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124. NICU: How To Survive Having A Baby In The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with guest Anne

Having a baby in the NICU is never Plan A so it can be a challenging surprise! My guest is a NICU RN, a national safety technician (car set tech), and neonatal touch massage certified, and she also used to be a CLC lactation counselor. Anne is from Duluth Minnesota and she's sharing her first-hand experience with you. 

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This podcast is not "medical advice". Please consult with your Healthcare Provider about your specific situation.


Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts here.


Read the full transcript here:

Welcome to the Breezy Babies podcast, where we talk about all things boobs, babies, and breastfeeding. This is episode 124, how to Survive Having a baby in the NICU. I'm Bree, the IBCLC, and I made Breezy Babies with you in mind to help ease your transition into parenthood. Becoming a parent changes your life and in every way imaginable. Bumps in the road are going to come up as you move into your new role, but my goal is to help smooth out those bumps and help you become the most confident parent you can be. With good education and support, I know you can meet your breastfeeding and parenting goals. Let's do this together. Hey there, friends. Welcome back to another episode on the Breezy Babies podcast. So glad to have you here. Thank you so much for listening. And I can't wait to talk to you today about how to survive having a baby in the NICU. And I have a special guest today who actually is a nurse in the NICU. So she is going to be the expert that's going to teach you all of her tips and tricks from everything that she sees on the inside on a weekly basis. But before we get into that and I introduce her to you, I want to read a review to you that was left here on Apple podcasts, and the title says, very helpful, exclamation point. I can't forget the exclamation point, right? This was left by E water. And this person said, as a first time pregnant person feeling much more confident after listening to some of the episodes, thank you so much for leaving that podcast review. Short, simple, to the point. And you know what? You don't have to leave a long review for a business, even something just short and to the point like that. And the star review that you leave helps small businesses so much. The more reviews my podcast gets, the more easy it is to find on Apple podcasts and for people to think, oh, this is a podcast I would like to listen to as well. So I so appreciate that. E Water, if you're listening, send me an email,, and I will send you one of my online workshops completely free, whatever one of your choice. So appreciate you taking the time to do that. Now, again, before we get into our main topic, I want to talk to you just one thing that's come up recently that's kind of related to sickness. NICU stays. And I especially want to mention this because we are going into cold and flu season. So this is really a common time when your baby can be feeling sick and not be feeling great. So here's a trend that we've seen as lactation consultants that's been going around on social media, instagram probably Tik Tok as well. I'm not personally on TikTok myself, but I'm sure it's going around there as well, and that is to hook up your breast pump to a nose. Freda, you know those little no sucker things that you normally just stuck with your mouth? Well, someone figured out that they could hook up the nose frita directly to their breast pump, especially the spectrum, and they can use that as suction to clear out their baby's nose. Now, let me just be clear and tell you that this is not a good idea, and here is why. So my friend Courtney at the Better Boob, she actually did a recent post about this on Instagram, and I really like this quote that she put on here from Dr. Gahiri. He's a guy that's really well known in the lactation world. And he says when you apply a seal to the nostril and then apply a vacuum to the nasal cavity, you're going to cause more congestion to the delicate tissue of the nose, just like a hickey. The area in the middle of the hickey puffs up. If you do that to an infant's nose, you might get immediate satisfaction of getting a bugger out, but it will cause rebound congestion later on. Okay, so also to add to what he said, the section on the spectra is much too high, like even double or maybe even triple of what your baby should be getting. So normally the settings that we use to section out a baby is 80 to 120. Mmhg. OK, what that stands for does not matter. That's just the amount of pressure that is used normally on a baby is 80 to 120. Now, the suction on a spectrum can be as high as 270, too much for your baby. So instead, just use your nose frita like normal sucking with your mouth. You can use a bulb suction, you can use saline to help loosen things up. You can even use breast milk up the nose to help loosen things up. I love that and have done that with my own kids. And again, you don't want to get in there too much and mess around too much with their nasal cavity or you're just going to cause more congestion. Okay, little side tip for you there. Now let's get into the meat of what this podcast episode is about today. Let's talk about the NICU. This stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. At least that's what it's called here in the United States. If you're listening outside of the United States, you may have it be called something different. But basically this is where babies go when they need a little extra help, a little extra attention. And of course, the first thing I thought of when I was preparing for this podcast episode is, well, what exactly is the percentage of babies that go to the NICU? Now, when I did some research, the estimates that I found were between ten and 15% of all babies born in the United States require special care in the NICU. Now that was according to, and I looked at a couple of different websites and they guessed around 12%. There actually was an NCBI study that I looked at that said twelve point 24%. So it sounds like that is the correct percentage, at least here in the United States. Outside the United States, they may have lower percentage of babies that have to go to the NICU, because we have very medicalized deliveries here in the United States is actually not great, and our maternal mortality rates are actually pretty awful for being such an advanced country. That's a different topic for another day. But here are some reasons that a baby may go to the NICU if they are premature, for example, born before 37 weeks. If they have low birth weight, especially less than five and a half pounds. If they have an infection, something like sepsis. If they're having trouble with breathing, heart problems. Maybe they were born with a congenital anomaly, something that did not develop correctly while they were inside mom's belly. Maybe they had a birth defect, some trauma, seizures. These are all reasons that babies could go to the NICU. So, again, ten to 15% of babies in the United States will go to the NICU. And those aren't exactly what I would call super low statistics. So overall, it's not highly unlikely that your baby would not be in the NICU at some point. And of course, there are some things you can try to do to avoid your baby going to the NICU, for example, going to full term, if possible, not being induced. Low medical interventions while giving birth, like avoiding Ptosis or forceps or vacuums. Now, sometimes it is out of your control. Sometimes there's nothing you can do to avoid the NICU, but anyway you can do to best survive your time. There is what we're going to talk about today because it's stressful. It's hard for you as a parent because many times you are released from the hospital before your baby if they're in the NICU. So you're stuck trying to live in your baby's hospital room that probably doesn't really have space for you to stretch out and get comfortable, or you're traveling back and forth from home to the hospital. Both of those are not easy options. They leave you feeling like you're in limbo and low on energy. Also, you have to take into consideration the emotional side of things. If your baby is in the NICU, then they might be ill, they might have medical problems, and that's hard to watch. Side note, little trigger warning that of course, we will obviously be talking about the NICU in this podcast episode, and hopefully you could see that from the title that that's what we would be talking about today. I know this can be hard for some parents to listen to, but I know that this is an important topic and I really want to leave the overall message with you that this is a time that you need to have some help for you. Your baby already has the help of the NICU staff, but you are going to need some help to get some rest and eat nutritious food and care for your healing, especially if you just recently gave birth. All right, let's talk about our guest today. She is from Duluth, Minnesota. She is a NICU nurse, a national safety technician. Basically, that just means a car seat tech. She's a neonatal touch massage. She's neonatal touch massage certified, and she actually also used to be a CLC lactation counselor. So I'm so happy that she agreed to come on today's podcast episode. And if you think that's impressive all over her background, well, guess what? There's more. She's also an assistant cross country coach for the private college in her town, which is Duluth, Minnesota, and she's a former athlete herself. Okay, you are going to love my guest today. Let me turn the time over to her, let her introduce herself and talk about her top three tips for surviving the NICU as a NICU nurse. Here she is. Hello. I am Annie Hyphen and I am a newborn ICU NICU nurse up in Duluth, Minnesota. So we're on Lake Superior, nice and cold up here. I've been a nurse there for about ten years, and I absolutely loved my job. I couldn't imagine doing anything better besides being a mom. Speaking of, I'm a mom of two. I've got an almost three year old and an almost three month old little girl, and my job allows me to stay home with her for quite a while, so I'm super thankful for that. We live up here with my husband, and we're both the runners, so we met through running and pretty avid about that and take our kids out and push them in the stroller, all that fun stuff. But I am here to talk about three tips about surviving the NICU. My first one is give yourself grace. It is a major roller coaster. You're going to have lots of emotions. You're going to have great days. You're going to have not great days, but remind yourself there is nothing that you did wrong that ended up in the NICU. Your body just couldn't manage it. Whatever baby couldn't transition, whatever the reason is, you have to give yourself grace. Even as a parent not having a Nicky baby, one of my friends had a kiddo with us for a little bit about two years ago, and I asked her what things she would pass along to another mum who was having a baby that stayed in the NICU, and she just said, yeah, same thing. Be gentle with yourself and remember, you are the mom that your baby needs. And I know Brienne talks about that multiple times, too. And just no matter what happens, you can get all the advice in the world, and you are the best person for your baby. So give yourself grace through that. And then leading into that. The next tip would be ask questions and involve yourself. It's a big, complicated world. Even as a staff nurse, there's lots of stuff that's constantly changing. We're constantly learning new things about babies and what's best for baby and help them develop appropriately as best we can outside of the womb. But ask questions, ask why things are happening. Ask if you're on a respiratory device, what is that doing? Ask the feeding plans. Ask about any medications the baby is on. Be involved and be on the same page as everyone on the medical team. We love when parents ask questions and we do something called care conferences and have parents that come and present questions that they've brought concerns about. And yes, ask away. There's no dumb question, for sure. And celebrate each milestone and no matter how small it may be for those little babies. And you have to go back to the respiratory part of it, too. It's transitioning from, say, the ventilator to a CPAP or a CPAP to a high flow or just even eating less oxygen, any of that stuff. It's all baby steps in the right direction. And my friend said, too, for her, one of the hardest things was getting discharged and leaving the hospital without her kid. It's sad because it breaks my heart that I've been able to take both of my kids home when I was discharged. And although I go through the moms and they can't take their babies home and they don't know how long their babies are going to be in the hospital. And being that being a mom is just such a special thing. And being able to have that bond and then not being able to take your baby with you. Because medically they can't maintain that whatever it is outside of the hospital and they need that medical support. But just know too, as a nurse and doctors and all of that, we are the best babysitters you will ever have. We're not cheap, but we are the best babysitters you will ever have for your child. So if you need that time to go home and take care of your other kid, if you've got another kid, spend time with your husband. Keep in mind, dads are going through just as much too. And a lot of times dads get pushed off to the side. We focus so much on mom, and that's really important because moms, we've got all the hormones going and all of that stuff, but dads take a pretty big hit, too. There's so many times that you go to a Csection and mom is getting the stone back up and going to recovery, whatever the situation, and dad is able to escort the baby to the newborn ICU. And there's been so many times where they're kind of just you can see it. They're in this phase and they just, okay, yeah, sounds good, sounds good. And then all of a sudden, once we've done all of our admission stuff and babies kind of settled in, whatever, they just it hit them and they lose it. And it's just like, here's some cleanups. Cry all you want. Tears are such a great thing. They're so healing. And if you need to cry because you're having a hard time leaving or you're having a hard time missing your other kids, like, it's a big deal having your kid in the NICU. And, you know, looking back, it's like, oh, yeah, we were in the NICU for a little bit. It might be three weeks or a month or whatever the time may be, or even longer. We've had some micro premiums, 23, 24 weeks that are in the hospital for months and months, and that's a lot. And you hope for that day of bringing your baby home, and all of a sudden you have that day, and your parents get this panic set in because they're like, they've always had this whole team helping take care of their baby, and now you have to do it by yourself at home. But we remind parents, too, that you're not solo in this. You've got a huge support team and utilize your support if you need to find someone that's kind of been through the same situation. And we tell them to. If you wake up that first night at 02:00 a.m. And you're not sure how to warm up a bottle, it's the stuff that you should know, but you just stare in the headlights when it happens. We tell them, hey, we're here. You can always call us, and we'll answer the phone and we'll talk you through it as best we can. If it's a medical thing, we might have you go to the Er or something like that. But if it's just a straightforward question, I'd be more than happy to help you through it. But yeah. So make use of wild roller coaster. Take those little milestones and stride. Even if it's a baby that's learning how to bottle, and they take five mills and didn't have any heart rate drops with it, like, okay, great. That's better than what they did the day before, or just all these little baby steps in the right direction. That's what you really have to hope for, and you're going to have setbacks, too. There's going to be some tough days and some days where you're going to need a box of the good Kleenex. We'll be more happy to give that to you. The biggest thing is just ask questions, and it's a tough journey, and my heart goes out to every parent that has to go through that, no matter how long or how short their stay is. Never. I remind parents being in the NICU was never part of anybody's birth plan. You want a healthy baby, and even with term babies, and we see everything. We see those micro premiums, we see post dates, babies. We see anything under the sun. There's just so much that goes on with childbirth and that transition into extra uterine life. Some kids just need that little jump start. But that's why we're there. That's why medicine has kind of transitioned into learning how to intervene when needed and what support those babies do need to give them the best outcome long term. So, yes, I have three tips. Give yourself grace. Be kind to yourself. Ask for that support. Look for those people that you can depend on, that you can just have that shoulder to cry on. As a Nickeners, too, we're more than happy to be there for you. Sometimes having that neutral person and just being someone that's not emotionally involved with your family is really helpful to. Number two, ask questions and involve yourself. Get those questions you've got in your head. Write them down on paper, because whenever the doctor goes in, they ask you, hey, do you have any questions? They all fall out of your head. You can't remember them, so write them down. Keep them a note in your phone or something like that. And three, celebrate each milestone, no matter how small it is. It's a big deal, and it's a step in the right direction towards going home and taking your baby so you can hold your baby all day, every day. So thanks for having me. Have a great day. There you have it. Isn't she the best? Thank you any so much for being our guest today. And don't you just love how you can hear the emotion in her voice? What an amazing nurse. And also, let me just add as a nurse myself, that being a nurse is no easy job. These nurses who are working and caring for your baby, they are often parents to their own kids, and they're working twelve hour shifts a lot of times, sometimes multiple days a week. It's a hard job. It's demanding physically and mentally. You're there with your patients and you're advocating with them, with their doctor or their midwife. Oh, man. I worked mostly night shifts for six years as a nurse. There was many times where I was helping a mom and her baby breastfeed when my own baby was home wanting to breastfeed. It was a hard, hard job. So I am so thankful for Annie, for sharing her expertise. I love how she says that tears are healing. Isn't that so true? There's no need to act like everything is easy. It's hard to have a baby in the NICU, especially if this is your first baby and you weren't even sure what to expect in the first place. I also love how she said, being in the NICU is never in your birth plan. Isn't that so true? So again, her top three tips were number one, give yourself grace because you are the perfect mom for your baby, not the NICU staff. Tip number two is ask questions and get involved. Write your questions down. Tip number three was celebrate each milestone, each step in the right direction. Listen, if you loved this podcast episode, I would so appreciate it if you would leave me a podcast review here on Apple podcasts that helps me out so much. And also, if you have a suggestion for future topics that you would like to hear about girl, just send me a DM on Instagram or you can email me I love to hear from you. Come back next week for a fresh new podcast episode. They drop every Tuesday. And of course, I'm going to leave you with you are strong, you are smart, you are beautiful, you're a good friend to all. Bye. Subscribe our channel.

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