Isla was born in July 2016 with a unilateral cleft lip, palate and alveolar ridge, Pierre Robin Sequence and an undiagnosed genetic condition. She spent her first two weeks in NICU; attached to high flow oxygen, IV drips, various monitors and being fed through a nasogastric (NG) tube. For the first few days, we were only allowed 15-30 minutes of skin to skin to enable Isla as much rest as possible. At 8 days old, Isla had improved so much that I was allowed to stay with her overnight and do as much of her care as I was able to.
We had spent much of that first week separated so that night, whilst I measured out feeds, washed and sterilised Isla’s feeding equipment and ate, I carried Isla in a sling to keep her close – something both of us were keen on after our initial separation. I had trained as a sling consultant at 34 weeks pregnant so although carrying a baby attached to monitors and a feeding tube was daunting, I followed the basic safety principles of clear airway with a close, high and tight carry (see here for more information on safety) in our beautiful Little Fellows ring sling.
An 8 day old Isla in our Little Fellows ring sling for the first time. Second picture shows placement of wires.
As Isla had monitors on her feet and a tube in her nose (which I was anxious not to pull in any way), it took a few attempts to work out how best to deal with all the wires.
I found that:
* using a connecta worked in the ‘normal’ way of putting it on;
* woven wraps were best used in a single layer carry such as kangaroo so that I could position Isla and her wires first;
* similarly, ring slings were best put over the top of Isla already laying on my chest so we did not have wires travelling up and pressing on her spine (see here for photo tutorial)
(This is what worked for us to avoid having to disconnect wires and monitors – always seek medical advice/sling consultant advice if you are unsure of any aspect)
Isla came home with the NG tube in place. We navigated the first few weeks of becoming a family of 4 alongside tube feeding, endless appointments, specialist bottles, horrendous reflux, expressing night and day together. By week 5, Isla was feeding so well that the tube was removed (well, I think she pulled it but we won’t mention that!)
Anyone who has had a baby stay in NICU will tell you how helpless you feel and I was worried that after a difficult pregnancy, this would have an effect on our bond. Being able to keep Isla close whilst still meeting the needs of a toddler and carrying on with daily life enabled me to feel like a competent parent, which had a hugely positive impact on all of us. In short, I’m pretty sure slings saved me in the early days of being a parent of 2!