March is National Reading Month! In honor of this, I am sharing some of my favorite children's books for preemies.
There is no denying the joy of reading. Reading can be an important activity to aid in bonding with your hospitalized baby, and also provides some pretty amazing benefits for your child. Research suggests that story time promotes brain development, reduces stress, and starts building the skills needed to talk and eventually read.
Reading to my preemies was one of the things that I enjoyed most while my twins were in the NICU. It made me feel like a “normal” parent and I could block out all the noise and imagine that I sitting in my children’s nursery reading to them instead of a hospital. It helped me forget about the stress, if at least temporarily. While there are certainly many lovely children’s books available, reading a book about a preemie, to a preemie is a special experience. Here are a few of my favorites to begin building a library for your littlest bundle of joy.
Lily’s Hope- by Jennifer Driscoll and Lily Driscoll
This children's book follows the experiences of Lilian Hope and her little brother, Aidan Patrick, both born prematurely. "Hope means wishing for good things to happen," Lily says, as she realizes hope has followed her since the day she was born. Lily and Aidan share hope in their non-profit organization, Lily's Hope Foundation, that supports families with premature babies.
Once Upon a Preemie- by Jenné Johns
This short inspirational book is written for parents whose children were born prematurely, and had a NICU stay. The book is a bedside companion to support any parent who faces the roller coaster ride of nurturing a preemie baby in the hospital until they go home. Once Upon A Preemie offers encouraging messages of hope, faith, and love.
Peanut- by Lindsay Nolan
"Little baby, I understand that life never goes exactly as planned, and that something so little can be something so grand." This is a story for small but mighty preemie babies. It's a story about love.
Go Preemies- by AP Male
Go Preemies! was written for preemies of all ages as a fun, inspirational and educational guide that highlights the world-changing accomplishments that preemies have achieved, and can achieve, despite the challenges of their preterm birth. Written and illustrated by two adult preemies.
Soon- by Jessica Watson
"Soon" takes the reader on a hopeful journey, honoring the fighting spirit of a preemie along the way. Beautiful, realistic illustrations give a glimpse into the NICU world without overwhelming young children with too many tubes and wires. Families will treasure time spent turning the pages of "Soon" together and smiling with pride at how far they have come.
I Was a Preemie Just Like You- by Ali Dunn
I Was a Preemie Just Like You is a sweet children's book that shows preemies what they went through, and that they are not alone. Colorful geometric illustrations and rhyming text reimagine the NICU experience as an amazing adventure. This book is perfect for preemies of any age but was developed specifically for toddlers as an introduction to their own premature start.
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This post was originally published by HandtoHold.org in Aug. 2018.
I am all for breastfeeding. I am amazed by the life-saving power of breast milk, that I have witnessed first hand. I know that breast milk is both nutrition and medicine especially for the tiniest of babies. I understand why it is referred to as liquid gold. And yet somehow this description falls short when you are agonizing over every single ounce. So you would probably assume that I breastfed my twins…well not exactly.
I fell into a gray area when it came to breastfeeding, I was an exclusive pumper. Perhaps it was my own insecurity, but I never felt like I should say I breastfed without a long clarifying statement. My twins were born at 28 weeks. Much too small and fragile to eat by mouth, let alone to latch and suck. So like many preemie mommas, I started pumping. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to produce any milk after such a traumatic and early birth, but I had to try. The NICU staff that were caring for my twins stressed the importance of every drop. They said my preemies needed more calories and nutrients to help them grow quickly. Breast milk was one of the best ways to help reduce the risk of NEC, build immunity, and prevent infection.
After a day or two, it finally started to work. It went from, “I think there might be something in the bottle,” to a full ounce, then two. Those sweet nurses cheered over any amount of milk I was able to express, which was promptly walked down the hall to the NICU.
Soon the day came when I was ready to leave the hospital, but my babies were not. It is a heart-wrenching experience to leave the hospital no longer pregnant, but without a baby. I had to rely on the nurses to tell me how my babies were doing, to show me how to care for them, and to give me permission to hold them. But the one thing that only I could provide was breast milk. I felt like I couldn’t do much for my babies while they were in the NICU, but I could pump. So that’s what I did.
Each morning I drove to the NICU with a cooler packed full of milk. It certainly wasn’t easy. I was setting alarms and waking up multiple times a night to pump for 30 minutes and fill those tiny hospital-supplied bottles with milk. I bought another freezer to store all the bottles until they were needed at the hospital. I thought I would continue to pump until they were released from the hospital. And two months later when they were, I didn’t quit. When one of my twins was diagnosed with an intolerance to dairy, I was advised to cut all the common food allergens from my diet if I was going to continue to feed them breast milk. I drastically changed my diet and eliminated dairy, tree nuts, soy, and shellfish.
For 15 months, pumping for my twins was a huge part of my life. I pumped inside, I pumped outside. I pumped in the car, while washing bottles, and while feeding babies. I pumped with clogged milk ducts. I even was able to pump while sleeping. Pumping was important to me; it made me feel like a mother. When I had very little to give my preemies in the NICU, pumping for them gave me a sense of purpose. When I had very little control over their care and their health, I felt empowered by my ability to provide something they needed. When I felt like my body had failed in growing my babies to term, I felt it redeemed itself by producing a perfect food for them. So even though it was hard and time-consuming, I never gave up.
Did I breastfeed my twins? Well not in its purest form. What ended up being true for us was not the picture of a mother with her child at her breast. It was a compromise. The process was vastly different, but the end results essentially the same. So this month as we celebrate breastfeeding and raise awareness of its benefits, remember the exclusive pumpers. We want to be seen. We want to join in on the stories and perspectives of nourishing our children. And we want to share our stories, just as soon as we find an outlet to plug in our breast pumps!
When a friend or family member has a new baby, it is customary to send a gift. Typical baby gifts like clothes and toys are not things that can be utilized right away by a preterm baby. Here are 5 thoughtful gifts that are perfect for a preemie and all are under $25!
Even though you were born 12 weeks early, I was waiting for you. I had been waiting for you for years.