In the beginning, it was so hard for my husband and I to not get caught up in our new baby's milestones. It was so exciting when she would practically learn something new overnight! It was also a bit stressful to compare her growth with other babies around us. We learned early on that the speed of each child's growth is different. While we would be excited for different friend's babies, we would also look at our own child's growth and sometimes feel disheartened when she would lag behind a bit.
I would always have to justify the differences because our baby was born prematurely at 31 weeks rather than a full term pregnancy. Where some baby's develop regularly and their ehancements and achievements seem to happen faster, with a preemie baby there is an "adjustment " period. With us, we had an adjustment period of 2 months. This means that our baby would usually achieve her milestones about 2 months after a full term baby.
With Alli Mae being born at 31 weeks, we qualified for a program called "Early Steps". This is a WONDERFUL and FREE program (if you qualify) that helped us along the way in caring for our baby and also taught us how to do different activities that would help her along with achieving different milestones.
We first met our coordinator for "Early Steps" and they interviewed us and assesed our situation we had with our daughter and assigned us with a wonderful physical therapist that helped us so much in the beginning and most crucial time for our baby. Ms. Laura showed us different techniques to help Alli Mae's mind, eyes, hands, and tummy time development. She brought over different toys that would stimulate our baby's mind and also would teach us how to use them.
One toy in particular she brought was the jingle ball-
Although this may look like a cat toy, this isn't. It is specifically made to help a baby's grasping capabilities. The little ball inside has a bell that keeps the baby engaged while the outer ball has holes to allow the baby to grasp it with both hands.
This was the first step in teaching our baby to hold a bottle on her own.
Another milestone we had was when she could transfer the ball from one hand to another. That was an exciting day!
An activity mat was another useful item that we got to help during our physical therapy sessions. These pieces connect and were great for the next lesson we were taught.
"Tummy time" is also such an important activity that we had to learn to adjust to. It was very difficult to watch Alli Mae in distress. Although it was only for a minute and a half or 2, it is still difficult to watch. My immediate reaction was to pick her up, but we learned that she was not in pain, or in any harm, she was just uncomfortable. After being on her tummy for so long, she would learn to flip over. For us, this took up to the 2 month adjustment period. It seemed like it took forever to get to that point, but after she learned to flip over, each milestone became faster for her to achieve.
We learned so much from our physical therapist, Ms Laura. It was hard to say goodbye. She became a friend and I truly miss her sessions twice a month.
She helped Douglas and I grow our confidence while assuring us that we were going to be just fine. Although it was scrary for us at that time, she was absolutely right. We were just fine.
The world needs many more people like Ms. Laura.
That is for sure.
Remember that each baby develops at their own pace. Try your best to not gage their progress with other babies. That will just set you up for disappointment. Cherish the moments you have not reached yet. Your baby, although they may have not achieved an upcoming milestone quite yet, I know you are anxious for them to do so... just remember that once they DO reach that particular milestone they will NEVER be able to Not reach it again. Hold on tight to the milestones you have yet to make, because you will never be able to do that again.
Time goes by so fast. Make your milestones last
as long as they can.
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