Baby’s admission into hospital for treatment or observation can be a stressful and unnerving time for any parent—and even baby too, as he adjusts to the new environment. You’re not alone in this experience, and knowing you can take better control of the experience may offer a small measure of comfort.
“I will have to admit her for close monitoring,” the doctor said, and as those words fell from his mouth matter-of-factly, *Kimberly’s heart sank as she slowly absorbed the news that her precious 4-month-old baby required treatment—and even possibly, a prolonged stay at the hospital, for bronchiolitis.
Four months ago and into her 34th week of pregnancy, Kimberly was at work when she suddenly broke into cold sweat and momentarily lost consciousness. She was rushed to the obstetrician who diagnosed her with eclampsia, a condition in which seizure can occur in a pregnant woman suffering from high blood pressure. Sometimes the condition may be serious enough to precipitate a lapse into a coma, which poses an even bigger health threat to mother and baby as this could potentially lead to premature delivery of the infant. This was indeed what happened to Kimberly who, shortly after this health scare, gave birth to Diana*, who weighed just 1.9 kg at the time.
One night, a persistent rasping cough was keeping Diana awake. Kimberly also noticed her baby had trouble breathing. She took Diana to the paediatrician the next day, who diagnosed her with bronchiolitis. Diana was also dehydrated and losing weight so the doctor admitted her into hospital for treatment.
“My heart literally ripped into pieces as Diana let out a long heart-wrenching scream as though she was calling out for me,” Kimberly recalls as nurses pinned Diana down to insert the IV plug into her tiny hands that were each barely the size of a ping-pong ball. A dummy was then used to clamp the plug and prevent Diana from prying it out.
For a whole week, Diana lay hooked up to medicated IV drips and a suctioning tube (in the nose and throat) to draw thick, stubborn mucus from her delicate respiratory system. “My heart was so torn I was numb,” Kimberly tells MummysMarket. “All I could do stroke my baby and tell her it would be over soon,” she says.
Although the ordeal is over, it is one that Kimberly hopes will never be repeated. She is now extra-careful when bringing Diana out, and runs from anyone who so much as clears his throat in front of her daughter. “We love our daughter and protecting her is our highest priority.”
Preparing for your baby’s hospital stay
Receiving medical treatment in a hospital can be stressful for your baby who will need time to adjust to the new and unfamiliar surroundings, while coping with sensations like pain, frustration, confusion, discomfort and temperature changes. Altogether, this experience may seem strange and unsettling for a young baby who, apart from crying, screeching, fussing and kicking, is unable to express the extent of his physical and emotional feelings. It comes as no surprise that parents such as Kimberly become extremely upset when they witness the duress their baby is under.
Fortunately, no matter how bad their hospital stay seems to be, the natural “amnesia” or selective memory of very young infants makes it unlikely for them to be traumatised to the point of being mentally scarred for life! (That should require another story in fact!)
At four months old, Diana would have been too young to form any lasting memories of her hospital stay, so Kimberly can lay such fears to rest. The co-author of this story was warded at a hospital for measles and it happened when I was aged 2. I believe that was one of my earliest recollections in life, but even then, I can only just about vaguely bring it to mind, and so the experience is more of a fuzzy impression than a disturbing memory. I indistinctly remember myself seated upright in a crib with metal bars and crying for my mother (even the emotions associated with that, such as fear and misery are absent, so it really is just a mental image).
Despite this assurance, there are a few things parents still can do to help comfort him in this strange environment.
Talk to your baby
Let your baby know what is going to happen. He may not seem to understand or respond much, but the sound of your familiar and reassuring voice can help him cope with hospital environment. Describing the goings-on aloud in a calm and steady tone can also be helpful to yourself and allows you to gather your thoughts and wits. If the situation is fluid and baby’s condition is still uncertain, speaking to yourself in a coherent manner may also help you get a grip on reality (it’s not unusual to feel as if your world is spiraling out of control).
Stay in the hospital with your baby
It will help if mum, dad, or another of baby’s caregivers is on rotational “duty” to be on standby and on the alert at the hospital while baby is warded. All hospital children's departments have facilities to support co-sleeping with their children. Talk to hospital staff if you are uncertain.
Familiar objects from home
Be it a blanket, toy or pacifier, bringing items baby is familiar with from home may help comfort him. Give as much reassurance as you can.
Play with your baby
Playing with your baby can distract him from the surrounding happenings. From birth to 12 months, you baby is going through his developmental stages. The best distraction is helping him develop new skills. While you try engaging him purposefully, take note not to overstimulate him as baby still needs adequate rest to recover. Start keying down any distractions towards the evening to prep him for bedtime.
Prepare for the hospital stay
Packing a hospital bag is important. Important items can be forgotten in the mist of all the frenzy and cause inconvenience. Be sure to go through the baby hospitalisation checklist for all your must-have items. Of course there are real emergencies due to unforeseen circumstances that may prevent you from packing; but once baby is attended to and admission is confirmed, having these items on-hand will certainly provide convenience and peace of mind so that you can fully focus on baby.
*names have been changed for privacy