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When my son was born at thirty-one weeks, we were immediately ushered into the preemie life. But at just three and a half pounds, we quickly realized that when it comes to the littlest of little ones, some products work better than others.
Here are a few of my thoughts on some of our favourite preemie baby gear.
1. In Hospital Preemie Clothes: Pyjamas with Snaps
When our son was two and a half weeks old, he was moved from an incubator into a cot. Finally, we’d get to dress him in all those cute little outfits we’d picked up! The problem was, a lot of those adorable outfits weren’t useful for a preemie covered in wires and monitors.
When you have a full-term, healthy baby, everyone recommends pajamas with zippers. As all parents know, those snaps can be a nightmare!
But for preemies with foot monitors and leads on their chest, snaps are my go-to recommendation. Zippers can be frustrating to navigate, leaving wires sticking out from around their neck. Sliding clothes over their heads can also by more time confusing for infants with feeding tubes. Snaps also allow for easy access to monitors, without having to fully undress the baby.
2. “Breast Friend” Breastfeeding Pillow
Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) I talked to, recommended getting the Breast Friend breastfeeding pillow.
In the hospital, we tried several different nursing pillow options – none of which seemed to provide great support for a 4 lb infant. Except for, you guessed it, the breast friend!
What I particularly love about the “Breast Friend” is how firm it is. Adjustable, it wraps around your entire body to provide a secure fit. That snug fit was perfect for ensuring that my preemie wouldn’t sink down between me and the fabric. It also continued to be a great option for all future, full-term babies as well.
The fabric is removable for an easy wash and comes in numerous colour options. And, despite the name, this pillow isn’t just for moms. When Ali was really tiny, my husband found it useful for bottle feeds as well! This breastfeeding pillow is definitely my first choice for preemies (and bigger babies too!)
The Breastfriend is available on Amazon.
3. Baby K’tan Carrier
We’ve gone through a lot of baby carriers over the years, but the Baby K’tan is my go-to favourite for the newborn stage. (And when you have a preemie, it can feel like you’re in the newborn stage for a long time!)
I wanted to look and feel of a traditional wrap carrier, without all the hassle of learning how to wrap it. The K’tan was the perfect solution — easy to slide on over my head, without any buckles or snaps to adjust. The fabric is soft and snug, perfect for both mama and baby. Lightweight, the carrier easily folds into a compact bag for storage.
The K’Tan is available on Amazon.
3. A Baby Bassinet
A baby bassinet has been the perfect “starter bed” for all our children, but we found it particularly useful for our preemie. For his first month home, my son slept at least 18 hours a day and I wanted to be able to keep an eye on him. We found a lightweight bassinet with wheels, which allowed me to roll it from the bedroom to the living room as needed. Because of his smaller weight and height, we were able to get a much longer use out of the bassinet. The adjustment from the hospital cot to a bassinet also felt less overwhelming. We found he slept better for those first few months in his bassinet than he did in his crib.
5. Sleeping Sacks
One of the things that is drilled into your head while in the hospital, is that babies shouldn’t be sleeping with blankets: suffocation hazard. So what are you supposed to do to keep you teeny, tiny baby warm throughout the night? Sleeping sacks!
Sleeping sacks are pretty much what they sound like and look very similar to tiny sleeping bags. While we’ve tried various options, our favourite has always been the HALO Sleepsack.
Rather than a one size fits all option, these are based on weight and (bonus!!) came in preemie and newborn size as well. You have the option of leaving their arms free or swaddling them tight — something our preemie felt comforted by, as he was used to being swaddled in the NICU.
You can find the HALO Sleepsack on Amazon.
Our son absolutely LOVED his mobile and I was so glad that we purchased one. There are many options on the market but we ended up picking a standard, jungle themed, battery operated mobile that plays music and rotates three animals in a circle. Having a mobile that moved, allowed me to get a few extra moments to make myself lunch as it kept him entertained. Like most musical baby toys, the noise quickly gets repetitive but if it entertains the baby – I’m not complaining.
Tip: Check what type of batteries the mobile uses before purchasing. We wish that the mobile we purchased would have come with rechargeable batteries or a way to plug it in.
7. An Electric Breast Pump
For the first few months of my sons life, I pumped at least eight times a day. This made an electric pump a must have!
I chose an electric, freestyle, Medela dual pump. This is the only pump product I’ve used and I’ve been so very thankful for how well it’s worked.
I went with the “Freestyle” pump and liked that it was easy to carry with you and pump from anywhere. The batteries are long lasting and rechargeable and the pump parts are comfortable as well as easy to disassemble and clean.
It was an expensive investment but after reading reviews on cheaper models, I wanted to spend more on a good quality pump (particularly since I was using it so frequently). I looked into rental options but was unsure how long I would be requiring their services and wanted a longer term solution. It’s nice to still have it on hand for times when the grandparents are babysitting (and proved to be an excellent investment for future children as well.)
Tip for NICU moms: Before you purchase your pump, find out what brand your hospital uses. During our NICU stay, the hospital provided various pump parts and/or containers for storing milk. Double check to ensure these are compatible with your pump for easy use.
The Medela Breast Pump is available on Amazon.
8. Avent Baby Bottles
For the first few months of our son’s life, he was too weak to exclusively breastfeed and we alternated between tube feeding, bottle feeding and breastfeeding. Home from the hospital, we experimented with a several reusable baby bottle options. Although we tried bottles that were specifically designed for breastfeeding babies, our son’s sucking reflex wasn’t developed enough and he struggled with other brands. Avent was less a choice we made, and more one that our son made. He quickly decided that this was his bottle of choice.
My suggestion: Just because your baby doesn’t like drinking from one bottle, doesn’t mean he won’t drink from any. Try several different options before calling it quits.
You can find these Avent baby bottles on Amazon.
9. Nipple Shield
While in the hospital, the nurse suggested a preemie sized nipple shield in order to help our son get the hang of breastfeeding. It was easier for him to latch and helped him eat full feeds, despite having an immature sucking reflex. While navigating the initial introduction to breastfeeding, this shield was also considerably more comfortable for both of us. In fact, I considered it a lifesaver. I used this for my daughter as well, we she also had trouble feeding after birth. While I’ve heard mixed reviews about nipple shields, this nipple shield was one of the major factors in my continuing my breastfeeding journey. For me, that made it entirely worth it.
You can find this nipple shield available on Amazon.
10. Play Mat
Our son was born two months early, and thus had an adjusted age nine weeks behind his actual age. One of the things suggested to help his development was a play mat. This would encourage him to reach for toys, help with tummy time and develop the necessary skills to overcome any delay.
Our son loved his mat. (And it’s proven a hit with the other children too.) There are numerous options out there but we picked one that was brightly coloured with various easy-to-grasp toys, including an Oball. (The Oball was recommended to help him learn how to grasp items between his two hands). He loved spending time on his mat and it was one of the earlier toys he was able to interact with.
So there you have it! My top ten favourite gear for preemies! As always, these thoughts are entirely my own — and what worked for me, may not work for you. Each child is so different and despite their tiny size, they’ve already found big opinions!
Share in the comments any products or ideas that YOU found especially helpful for your premature babes!
How old was Ali when you started putting him in his play gym/mat?
I think we started using it around four months (which would have been two months adjusted.) He obviously didn’t interact with it much at first but we slowly introduced more toys / stimuli.