Updated: Aug 27
Today Oliver is one month old yet he’s actually only 37 weeks plus 6 days gestation. He’s been home for just over two weeks and that’s due to the new ‘home tube feeding’ programme which is supported by the Neonatal Outreach Team.
Oliver fed independently for six days after birth; however as a premature baby #prembaby born at 33 weeks he began to tire and required a #NasoGastric feeding tube (#NGT). #EstablishingFeeding for Oliver meant that we had to consider the fact that at times the calories he used to feed were counterproductive, essentially Oliver was using more calories to feed than those which he was gaining from the feed, hence we were advised to let him sleep as he would have been doing so in my womb. In giving Oliver expressed breast milk #EBM via an NGT this allowed all of the precious calories to be used for growth and development. After many days of sleeping Oliver began to slowly breast feed again, I had been worried that he may not remember how to latch but thankfully he did. From there we had to consider the impact of his breastfeeding on weight gain, therefore we fed Oliver alternately, allowing him to have a feed from me, followed by an NGT feed. This then built up to an NGT feed on the third feed, etc. Oliver’s weight was monitored every other day to help us to meet his needs.
James and I were told about the new ‘home tube feeding’ programme which began in April, babies on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit #NICU may be considered for discharge to establish feeding at home if they meet certain criteria…We did. Previously babies were not discharged from NICU until they had established feeding, to have fed without using the NGT for 48 hours. It can take weeks to establish feeding for a premature baby as essentially they should not be having to breathe, let alone feed. We decided to accept the ‘home tube feeding’ programme to enable us to bring Oliver home early.
James and I were already NGT trained, as Joshua (Oliver’s older brother) was fed via NGT for many months before he passed away in August 2017. I of course had to remind myself that Oliver had an NGT for a very different reason, he was a premature baby who needed to establish feeding. I remember the very first time that a nurse showed me how to feed via NGT, I wrote so many notes and I was overwhelmed, finding it quite complex and scary. However, it soon became just another method to feed my baby, I began to see it just as any other method-breastfed, bottle fed, NGT fed, etc. After doing a few NGT feeds it didn’t seem so complicated and we became more confident. After a quick reminder from the nurses we were signed off as competent to NGT feed Oliver.
Oliver came home a whole two weeks in advance, during this time instead of being on the NICU we were in the comfort of our own home! I did not have to split myself between my children, a challenge which I struggled with whilst Oliver was in hospital, we were able to be a family unit. In being home I felt that establishing feeding was actually easier, Oliver and I were together all the time and I was able to begin to feed on demand.
During the two weeks in which Oliver came home rather than being in NICU we were able to do lots as a family. Rather than being sat on the ward (as comfortable and friendly as it was) we were able to enjoy life outside of the hospital. Oliver joined us for a family meal for his Gran’s birthday, he took his sister to her first horse riding lesson, we went to a Teddy Bear’s picnic with friends, had trips to the park and also took Oliver to view his Brother Joshua’s memorial tree. We enjoyed many outings but also had lot of relaxed family time at home.
The Outreach Nurses visited every other day, providing us with great support. The nurses work both on the NICU and in the community which makes the transition to home easier. Also, it enabled us to develop good relationships; our nurses (Shirley, Jo and Chelsea) got to know our family and Oliver whilst we stayed on NICU, they developed an understanding of our journey, preferences and wishes, etc. They were able to work with us to promote Oliver’s health and development, transitioning from the unit to our home. The fact that the nurses visited every other day gave us reassurance and confidence.
We received everything which we needed upon discharge, all of the NGT equipment, in addition to paperwork, information, etc. We were also given contact telephone numbers should we wish to speak to the nurses with regards to anything. Often on the days when the nurses weren’t visiting they would phone us to check that all was okay, again providing us with reassurance.
In all I am so pleased that the Home Tube Feeding programme exists, we gained an extra two weeks in the comfort of our own home, we were able to gain discharge from NICU 14 days prior to Oliver establishing feeding and during those days we were able to enjoy our family time all the more!
Thank you to the Oldham NICU, we were extremely well looked after and supported on the unit but we were thrilled to have Oliver home early and therefore we’d like to thank our lovely Outreach nurses (pictured) who supported our transition.
Here are some photographs to show Oliver and our family enjoying life having left NICU on the #hometubefeeding programme 14 days prior to his 'normal' discharge from hospital...