Every baby should have their milestones celebrated. The ones celebrated by preemies and their parents (not forgetting all the staff that look after them!) are a little different though. I wanted to go through a few and explain why some of these preemie milestone celebrations were important ones for me and my little boy.

First feed

Feeding took a long time to get established for my little boy. I was asked if I would give permission to give my son donor milk until I could start to produce some. I had never heard of donor milk before so I didn’t know it was a thing. After explaining the benefits to me I was fully on board. My son was put on TPN (Total Parent Nutrition) to start with and this was given to him intravenously through his umbilical cord.

My milk came in quite quickly and they started my little boy off on 1ml every three hours. Every time they went to check my little boys stomach the milk was still there and had turned a greenish colour. His body wasn’t tolerating milk at all. After a few days the doctors and nurse made a decision to stop for a few days. They kept trying for four weeks with 1ml of milk and each time my baby boy’s stomach wouldn’t digest the milk. I don’t know how but he was surviving on TPN.

Once he was transferred to a specialist unit for his heart and that was under control the nurses tried again. His little stomach tolerated the milk! From this point on there was no going back and he started taking more and more each time I went to visit until he was on the right amount for him. It took another 3 weeks for him to be introduced to a bottle and a few weeks after that he was on a bottle every 4 hours!

Premature baby in his incubator
My little boy in his incubator

First time in clothes

The nurses surprised me with this one. My son was in a hospital that was 40 miles away. I couldn’t be there as much as when he was in the hospital that was 6 miles down the road. I still wasn’t driving yet due to recovering from the c-section. Me and my husband turned up and the nurse looking after our little boy came to the door to buzz us into the room and started speaking quickly. She had found a really sweet little outfit and she hoped we didn’t mind that she had dressed our little boy.

Of course we didn’t mind! We are laid back and it felt like such amazing progress that we weren’t upset that we weren’t the first to dress our son. He looked happy, comfortable and warm. It also meant that the staff didn’t feel they needed quick access to his little body as often if he was in clothes. It felt like a huge preemie milestone being reached and we were proud parents.

First touch

The first few days I wasn’t allowed to touch my little boy. Every time the nurses touched him to do cares or turn him on to a different side his heart seemed to aggravate his heart condition. So that it was triggered as little as possible they were the only ones to touch him to start with. On the fifth day nurses told me it wasn’t just happening when he was touched now so I could touch him.

I was advised not to stroke his skin. This was hard as stroking is associated with comfort but a premature babies skin is so sensitive that stroking them can hurt. I was more than happy for his little hand to hold my finger. I was being sent home that day so it made my day that we reached this preemie milestone when we did.

First cuddle

It was 18 long days before I was allowed my first cuddle. The concern was that my little boy just wasn’t stable enough to be handled. Some parents have to wait longer than this! I went in with my mum to visit and the nurse on at the time said “it’s been long enough that you’ve not had a cuddle! We are going to get him out”. I rushed (as much as you can 18 days post c-section) to the bathroom to remove my top and put back on my zip up jumper. I got a 50 minute cuddle with my mum taking lots of photos. This is a treasured milestone for any parent but definitely one I cherish.

Me cuddling my little boy for the first time
Me cuddling my little boy for the first time

Off the oxygen

My little boy was intubated for roughly 5 weeks. His condition of Hydrops fetalis meant that his stomach was really swollen and this pushed against his lungs making breathing difficult. Eventually he was put on CPAP briefly and then around week 6 he had nasal cannulas. Each day we went in and the amount of oxygen needed was reduced. We were down to 0.01 which is barely a whiff of oxygen but every time they tried him in air his oxygen saturation levels dipped. It took just over a week for him to breathe unaided. It was so lovely to finally be able to see his little face.

Coming home

This day was such a whirl wind and an emotional roller coaster. I was told early on by nurses that it looked a possibility my son could be going home. At 10am during doctors’ rounds they confirmed they were happy for him to be discharged. Then there was a mad rush to complete paperwork, order medication and do the car seat challenge. It was a long day but we eventually got home just after 8pm. We had no time to think though as his next bottle was due at 9pm. I needed to go and work out what medication I needed to draw up, change his nappy and make sure everything was set up to settle in for the night. This preemie milestone wasn’t celebrated in the moment as it didn’t really sink in until the next day.

First birthday

This was a real mixture of emotions. Not only was I remembering how my son had come into the world but I was also celebrating how much he had achieved in a year. He was meeting milestones, medication was reducing and appointments weren’t raising any new concerns. We had a small family gathering and a mini tea party.

Come celebrate milestones with us

The milestones met in hospital were a big deal and we were encouraged to celebrate them. It felt strange at first as every little bit of progress made seemed to be countered with a set back soon after. I soon realised that was exactly why the progress needed to be celebrated.

If you want to know more about preemie milestone celebrations or would like to celebrate them then I would love for you to join my Facebook groups. I set one up especially for parents as I don’t think there is enough choice of preemie parent groups out there the page is Preemie Parent Community UK. I also set up a second group for family and friends as I couldn’t find a group anywhere for them this one is called Preemie Support Community UK.