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To the mom and dad sitting in the NICU

Today is world prematurity day and merely 365 days ago I was sitting in the chair you are sitting in. Our Sienna Faith decided at 32 weeks that she would make her grand entrance into this world on 14 November 2015. So on world prematurity day 2015, the concept of NICU and a prem baby was still a very new concept to me.

To the mom and dad sitting in the NIUC, please know firstly that you did NOTHING wrong! I blamed myself for such a long time, maybe I should not have worked those hours, maybe I should have rested more, maybe put my feet up. The reality is, no matter what you did, it is NOT your fault! Babies come early all the time and ours are one of those that have decided, I want to meet the world and I want to come NOW.

You will eventually get used to the bells, smells and know the meaning of the numbers. Goodness me – that must’ve been one of the hardest things for me. Walking into that room with that smell, that sterile smell, the smell of the hand wash still haunts me to this day. The sounds, I know in your heart every time an alarm goes off you breathe a sigh of relief when it’s not YOUR baby’s bells. The numbers, oxygen just get to 100, please near 100, please. The sound of that breathing machine.

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Whether this baby is your first or your fifth, this is a BLOODY scary experience, how did we get here? Sienna is our youngest child and Erin is only 3,5 years older than her. How do I change a nappy of such a tiny human? I remember only being confident doing it when a nurse was near. What if I hurt her when I change her?

About the holding part, wow this was super, super hard for me. It felt as if I carried this child for 32 weeks, had a c section to get her out (and I was completely out as my spinal block never worked) and then I wasn’t allowed to hold her – SAY WHAT? When Sienna was born I never saw her (as I was under general anesthetic) and I wasn’t allowed to go into the NICU because I had a catheter? She’s my child and I’m not allowed to see her. I got to see pictures of her that Damien took on his phone…. Nevertheless, I managed to keep my chin up. Day 2 came, I woke up early, showered, c section scar aching, put make up on – I’m going to meet my girl! Off with the nurse I went, in the wheelchair (my brain thinking, this pain is killing me) and I met her. My beautiful, thin tiny 2kg baby. Tubes, pipes, bells, the smell of that damn hand sanitizer. BUT I COULDN’T HOLD HER.

My heart sank. Feelings inside my head said “Amy you have to be strong for Damien, Amy you have to be strong for your 3.5 year old at home” To the mom and dad sitting in the NICU, I say “No!!!!” you do NOT have to be strong, why should you? This is a terrible thing seeing your child from the second they are born fight for their lives, if you want to cry, CRY!

12 days later (and many hours on that uncomfortable chair) our angel, miracle child came home. It has been the most unbelievable experience, seeing this tiny thing take 1 hour to drink 50ml of milk to taking 5 minutes to drink 150ml of milk. She has grown from 2kg to OVER 10kgs in a year! She met most of her milestones on time and she’s almost walking!

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I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, but to the mom and dad in the NICU, know that your baby will surprise you daily, there will be setbacks, but next year this time you’ll look back and marvel at this miracle that has unfolded right in front of your eyes.

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World Prematurity Day aims to educate citizens on prematurity and support an urgent call to halve the under 5-mortality rate between the years 2010 and 2025, this is in accordance with the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG).  As a player within the baby care industry, Huggies® annually supports this day to further drive awareness, not only through spreading the message but by supporting Wear Purple for Preemies which is an initiative created by the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust. South Africans can purchase the World Prematurity Day sticker for R10 and proudly wear purple along with the sticker on World Prematurity Day to show their support.

The funds raised through this initiative aim to improve healthcare to premature babies. A reality within South African hospitals is that the facilities are overcrowded. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Groote Schuur hospital reports a frequent occupancy rate of 120% as opposed to the desired 80% occupation rate. Overcrowding may lead to an increased risk of infection and further complications for these babies. By donating funds to neonatal facilities and programmes babies born as early as 26 weeks will have a fighting chance (80% chance of survival) as the unit will be able to offer improved facilities and more space to patients, provide up to date medical treatment and the opportunity to facilitate kangaroo care.

To further show their support to parents and premature babies, Huggies® will be donating Huggies ® Preemie nappies to some Neonatal Care Units to play their part in offering fragile little babies optimum protection to help them thrive. The nappies are highly absorbent and made from soft, breathable materials. We have tailored the nappies to fit correctly as oversized nappies can cause the baby to lie with their legs in a ‘frog like’ position, which hampers muscle tone development, a major challenging factor in premature babies’ motor skills development.

 

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Pediasure Complete

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A few months ago I attended the Pediasure breakfast at Melrose Arch and learnt so much about this wonderful product.  Ever since, I have been using it for Erin if she’s slightly under the weather or when she’s not keen to eat, I absolutely love this product. You can add Pediasure to almost every liquid, or you can have it on its own.

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Signs your child might need supplementationinclude:

  • Poor weight gain
  • Avoiding foods of a certain texture or consistency
  • Refusing to eat an entire food group
  • Disrupting meals with their behaviour
  • Wanting to eat, but appearing unable to do so

Abbott Nutrition Disclaimer:

Abbott Nutrition complies with the requirements of R991 of 6 December 2012; Regulations relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children;

PediaSure® Complete is marketed for children age 3 – 10 years.  Pediasure® Complete does not fall within the scope of R991

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Germany adventure 3 of 3

The last leg of our journey was the business part. We went to the interzoo expo in Nuremberg and it was a real eye-opener. I learnt so much from this experience.

Nuremberg is a very historic city. We pondered around the city, at our own leisure, on our last day. Beautiful churches, tasty food, vibrant. I LOVE the public transport in Europe, but due to the many trains and plane trips I had vertigo once I touched SA soil for a whole week 😦 Next time I’ll be sure to take the correct meds before I leave.

Thanks Germany, it was awesome! What a memorable experience.

 

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Our Germany adventure 2 of 3

Wow, due to the fact that I lost my password and started a new job, this post is SUPER old and outdated but here are some pics.

Some of the highlights:

  • Munich – I absolutely LOVE this city. Such a mixture of history and technology. Damien wasn’t a fan, he said he expected more
  • Had dinner at Augustiner – an old beer house with amazing beer and traditional German food
  • Beautiful cathedrals that take your breath away
  • We visited the BMW world, but didn’t have enough time for the BMW museum (which is apparently a must see)
  • Had coffee at Mcdonalds daily – was the cheapest we could find – 1Euro
  • Germany is packed with pastries around every corner and I had about 3 a day. Not many people in this country are fat, guess because they walk everywhere, very limited cars
  • English garden – breathtaking!!!

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To my girl – on your first birthday

Today, a year ago Sienna Faith Westerman, you were born. Wow, what an awesome 365 days it has been – Sienna you have ROCKED our world and we are all better people because of you.

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Here’s what I LOVE about you:

  • You taught me what FAITH means
  • You are the MOST chilled baby that I have ever met
  • You smile and laugh all day long
  • You are SPEED crawling and climbing up against everything
  • You ADORE your sister
  • You eat VERY well
  • When you look it my eyes it’s as if you know what I’m thinking
  • You are a very gentle little poppet
  • You’re a FIGHTER
  • You know what you want

Angel girl, may you have a wonderful 1st birthday and may you be so blessed, we love you millions!

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Tips if your child is a fussy eater

Erin is a very well rounded child, in terms of her size. She’s not over weight and not under weight, so the fact that she is a TERRIBLE eater easily goes by unnoticed, as nobody will ever “remind” Damien or I that our child is underweight, as she isn’t.

But in the last 6 months I have noticed her fussy eating habits become worse by the day, she only likes to eat rubbish, nothing else, only junk.  Erin’s principal suggested we see a dietician, as she even noticed that she hardly ate any of the food provided at school for lunch.

Of course it is our fault, as we allowed her to eat that junk, but something had to be done.

Damien and I met with Alison Lang (Dietician) two months ago to discuss Erin’s bad eating habits and it was so well worth it, even Damien said that it was R500 well spent.

Here are some of the tips Alison gave us:

  • child decides how much and whether they will eat
  • parent decides what food is on offer, when and where the meal or snack is served
  • don’t let your child “drink” their calories – this was one of Erin’s major issues – smoothies and squishy’s constantly
  • 3 meals and 2 snacks – that’s it
  • NO eating in bed – Erin always told us she was hungry in bed, just to procrastinate sleeping….
  • water, water, water – limit juice etc. as much as possible
  • don’t snack before supper, the child needs to come to the supper/ lunch table – SUPER hungry
  • don’t force your child to eat and don’t fight about food
  • don’t provide a menu of foods, only 1 or 2 options. You aren’t running a restaurant
  • plan meals – this was one of my biggest mistakes, I always used to improvise when I got home and by 5pm Erin was already starving
  • If your child doesn’t eat fruit or vegetables (Erin eats ZERO fruit and ZERO vegetables), just put it on the plate, they don’t need to eat it, they just need to see it, daily

We aren’t there yet, but we are 100% better than where we were.

Alison’s rooms are at Donald Gordon and her email is Alison@clinicaldiets.co.za

Please share any fussy eater tips you may have, I’m open to any advice at this stage.

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These are a few of my favourite charities

I LOVE charity, I breath, sleep, dream, plan, visualize a better South Africa through something called charity.  Obviously charity takes many different forms and no matter how big or small your charity is, it means for a part of your day, you thought of something or someone other than yourself – which is something we can all start doing a little more of.

Here’s a list of my favourite charities and what it is they do:

  1. Baby Box Project – very similar to our maternity pack project.  Baby Box Project is run by my dear friend, Lena Clark, who built her model on a similar model as Santa shoebox.  She hands out boxes all year round, mainly to Rahima Moosa hospital in Coronation. See more about what they do here.
  2. Dignity Dreams – they help solve the sanitary pad crisis in South Africa, by manufacturing re-usable sanitary pads. These pads are SABS approved and also create employment, which I am very passionate about.  See their website here.
  3. Red Frogs – support network that helps students at matric holiday not ruin their lives by making a simple mistake.  They make sure that the students aren’t drinking and driving, they help them to stay hydrated etc.  They are also present (with medical staff) at festivals such as Oppi Koppi. See more here.
  4. Cherished – support group to women in the sex trade. These ladies do absolutely amazing work and help ladies that want to get out of the sex trade, get out.  If you’d like to learn more, see here.
  5. Wheel well – since I started doing charity work in 2013 I LOVED what wheel well (and Peggie Mars) did and what they stood for.  They collect 2nd hand car seats, restore them and donate them to less fortunate people.  Here is their website.

Word of inspiration

Iif you feel you have an idea that could make a difference in South Africa, no matter how big or small, take the plunge and do it – you CAN make a difference.  Make EVER day Nelson Mandela Day.