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.