If You Must: Keeping Baby as Comfortable as Possible in the Hospital
In my last post, I wrote about preparing for baby’s hospital stay. Preparation is key, and then once you are in the hospital, your preparations will pay off. This time I’m going to write about the seven things we do to keep Elvie as comfortable as possible during her hospital stays, and many of these are things we prepared for in one way or another before she was admitted for surgery. We’ve found that these seven things add up to make a big difference for Elvie’s comfort. Here’s what we do.
Be present. We have made a commitment that either Jarod or I will be at the hospital with Elvie at all times. I understand this isn’t possible for every family, depending on work and other factors, but if it’s possible, I feel like it’s the most impactful thing that a family can do for their hospitalized child. In particular, when Elvie is experiencing something stressful, such as having an IV placed, I can’t imagine not being there to help soothe her. I know that the nurses do a great job with the children in their care, but there’s just no substitute for me or Jarod.
Gather everyone in the family together as often as possible. Elvie is most at ease when Jarod, Zinashi, and I are all in the room with her. She visibly relaxes. It’s also good for the other three of us to be together, to simply be a family for a little bit. This can be tough when schedules conflict or when the hospital room isn’t big enough to hold everyone, but it’s worth it to do our best to make it happen.
Bring familiar items, and put them in places where your baby can see them. We brought the toys that usually reside in Elvie’s crib, plus some other toys that she often plays with. On a whim I brought her mobile, and she got really excited when I clipped it to the side of the crib. Most importantly for Elvie, we bring her loveys. She normally just snuggles with one Lamby, but we have two in case one gets dirty. Because she has an IV in one arm, it’s harder for her to hug just one, so it’s been beneficial to have two so that she can have one in each hand.
Use clothes and blankets that smell like home. The hospital provides all sorts of linens, but they aren’t very soft. Bringing our own provides the comfort normally available at home. I bring blankets of various weights and plenty of shirts, so even if she’s having a messy day, there are plenty. I also like to use my own burp cloths.
Ask for help if you need it. Depending on the reason that your baby is hospitalized, some things may need to be done differently than they are done at home. For me, diaper changing in particular is a challenge. Because of the placement and size of her incisions, I cannot lift her bottom the way I normally would. I need an extra set of hands to help me. I also find it helpful to have someone help get her dressed. Our nurses have been awesome about helping with every little thing that we need assistance with.
Advocate for your child. We love the care we are getting at the hospital where Elvie had her surgery, but the truth is that while the people caring for her might have more medical knowledge than we do, they don’t know Elvie better than we do. Sometimes we can provide insight that the doctors and nurses wouldn’t have without us. For example, Elvie has had infections before and not had a fever. When she has been acting strangely, I push to have them check out what is going on, because it might be an infection, even if there are none of the usual signs. On a smaller scale, I also know that if her tummy is more full, it is easier for her to purposely vomit up her medicine, so I make sure that if she’s just eaten and needs pain medication, I ask for IV pain meds as opposed to oral meds.
Take care of yourself. Having a child in the hospital is tough. It is incredibly important that I make sure that I have the emotional reserves and energy reserves to do a good job taking care of Elvie. In my next post, I’ll write about what has been helpful to me while I am the primary caregiver for Elvie at the hospital.
Has your baby ever been hospitalized? What did you do to make your baby more comfortable? Please share so that those who go through the same thing can learn from the experience of many other parents.