My wife gave birth to my son Alex 7 days ago. He has had the usual breathing problems and what not for a 30 week premature baby.

Over the course of the last couple of days he has been left to breath on his own accord and since then his respiratory rate has fluctuated between 20 and 100. The doctor said if it was 20 then he would be dead as he would not be able to breath.

Not only this, Alex has started to become unsettled, he wakes up every 15 minutes or so and starts crying.

In the latest episode of problems he has started brining up the breast milk he's being fed and all I keep getting told is this is normal.

His temperature is 35.2oC - 36.7oC depending on how often the incubator is opened.

He had a scan which shows a lot of blood at one side of the brain and the doctor said this might be a hemorrhage but we won't know until a second scan is done in 7 days time.

My question is whether it is normal for a baby of this age to keep waking and crying and is his respiratory rate normal? I'm just hoping for a second opinion if possible.

  • Just to clarify, presumably your son is still under continuous care at a NICU, correct? (Most people don't have an incubator at home.) Also, when you say "respiratory rate", do you actually mean O2 saturation? (There's a machine that measures that, with a light attached to a finger or toe, and that number will max out at 100%.) I would suggest clarifying with the nurses that you are looking at the right numbers. Overall, though, if your son is under care of experienced practitioners then they are likely to be right. My daughter was born at 27 weeks so I've been through much of this. – Greg Hewgill Oct 22 '15 at 22:10
  • The respiratory rate is monitoring his breathing, not his oxygen levels in his blood, there is a separate monitor for that which he is also on. He is in a NICU. – Professor of programming Oct 22 '15 at 22:21
  • My concerns have started growing after both a doctor and physio have both stated that I need to keep an eye on what the nurses are doing as they are not following the advice given to them by the doctor and physio. – Professor of programming Oct 22 '15 at 22:25
  • Not only this the nurses seem more concerned about revalidation and what shifts they are doing over Christmas than a premature baby crying. – Professor of programming Oct 22 '15 at 22:29

The first thing to keep in mind is that every premature baby is different. There are a wide variety of things that can potentially go wrong. The NICU medical staff has a lot of experience with premature babies, and they will draw upon their experience to assess what is going on. As a parent taken by surprise, you have had no preparation and no training, but you will learn about your son quickly.

Listen to what the staff tell you, but also don't be afraid to raise things that you don't feel are going well. Read all you can; I can recommend Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies which is a wealth of information about exactly what you're dealing with right now.

Get involved with the daily care of your son, as you will need to be prepared to fully provide for his care when he is ready to go home. Going home might be up to two months away, but it's worthwhile getting involved as soon as you can.

As I'm not a medical professional, I can't comment on your son's condition and whether his waking and respiratory rate is "normal" for him. My daughter had a pneumonia infection about a week after she was born, plus a moderate brain haemorrhage. She got through those and is now a happy and healthy two year old. Babies are incredibly resilient.

  • 1
    We have been changing nappies, feeding and giving oral care and today we bathed Alex, we are trying to do as much as possible to try and help create a bond as when Alex was first born he was taken away straight away before we even got a chance to cuddle him and didn't see him again for another 5 hours. I will buy that book and give it a read. – Professor of programming Oct 22 '15 at 22:59
  • @Bonner: That's great to hear. Keep up that daily involvement. It might seem to get tiresome, and that's normal, but that feeling will pass as he begins to respond to your voices and touch. As long as Alex continues to gain weight (it's really slow at first), then you're generally on the right track. – Greg Hewgill Oct 22 '15 at 23:12

My daughter was born at 26 weeks. We stayed in the hospital with her for 3 months, and she had a portable apnea monitor at home for several months after that.

Keep in mind that babies, even full term ones, breathe kind of irregularly. Additionally, respiration monitors are prone to short periods where they don't register breaths very well, especially on tiny wiggly babies. In other words, there are lots of false alarms, and the nurses know all the signs to check. If they don't look worried, you shouldn't be either. It's a good sign that your son is breathing on his own already. Try to ignore the monitors and look at your son to see how well he is breathing.

As far as the crying, remember a nurse's job is to keep your son alive and healthy. You are still his parents. Crying and comfort is your domain. I know it seems overwhelming, like everything is out of your hands, but it isn't. Be proactive in looking for solutions. Kangaroo care is one amazing solution. If you haven't tried it yet, ask to do so as soon as possible.

There are other things you can try. Our daughter calmed down just from hearing our voices. I used to read to her and my wife used to sing. When we couldn't hold her, we would sort of cup our hand on top of her. At one point, my daughter was very uncomfortable from the oxygen they were blowing on her behind to help with bad diaper rash. I asked the simple question of if it had to be blowing at full pressure and it had never occurred to them to turn it down. There are things you can do. Look for them.

  • I can't imagine why your answer attracted a downvote. All good info, and reassuring too. – Greg Hewgill Oct 23 '15 at 17:46
  • Wasn't me who down-voted, seems a bit odd that someone would as it raises some important points. The first is how Alex looks while breathing, to sum it up it looked to me like he was struggling at times but I keep being told he is fine and everything is normal. I was told today that I have not had enough skin on skin contact so I had Alex held in my chest again today but it was only for a short time as he was getting cold. – Professor of programming Oct 24 '15 at 0:35

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