Being a preemie parent is hard! It’s not something you can prepare for and no one completely understands what you’re going through unless they’ve been in your shoes.
My daughter, Scarlett, was born 13 weeks early and spent 73 days in the NICU. We thought that life would get infinitely better once we left the NICU, but our first few months at home were really rough. It was hands down the most difficult time in my life. Through trial and error, my husband (Blake) and I settled into a routine that works for us and found some products that made our life, and Scarlett’s life, better.
Here are 10 preemie must haves that will give you peace of mind, help your child develop, and hopefully make things a little bit easier for you.
1. Owlet Smart Sock
The Owlet Smart Sock has given us the biggest peace of mind. Scarlett had apnea of prematurity. She would have episodes in her sleep and while she ate. Our biggest fear when we brought her home is that she would have an apnea spell in the middle of the night.
The Owlet Smart Sock tracks your baby’s heart rate and oxygen level and alerts you if there are any issues. Although the Owlet is expensive, we decided that it was money we were willing to spend if it would help us sleep at night. It did just that and gave us a sense of security. Scarlett is now 10 months old and we have no plans to quit using her Owlet anytime soon.
Note: We also purchased the Owlet Camera so we would have one integrated system, instead of having to switch between the Owlet app and another video monitor. While I love the camera itself, you have to view it from the Owlet app and the camera and app do not work well together. The sound goes out all of the time and sometimes the app closes without warning–I definitely wouldn’t call it reliable.
2. Bbluv Baby Scale
Putting on weight is incredibly important for preemies–they need to get stronger and work on catch up growth. We bought a scale for Scarlett and would weigh her every other day, before bath time. It allowed us to visibly see that she was putting on weight, which is a fear for every preemie parent.
We chose the Bbluv Scale because it weighs in ounces (Blake’s preference) and pounds (my preference) but any baby scale would work.
Note: While Scarlett’s weight was trending up when we brought her home, she really started packing on weight when we switched to formula (for a variety of reasons). During her first few months at home, Scarlett put on two pounds per month.
3. Dr. Browns Bottles
When Scarlett came home from the NICU, we were using the disposable bottles they gave us. Her belly seemed to always be hurting, so within the first week at home we started using Dr. Brown’s bottles. Thanks to the anti-colic vent system, they instantly helped with her gas.
The preemie nipples were too slow for her so we just used the Level 1 nipples that came with the bottles.
Note: For about two months, feeding Scarlett was a nightmare. She would fight us and it would take an hour (or more) to get her to take a two/three/four ounce bottle. Scarlett was eating every three hours so Blake and I were having eight bottle fights with her a day. It was exhausting. After about two months, Scarlett finally quit fighting us.
4. Muslin Swaddle Blankets
Scarlett LOVED being swaddled. When she first came home, she stayed swaddled most of the day, even when she ate. Scarlett slept swaddled until she was nearly eight months old (five months corrected).
That being said, invest in some good Muslin Swaddle Blankets. You will more than get your money’s worth!
Tip: You can use the blankets in the NICU, too.
Scarlett started using a Wubbanub while she was in the NICU and now has quite a collection of them. She’s always preferred it to a regular pacifier because she has something soft to hold on to.
6. DockATot Deluxe+ And Grand
The DockATot is probably the most popular baby item right now–and with good reason! It’s a multi-functional lounger that can be used for co-sleeping, tummy time, playing, nursing, traveling, and more. It’s snug, soothing, and makes your baby’s micro-climate ideal.
In the beginning, we primarily used the DockATot Deluxe+ as s a comfy place to put Scarlett when we needed to get something done. When she started playing with toys, we would attach the Toy Arch and Charms to use it as a gym.
Later, Scarlett slept in her DockATot. She loved propping one foot up on the side. It was a HUGE help in transitioning her into her crib.
Now, Scarlett has moved into the DockATot Grand, designed for babies 9 to 36 months. It’s the same product we’ve grown to love but larger. We are about to start traveling with Scarlett and plan to take the DockATot for her to sleep in.
While the DockATot is pricy, I think it’s worth every penny.
7. Graco Swing
Although Scarlett preferred to be held, we used our Graco Swing a lot the first few months she was home. It was a great place to put her down so we could do other things and she would occasionally fall asleep in it.
8. Bumbo Floor Seat And Stages Safari
The Stages Safari was the only toy that Scarlett played with for months. Honestly! She wasn’t interested in interacting with anything but the Stages Safari–a play center with sensory and tactile stimulation to keep your baby entertained. We were thrilled to see Scarlett start developing while playing with it.
While you can use the Safari in a variety of ways, we used it with the Bumbo Floor Seat. Scarlett loved getting to sit up!
9. Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick’n Play Piano Gym
Someone gave us the Kick’n Play Piano Gym as a gift and it has gotten more use than just about everything else. This was the next toy that Scarlett started playing with. We used it for tummy time and practicing rolling over–and now she sits up on it, eats the hanging toys, and plays with the keyboard.
The Kick’n Play Piano Gym has three learning stages (designed to be used from birth to 36 months) but our favorite is level 1, which plays 20-minutes of continuous music. I sing those songs in my sleep!
10. Leachco Podster
When Scarlett initially came home, she would not sleep laying flat on her back. We would put her down for bed and she would immediately kick up her legs, bear down, and grunt until she worked herself up enough to throw up. It was awful.
We talked to Scarlett’s doctor (because I mean, why can’t our baby lay flat on her back??) and he said it could just be that her digestive track is immature. As a result, Blake and I were taking shifts sleeping at night. I would go to bed around 10 PM while Blake held Scarlett so she would sleep. At 4 AM, I would take over and he would go to bed. This was our life for about a month. We were exhausted and incredibly frustrated.
After hearing about the Podster (a sling-style infant seat lounger) from one of Blake’s coworkers, we decided to give it a try. The first time we put Scarlett in the Podster, she slept. For hours. She ended up sleeping in the Podster for about three months–until we transitioned her into the DockATot and then her crib.
Disclaimer: I attempted to work with Leachco before purchasing our Podster. I was really offended by the response that I received, saying it “is intended to be used by healthy infants” and “not intended for use by preemies.” You’re going to tell me that my child isn’t healthy because she is a preemie? I had no interest in supporting this company after that, but my husband insisted we give it a try out of pure desperation. While the product ended up being a miracle worker for us, I want to be completely transparent with you.
Preemie Must Haves
These 10 products made our life better, and easier, the first few months that Scarlett was home. We all got to sleep at night, Blake and I got some peace of mind, and Scarlett really started thriving. I hope these preemie must haves work as well for you as they did for us!
Do you have any preemie must haves to add to our list?
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