makes me sad that they would not give her son the milk she was pumping for him, as it really is the best thing you can give a preemie. It’s astounding to see how the quality of care differs from the care in the US and even Canada.

    I’m glad that he is doing well and is now home! I hope he continues to grow and thrive!

    Reply

  • Leeka B.

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    What a horrible story but does not surprise me at all. Typical Russia for ya.. :( So sad. When I was back home last year few of my girlfriends had just recently had babies and one even used a private hospital ( paid big $$$ for extra special care) and had similar horror stories about it. No way I’d ever try to get medical care back in Russia. The lack of basic care for people you provide medical care for is unheard of, and plus, the doctors that used to be OH SO GOOD and OH so knowledgeable back when our parents were young are long gone.

    Reply

  • Verna

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    Wow that is scary!! Do you think they would have recieved the same treatment had he been smaller? Small enough to not be placed in with the full term babies?

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      You know I honestly think it wouldn’t have mattered much. While there are good doctors in Russia, in general there’s a gross disregard for gentle treatment of people.

      Reply

  • Melissa

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    I am sorry that your sister had such a bad experience. That sounds terrible. It is so difficult having a preemie, I can’t even imagine the pain that goes with thinking your preemie isn’t cared for properly. I truly feel for her.
    I had a preemie born at 32 weeks weighing in at 4lbs. Fortunately my experience was quite the opposite. Granted I was only allowed to hold my baby for a few minutes before handing her over to the NICU team. I am okay with that, she was too little and my primary concern was her health and safety. Fortunately my hospital highly encouraged breast feeding. I was given a hospital grade pump and told to pump within an hour of delivery. They had a pump in my room, a pump for me in the NICU and delivered a take home breast pump to my hospital room. My daughter was too little and could not latch properly nor was strong enough to suck hard. But she never had a drop of formula in the NICU. The hospital agreed to call me if formula was ever brought up. Fortunately my supply was never an issue and they even told me to stop bringing in breast milk and freeze my overnight supply at home.
    My doctor discharged me within 24 hrs because she knew I was spending all my time in the NICU.

    Micro preemies generally aren’t encouraged to wear clothes as they are often jaundice and need to be placed under the bili-lights. Clothes are a barrier to the UV lights. Most clothes are discouraged in the NICU as preemies have fragile skin and are often kept in isolettes until they can safely maintain there own body temperature. Our NICU encouraged skin-to-skin kangaroo care when out of the isolette. Often when preemies are discharged, they are close or above 5lbs and are usually wearing newborn sizes.

    Reply

  • Stephanie Heather

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    Thank you for bringing up the issue of prematurity! 1 out of 10 babies is born prematurely (worldwide) and actually 1 in 8 in the U.S. We fall pretty low on the prematurity report card, actually, but our NICU experience was very different from your sister’s.

    I’m sorry she wasn’t allowed to pass on BM. That varies in the States as well. Some hospitals are very pro-pumping/BM almost to the point where it’s too much for mothers who literally can’t produce milk are made to feel shamed and guilty. She was lucky to have you tell your mom what to bring her.

    Times have also changed. My mother was born in the 1940′s at 3 lbs and not even mothers were allowed to visit.

    I had my preemie at 30 weeks and he spent a little over two months in NICU.

    It’s great that you found a preemie clothing shop but to be honest that probably isn’t the best place to send new mothers. Most preemies can’t wear clothing for a while and then NICU’s have different rules – just hats for a while, no zippers, no footies, stuff like that.

    Here is a link to the March of Dimes and the Preemie Resource Blog which is written by other preemie moms for preemie moms.

    http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/premature_indepth.html

    http://preemiemomblog.blogspot.com/

    http://itsapreemiething.com/ (a favorite shop among preemie parents – check it out – you’ll see why!)

    Thanks again for covering this topic!
    Stephanie Heather

    Reply

  • Lily

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    I can’t believe how awful that experience must have been for your sister. I’m glad she and the baby are home and safe :(

    I’m due to give birth to twins in May (official due date 5th June, but the Hospital here wont let me go beyond 37-38 weeks for the safety of the babies) in Scotland.
    The midwives have encouraged me to start expressing colostrum from 36 weeks to store for the babies. Even if they are too small to latch on properly they will syringe feed them my own breast milk. If you have premmies, Colostrum actually has some growth hormones in it which is obviously very beneficial for the babies!

    Once the babies are big enough to latch they will be on hand at the press of a button to help me, and even have specialist consultants on the ward as well.

    I’ve also been given brochures on NICU and how to cope with the experience. They encourage both parents to be as hands-on as possible. Even changing nappies when they are in the incubators. As soon as they are big enough they will even let us put them both together :)

    I’m so grateful to live in a country where the (free!) healthcare is at such a great standard, and changing all the time as new research comes in (ie; Kangaroo care).

    Reply

  • Ana O

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    I’m honestly not surprised at the lack of care and gentleness there. I am Romanian (have lived in the U.S. for over 20 years now) and healthcare in Romania is similar. From my understanding the fathers still can’t be present and mother’s are separated from their children immediately. It’s a very dated system in Europe and it NEEDS to change stat! I have heard even private systems aren’t much better. So sad.
    I am so blessed to be able to deliver here in the U.S. and not have to worry about being separated or my child not having the care he needs.

    Reply

  • Yana Weinstein

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    This is so heartbreaking, it almost made me cry (but not quite, because at the end Vanya is OK, and that’s what matters the most, so let’s celebrate that!!)

    My mother gave birth to me and my sister in Russia in the 80s and 90s respectively, and I am just shocked to hear that nothing has changed. I thought for sure my stories of my mum’s hellish labor (in a room full of other laboring women, no-one she knew, and no doctors until she was ready to push!) were a thing of the past, but apparently not.

    Reply

  • Ashlie

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    My first son was born at 32 weeks and 4lbs 3oz. We had a month long stay in the nicu. They were very pro breast milk for preemies. They told me even if I only had a few drops, bring it and they had me swab it in his mouth with a qtip. I recently found out that our nicu is purchasing breast milk for preemies 32 weeks of age or earlier with moms consent of course, to give the babies until moms milk comes in. That’s how highly important they feel breast milk is, especially to preemies. I’m glad your nephew is finally doing well.

    Reply

  • aims__love

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    Wow. This astounds me!
    i am the mother to a premmie (just turned one) & we were encouraged kangaroo care as much as we possibly could (once he was out from under the lights/stable enough) & every single DROP of breastmilk was given to him. (my milk never really came in after the whole experience, but every drop i could produce was fed to him first, and then topped up with formula)… Your poor sister. Premmie’s often don’t wake for feeds, they are too busy growing and developing other things! You need to learn tricks for feeding them & getting in that precious feed so they can grow! ;) Our NICU encouraged lots of skin on skin & suckles at the breast whenever awake even if it was one suck and then asleep, they wanted to help form that bond & make things as hands-on as possible.

    My heart aches for your sister and how hard it would have been! He was a good size, i hope he just continues to get bigger and stronger now he’s with his mama! x

    Reply

    • aims__love

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      also, i am basing what i say on the size/condition of your sister’s baby! obviously micro premmies & fragile premmies aren’t ready for kangaroo care or attempting to feed. most babies don’t get the will to feed or the sucking/breathing/swallowing thing down until around 35/36 weeks.
      my boy was tube fed until 3 days before hometime as he didn’t know how to feed properly & was too sleepy. they need to be tubefed because breastfeeding just isn’t an option for full feeds until they are developmentally ready for it.

      Reply

  • Rachel

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    I am mother to a 26 weeker. She was 2 pounds at birth, spent 3 months in the NICU.

    First of all, I agree with the other poster. Clothing for a 1-3 pound baby is very misleading. A micropreemie would never be allowed to wear clothing. They have to be able to maintain their own temperature first and that doesn’t happen until they are 3 pounds at the very least.

    I reiterate what another poster said, when babies are born early, they have immature sucking reflexes and can’t breast feed so the fact that the baby was tube fed shouldn’t be an issue. That’s just fine. My daughter did not wake up to eat until she was over 2 months old.

    But the fact that they would not let her send down colostrum is really disgusting. There is a deadly infection called NEC that preemies are very high risk for, it is an infection in the gut usually caused by food that sits for too long in an immature belly that is not digesting food fast enough. Mother’s milk has properties that speeds up digestion which formula simply does not have. It is SO important that preemies get mom’s milk for this reason, even if it is just a little bit. NEC is far less common in breast fed preemies. Not to mention the antibodies the baby gets against infection which are in abundance in colostrum. My daughter’s neonatologist always told me the most important milk for baby to have was colostrum. I pumped every 3 hours until my daughter left the NICU and she was never fed formula, I was lucky to have an abundant supply even though I was exclusively pumping. For moms that could only pump a little bit, our NICU would give them what she had first, and then finish with formula. Our NICU also had donor milk available if the mother was not able to pump enough to feed the baby but wanted the baby to be on 100% breast milk. I am really sad that your sister had such a bad experience.

    Reply

  • Allison

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    I am so sad to hear of your sister’s experience. Both of my girls were preemies, i was induced at 35 weeks due to preeclampsia with both. My first daughter was 12 hours old before I saw her, not because of her, but because I was so sick and in danger. So obviously she was fed with formula. I was encouraged to pump with both girls, and I worked with a lactation consultant to try and nurse them but they were both very small (4 lbs 10 oz’s for both) and it was very hard. Neither would wake on their own to eat, that is pretty common with preemies. Both my girls went home primarily on formula, although I did pump as much as I could. With my youngest, she was 2 weeks old when I finally got her to latch on, and almost 4 weeks old before she fully started to nurse. I was never able to get her totally off formula, but for awhile there I was able to nurse her. Not sure how long ago your nephew went home, but I am proof that even if your baby is a month old, you can still introduce breast feeding. Sadly I had to stop after a couple of months because my Blood Pressure stayed so high and I had to go on medication that was not safe.

    Reply

  • Leah Rosenbaum

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    I’m horrified at the treatment your sister and nephew got. is that standard treatment in Russia? my twin nephews where born at that age and about 5 pounds each, they stayed in the nicu a few days, one was discharged with his mother, the other a few days early. they get released when they can keep their temperature under control, and are eating/breathing right.
    as a side note gymboree makes clothes for babies up to 5 pounds. I get them for my friend whose babies are all micropreemies.

    Reply

  • Ivory

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    I’m very sorry that your sister had such a rough time, however there are a lot of preconceptions about preemies in this post that don’t help educate people. I understand that you’re upset for your sister and very emotional about it, but posting things without the proper information can be detrimental to advocating for premature babies and their parents. Yes, there are things that hospital could have done better, but not everything they did was “wrong.”

    Reply

    • Amber

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      Ivory,

      I’m really interested to hear specifics from you — can you explain what Elena may have gotten wrong?

      Reply

  • Ruth

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    Elena, how HORRIFYING!!!! Every single bit of it! No husband allowed! No breastfeeding!! Keeping the baby from the mother!! NOT feeding them…makes my stomach hurt just reading this!! I have a good friend who has been a NICU nurse for 20+ years. And My girlfriend had a 35 week premature baby two weeks ago. She delivered at Charlottsville University Hospital in Virginia.

    After having the baby they were allowed bonding time before the baby went to the NICU for observation. And then the baby was brought to her every two hours around the clock so she could breastfeed. When she was discharged, they allowed her to stay with the baby in the NICU so that she could continue to breastfeed every two hours. I understand from my NICI nurse friend that normally they don’t allow “visitors” even parents to sleep in the NICU usually, but knowing my friend and the type of mother she is I seriously doubt armed guards could have forced her away from the NICU asleep or not. lol And I say GOOD for her! I would be the exact same way!! NO ONE, no one in my opinion can care for an infant better than a loving mother!

    I’ve visited Ukraine many time throughout my childhood and teen years due to my father’s job, and been in some of the hospitals. Including one in Kiev. I am horrified to think that things are still so primitive. It’s just too horrifying that they would treat an infant let alone a premature infant so carelessly.

    Reply

  • Andrea

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    This post is beyond terrible. I am very sorry that your sister had to go through such a nightmare. Being an L&D in a high risk hospital where we work very closely with the NICU this sends chills down my spine. There is no reason that your sister could not have spent time with her son, pumping regular and saved the milk until he was able to eat. Even if they choose not to fed him right away due to his small size ( which commonly happens) there should have been skin to skin contact, forming that relationship etc. Our hospital practices cuplet care, which means that we do not have a nursery where the infants are taken away from their mother but kept with them 24/7 to enhance the bounding, breasting feeding etc. Their system is in need of a 360 change.

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  • Noelle Thurlow

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    This does make my blood boil. I am sad that she was unable to breastfeed given the circumstances. It’s good Vanya made it out alive and that kids are so resilient!

    Reply

  • Maja

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    I’m from Croatia so treatment similar to this isn’t unknown to me. However, I now live in the UK and how people behave around newborns here isn’t the best either. There’s no respect for mother and baby for the first 6 weeks, everyone and anyone comes as they please and handles the baby, while we all know how important rest and bonding are in this period, for establishing breastfeeding and other patterns of behaviour. I am on about full term babies here, I sincerely hope that upon leaving the hospital the friends and relatives would have more understanding in preemie case. I’m not going to comment on treatment in the UK hospitals, because it beings up very unpleasant feelings.

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  • Ivory

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    Not being able to BF is very normal with preemies – it burns a lot of calories, and when weight gain is king, every calorie matters. It’s unfortunate that she wasn’t allowed to give her son BM, but using an alternate food (TPN or formula) is common.
    Also, a “strict” feeding schedule isn’t because the doctors are mean – it’s because it’s important for preemies to eat, and they can’t eat too often – again for burning calories.
    There were definitely things the doctors did wrong and the night of not being fed is horrible, as is not being able to hold and bond her son.
    But like I said, not everything posted here is horrific.

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    • Rachel

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      Ivory, where are you getting these ideas from? Breast milk doesn’t cause a baby to burn more calories! It just gets digested more quickly and therefore needs to be fed more often. Also how can eating often cause calories to be burnt? That makes NO sense! Preemies can have issues with an immature sucking reflex but the BEST thing for a baby will always be breast milk!

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      • Megan

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        I am really interested where these claims are coming from as well. It is true that breasting burns calories in the mother, and actually helps new mothers lose the “baby weight”, but breastfeeding in no way causes baby to burn calories…

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        • Megan R.

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          These claims are coming from experienced preemie moms. With preemies, things aren’t black and white. The “rules” of what is ideal gets thrown out the window in favor of what will be best for the baby to thrive and be able to leave the NICU.

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      • Kate

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        Please retread ivory’s comment. She said that BREASTFEEDING burns more calories (true as it requires more work to extract milk from a breast than a bottle, the very reason breastfeeding moms are discouraged from bottles until breastfeeding is established), not breast milk.
        Also, any sort of bodily movement (ie eating) is going to expend more calories than not moving (ie sleeping).

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        • MrsD

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          Exactly.

          Preemies are often born before they can suckle, so they are fed breastmilk and/or formula and/or fortifier through a tube. The tube can go up the nose and down into the stomach, in the mouth and down into the stomach, or through a hole in the child’s belly directly into the GI tract. Preemies that are breast fed are never fed directly from the breast as their main or sole source of nutrition until they are able to suckle, and unfortunately this often happens days, weeks or months after they are born.

          And Ivory is correct – preemies have tiny stomachs, and they are fed on a carefully calculated schedule to maximize the amount of nutrition without stressing their tiny, fragile bodies.

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          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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            “preemies have tiny stomachs, and they are fed on a carefully calculated schedule to maximize the amount of nutrition without stressing their tiny, fragile bodies”

            That is actually really interesting to know! It makes sense since digestion is one of the most taxing processes in our body that burns the most calories ( I am not sure that digesting BM takes more calories than formula. It seems counter intuitive, but I don’t really know the facts).

            I am pretty confident, though, that “taxing” his body wasn’t one of doctors’ concern, because they deemed him healthy enough to not place into NICU and to not feed for 6 hours during the shift change.

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      • Trish

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        Ivory said breastFEEDING burns lots of calories. The act of suckling at the breast is a physical activity which burns a lot of calories. My son was born very early (26 weeks) and wasn’t fed by mouth (by a bottle) until close to 37 weeks because of his breathing and calorie needs.

        I don’t know why they wouldn’t give the poor baby breastmilk that she had pumped over formula, that certainly seems ill-advised, but there are definitely reasons that babies are or are not fed at different times in the NICU.
        She mentioned that the baby was having digestive trouble. If that were the case, they may well have made the baby NPO (nothing by mouth) to give his bowels arrest to prevent or treat that. I sadly went through it 4 times with my son (who later was found to be allergic to corn, causing him to bleed internally.)
        I’m very sorry that Elena’s sister went through this. I wouldn’t with prematurity on anyone. Sadly, it’s very common and comes with a lot of complications and disappointments in an effort to keep the preemie alive and healthy.

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      • Jen

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        Trying to breastfeed is a very tiring process for a preemie, especially if a sucking reflex isn’t quite established. That’s why breastmilk is usually given by tube or othereans until the bany has the ability to start trying. Nobody is saying the milk itself is a problem.

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    • Tawny

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      I can definitely agree with Ivory, as a mom of twin preemies. Although my preemies were not in the NICU, they were low birth weight and I was encouraged to breastfeed. However, they were not gaining weight because breastfeeding burns more calories for the baby and every calorie counts. I ended up pumping and supplementing with a preemie formula. It’s not the BREAST MILK that makes them burn too many calories, it is the breastfeeding. Unless you have had a preemie or are a lactation consultant, please do not tell someone that what they are saying is nonsense. Having a preemie is no joke and we all want our children to be healthy and safe.

      Reply

  • Tawny

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    This was very different from my experience. I encouraged to do kangaroo care and breastfeed (as well as pump). My preemies did not require NICU time, however. I’m sorry to hear about your sisters unfortunate experience. Clearly medical care has room for improvement!

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  • Ivory

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    You really don’t think that eating causes babies to burn calories? I agree that breast milk is usually the best thing for babies, especially preemies, but BREASTFEEDING requires more work from a baby than bottle feeding does. Having to suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time not only requires brain power, but calories to make it work. Eating anything requires calories, breastfeeding requires more than bottle feeding and both require more than gavage (tube) feeding.
    And how do I know this? Because I had a preemie, who wasn’t able to BF until 4 weeks after her due date (4 months after she was born). And I trust my neonatologists more than a blogger on the Internet who probably hasn’t stepped in a NICU.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      ” And I trust my neonatologists more than a blogger on the Internet who probably hasn’t stepped in a NICU.”

      THAT^^^
      You know I stayed away from this conversation ( mostly for lack of time) but your insistence at the fact that I somehow tried to “educate” people or indicated that things should be done a certain way with preemies is really getting on my nerves. I told a story that happened to my sister with my personal bias like anything I would write in a personal blog. The argument you’re making against BFing has nothing to do with what I wrote. The issue was that breastmilk wasn’t given to him, not necessarily that she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed, which she should have been anyways since he was a perfectly healthy big 5 pound baby who wasn’t even placed into the NICU.

      If you really need to nitpick, do it somewhere else, I have no patience for this stuff.

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      • kelly

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        Im with you Elena!

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        • Tawny

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          Yikes! Yeah, I don’t Elena was trying to educate us, just telling her sisters story. But like I said above, what Ivy is saying is very true. But, it is quite disturbing to me that your sisters milk was denied for the baby. That just isn’t right. I have never heard of that happening in a NICU here unless the baby had an allergy to milk protein.

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  • Preemie Mom

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    Many preemies cannot breastfeed. They do not have the ability to coordinate the suck, swallow, breathe function. Also, breastfeeding, instead of a feeding tube (ng, Og, etc) burns significantly more calories. And when every single calorie matters, these tiny babies just can’t spare even a few. When my child was in the NICU learning to eat, he had a 20 limit. After 20 minutes, his food was taken away and the rest had to go through his feeding tube. This was done to conserve calories. Preemies are a whole different ballgame from term babies and a lot of the things you do for a term baby just won’t work for a preemie.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      “After 20 minutes, his food was taken away and the rest had to go through his feeding tube”
      Ah! I wish that was explained to her! She was at complete loss for why things were being done that way. I know she was the most stressed when they were using this device (like an umbrella) that gets put in his throat (at least that is how it was explained to me. It could have been wrong since they themselves didn’t understand much) rather than giving him BM or formula by bottle.

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    • Jesbeth

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      This was the case with my daughter as well. She slowly but surely was able to have enough energy to eat from a bottle, and then progressed to breastfeeding (which took 6 weeks).

      What I struggle to understand is their “rule” that her son wasn’t allowed to consume any of her pumped breastmilk. That really angers me.

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      • Jesbeth

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        I should clarify, that I pushed getting my daughter to take a bottle instead of pushing breastfeeding. I did this because I knew they wouldn’t let me take her home until she was off the feeding tube. I continued to pump breastmilk and got support to help with getting her to breastfeed. She’s now 10 months old and we’re still going strong. I imagine there is a lack of knowledge and support about lactation and the benefits of breastmilk in Russia.

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        • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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          “I imagine there is a lack of knowledge and support about lactation and the benefits of breastmilk in Russia.”

          Yes! And at the same time, breastfeeding rates are really high and there is an unspoken collective thought of “of course you HAVE to breastfeed” ( at least it was when I lived there, things might have changed)

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          • Jesbeth

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            My heart really goes out to your sister. How is she feeling after all of this? I know I really struggled with the fact that I couldn’t be with my daughter 24/7 when she was in the NICU. I felt like I had failed her by her being born early. I was on bedrest with pre-term labour and nearly gave birth at 28 weeks. I can’t imagine the guilt and anger she must feel at being kept from her son and not being able to nourish him the way she wanted to. She’s lucky to have you to support her and provide her with information she might not otherwise receive.

            I also think the doctors failed by not putting him in the NICU, birth weight is not an indication of development. He still had the needs of a preemie and needed that extra care.

            I have still heard a lot of misinformation about breastfeeding in the U.S. and Canada, even with the mindset of you HAVE to breastfeed, but it seems as soon as there’s even one tiny hiccup, it’s hard to get the support and many mothers switch to formula, oftentimes at the urging of their doctors. A friend of mine’s son is milk and soy protein intolerant, but her pediatrician had never even heard of this and told her to switch to formula when he started having problems.

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          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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            She is actually good. This was a bit of a wake up call for her, because during pregnancy she felt nothing could ever happen, since her other two kids were such easy full term babies even when my mom and I urged her to take care of herself. But Ivan is doing great and she is feeling good. It’s a late baby for her. She is 38 and her youngest is 16, so everything is almost like it’s new. Since she didn’t breastfeed the first two, she is somewhat ok with how things turned out with BFing Ivan.
            Thanks for asking!

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          • Jesbeth

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            I am very happy to hear that, and I forgot to say before, that I am alsovery happy that Ivan is doing well.

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        • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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          There’s very little information there about how breastfeeding actually works and a million misconceptions. I had to actually explain to my mom a thousand times why I was doing things a certain way when Alexis was just born in regards with breastfeeding. She had SUCH wrong info, huge BF supporter but with SO little knowledge.

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  • Jesbeth

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    Like others commenting, your post made me cry, just thinking of those babies not being fed and not being able to be with their mothers. I wish there was something that could be done for these children and their parents. My daughter was born prematurely at a little more than 34 weeks. We had a 16 day stay in the NICU/PICU, mostly because she struggled to eat. I live in Canada, and I feel even more grateful for the care we received.

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  • Preemie Mom

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    Also, there could have been a medical need to withhold food from the baby. Preemies can develop a condition called NEC (which is absolutely terrifying). If it is even suspected, the neonatalogists will order food to be stopped in an effort to allow the digestive system to rest and hopefully recover. Definitely not ideal, but NEC has an incredibly high mortality rate, so the doctors take it very, very seriously.

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    • Jesbeth

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      I know that in our case, before each feeding, the nurse would use the feeding tube to check for undigested food and pull it up from her stomach and discard it. I didn’t know until seeing your post why they did that.

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      • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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        Ah! I bet that is what my sister was upset about, as well. I didn’t understand that either, And I can totally see how it might be upsetting!

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  • Ivory

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    Elena, there is no need to get so defensive. In my first post I mearly explained that some of the things that happened to her were within the normal experience and I was asked what. When I responded to that, I was told that I was wrong, which isn’t the case at all – that’s who I was referring to when I said I trusted my neo more. You did make multiple comments about her not being able to BF, I was simply pointing out that the choice could have been the best one for your nephew. I ate only agree that breast milk is usually best for a baby. But you do need to realize that you were trying to educate people, you do so with each post – offer tips about toys or products or whatever you’re currently interested in, and this most was more of the same. My heart breaks for your sister, I would never wish a preemie experience on anyone, but you also need to understand that not everything that happened to her was horrible, and I was trying to make sure that people understood the facts behind some of the decisions. I don’t know how NICUs work in Russia, but his weight doesn’t play into how healthy he was, and obviously he did need some hospital time since he had trouble waking to eat and gaining weight.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Defensive? lol
      Ivory, I have no problems with what you said about preemie treatment. Everyone has their opinion and everyone’s levels of knowledge for certain topics vary. I for one know very little about preemies and I stated so in the post and even wrote the post in a manner that is clear that I don’t know much about it.

      However, I don’t appreciate you assuming that I mean one thing or another by writing this post and bringing it up in the manner that you did. You did it again in this comment as well. Things aren’t black and white ( your words). Not with preemies, not with all my posts. One can be educational, another can be simple sharing. Telling me that I need to realize what I meant with MY OWN post is absolutely ridiculous. And that is what I have a problem with. Not your preemie comments.

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  • Ivory

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    You’re right, of course. From now on I’ll just keep my mouth shut and never try to explain anything to anyone that asks. I apologize to your readers for responding to them with my “opinions.”

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  • jennifer

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    I think it is pretty clear that Elana is simply sharing a story about something that affected her personally. It was clear to me from the start that she was not claiming any expert knowledge on the subject.

    Also, I will state I have no experience with premature babies either. However, I can appreciate the comments about the feeding schedules and the babies not being able to breastfeed because it burns more calories then bottle feeding. To me it would be a tough argument that any of that was going on here though. It does not sound like the hospital was taking any precautions they may afford a preemie. I would need to see some pretty convincing evidence from that hospital to believe the care Ivan received was anything beyond neglect.

    Thinking of your sister and glad that things are looking up for her and baby Ivan now.

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  • NamePerplexed

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    You’ve referred to your nephew as both Ivan and Vanya. I’m assuming that the Russian name Vanya translates to Ivan in English. Am I correct?

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  • Renee

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    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I am a mom of a 34-week preemie who is turning 6 months old tomorrow. Like your sister, my water broke early, and my daughter was born at 5 lbs. 10 oz. My daughter was incredibly strong and lasted 7 days in the NICU on bottle feeds before she got tired and needed an NG tube (which she ripped out a day later, haha, but that is not the point). Most 34-weekers get a tube within the first day or two after birth. Even though my daughter was very large for 34 weeks and very strong to be able to eat so well from a bottle, she was not developmentally ready to breastfeed directly for more than a few minutes at a time. Even preemies who look and sometimes act like full term babies are not full term babies developmentally. Still, my hospital and NICU treated my colostrum and breastmilk like the liquid gold it is. I had a pump waiting for me when I got back to my room from L&D, the lactation consultant came the next day, and the support in general for pumping and slowly establishing direct BFing was great.

    What is much more troubling about your sister’s experience than the feeding issues, though, is the fact that they so severely limited her time with him. Preemies, like full term babies, need to feel their parents’ touch. Being chest-to-chest with mom (or dad) helps them regulate their breathing and heartrate and feel secure. I am a huge BFing advocate, but feeling a mother’s love is even more important than that. Glad to hear your nephew is doing well now, though! May he continue to grow and thrive.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Hi Renee!

      Thanks for the comment!
      I agree all those policies of separating the two are ridiculous. She was so happy to see him for a short period of time. I was just appalled at the whole situation, BFing issues aside.

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  • PreemieMom

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    One last thing – while kangaroo care (which is where you do skin to skin with the baby) has been shown to produce benefits, there are also many studies that show that handling and moving the baby really stresses out a preemie. So, many times, A wasn’t permitted to hold my baby. I was encouraged to sit near his incubator, change diapers, etc., but many times if he was having a bad day with a lot of apneas (where breathing stops or slows) or Brady’s (where the heart rate slows), they wouldn’t let me hold him. And this was at a top rated hospital who 100% was committed to helping parents bond with their preemies.

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    • lesley

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      PreemieMom, that sounds like it was such a delicate, trying time for baby and family.

      I hope your son is doing well!

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  • Rebecca

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    It’s a sad story for sure, and I am so sorry that this was your sister’s experience. Not being able to be with her son is trully appauling. It is hard enough on the mom of a preemie who is trying to make a connection with her child in such artificial circumstances even when they are optimal, let alone not being able to be with him very much at all.

    Bottle feeding is common in the NICU but in my opinion is that much of the time it is just routine, and it takes more effort to help a preemie nurse then to just pop a bottle in their mouth. My daughter of a 26 weeker insisted that her 1 Lb 15 Ozer never have a bottle. There were nurses who were happy to help her achieve that. She was tube fed all the way up to going home. It can be done, no matter what some nay sayers tell you. Then they let my daughter try to nurse her little girl Ava at about 2 weeks before going home, and she thankfully did latch right on. (We had also been working with a pacifier for months working toward that goal) She did tire quickly but that was ok, the thing was she could do it. Not knowing for sure how much she was able to take in the nurse simply pulled back the contents of what was in her tummy through the tube to measure it and then put it back and added whatever was needed. No big deal to do that really, but it was a HUGE deal for my daughter to be able to have just one thing go normal, well kind of. She was allowed to nurse twice a day for the first day and each day they added a feeding until she was getting all feedings by breast with exception of 2 in the middle of the night and that was continued on with the tube. It was a lot of work for my daughter but it was absolutely amazing to see the joy on my daughter’s face. If you are interested, there are pictures here. http://www.avababys.com/The-Story-of-a-Micro-Preemie_ep_45.html

    Breastmilk is the very best thing and can’t for the life of me not understand why they chose something else for Elena’s sister. Especially for a preemie, and the colostrum is crucial. So important that the hospital always tried to harvest it from other moms who could spare some to share with preemies who’s mom’s were unable to provide.

    I am happy Elena that your sister’s little man is home with his mommy and daddy now, and stylin’ too!

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  • Melanie

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    I think everything that can be said about her unfortunate experience has been said – it is very sweet of you to send her a care package. I am just wondering how she is going to use the electronics. I am from Europe and even with a “conversion plug” i sometimes have issues with US electronics. How does she solve this?

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  • lesley

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    I’m glad Ivan is OK! I hope he gets stronger and bigger every day.

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  • Tara

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    Oh your poor sister! I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that!! Poor baby as well!

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  • Lara

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    As others have said, the micro-preemie clothes can’t usually be worn by babies in the NICU. They are often purchased by people who have preemie children who pass away or are stillborn. My son was born at 19 weeks, and the hospital provided us a tiny outfit to dress him in and take home afterward as a momento.

    Just an FYI as to why those exist for a lot of people.

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    • Rebecca

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      Actually our little Ava started wearing clothes at 2 Lbs. If a micro preemie is healthy and the clothes are NICU appropriate, meaning they can be removed without moving the baby then it is often ok. In fact Ava’s nurses loved dressing her. Some NICUs are different, so it is a good idea to check. I provide clothes for little ones lost too, but happily by far I provide clothes for the littlest survivors. I love it and am happy to provide for these little ones no matter the outcome! Makes mom’s happy too.

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  • kat

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    I’m curious which city….the horror stories i’ve heard from my mom about my and my sister’s births make me literally want to vomit. i am so happy for the freedom of choice that we have in the US.

    Reply

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