May is Hands Up for Miracles Month which is especially close to my heart. Not only am I an active supporter of the Miracle Babies Foundation but my gorgeous twins were born 8 weeks premature, in May! Miracle Babies were a great support to me and my family whilst we spent 7 weeks in Special Care.
The twins turned 6 the other day, started school earlier this year and are thriving. I marvel every day to look at them and how they have grown into the most lovely and divine children, full of smarts and wonder. Sorry, think I’m being a little emotional as I’ve just been looking at pics of their early days….
In light of all this, I’m thinking back to the early days of life with premmies and some of the challenges we had to overcome. From nasal gastro tubes for the first 6 weeks, moving onto the tiniest little bottles to all three of us learning to breast feed around 12 weeks of age. It was a huge undertaking but we got there in the end and continued on until about 13 months when I sadly weaned them.
For me I was lucky, the challenges I had to manage around feeding premmies pretty much ended once we sorted the boob out, but for many others the challenges go on long into the solids phase.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around actual age and adjusted age (the age they would be had they arrived around their due date) and whether to introduce solids based on actual or adjusted age (we did it at 6 months actual age – one was ready the other not so much), you might encounter things such as low iron levels, reflux or gagging.
A baby’s iron stores depend largely on the amount of time spent in the womb, so premmie babies are often low in iron. It is common to syringe feed them an iron supplement from birth to help overcome this but parents also need to be mindful of not waiting too long to introduce solids and to ensure a good mix of iron rich foods. Fortified cereals and formulas are handy as well as moving onto red meat about 4-6 weeks into your solids journey. The best way to serve red meat to such a tiny baby is as cooked mince or slow cooked casseroles so the meat is soft and tender.
Premmie babies are also more susceptible to Reflux, especially those that are tube fed in hospital. In some instances the problem isn’t apparent until the introduction of solids where the stomach contents rise (reflux) back up the esophagus, causing discomfort or pain. For some this is apparent earlier in the form of spitting up milk and associated discomfort, and solids are recommended earlier to help overcome. This will vary from baby to baby so seek medical advice.
A hyperactive gag reflex, or oral hypersensitivity is a condition contributed to by, among others, lack of oral stimulation often from tube feeding. This is one that we had to deal with and in fact is still a little present even today.
This can be overcome with slow and careful introduction of texture, the assistance of a speech pathologist and, like in our case, managing the size of the mouthful.
As with anything though, the cause and cure can vary by baby so if you are concerned seek medical advice as an adverse reaction to feeding due to hypersensitivity can have long term effects from learned reactions.
What actual age was your baby when you introduced solids to your baby and did you encounter any major issues due to prematurity, or other factors?
Please share your story to help other parents.
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