Milstones & How Dayton is Doing

Monday, January 19, 2015

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I would have to say that the hardest part about having a preemie is tracking and understanding what milestones they should be meeting and when. If you've ever asked the parent of a preemie how old their baby is you've probably received a pretty lengthy answer. First, you have their chronological age - which is their actual age based on the day they were born and secondly you have their adjusted age - which is what their age would be, had they been born on their due date. For us, Dayton is chronologically 5 months, 6 days (or 22 weeks 4 days) old but is adjusted 2 months 20 days (or 11 weeks 3 days) old. Preemie parents are counseled to monitor their baby's progress by their adjusted age until around age 2. At that time, it's believed most babies will have "caught up" to their chronological age growth wise, cognitively, socially and physically. Of course, every baby's growth and development is different. For some, the process can take much long than 2 years and for some it can happen much sooner. Some preemies have delays well into their childhood years and even beyond. Some experience no delays at all. Each baby follows their own path and learns and grows on their own time.

As a side note,  I hate the term "normal" and I hate being asked things like "how does Dayton compare to a "normal" baby?" What exactly is "normal" anyway? What people mean to say (and should say) if they are curious is "how does Dayton compare to a FULL TERM baby." I've always been very open about our experience and I truly love educating people and in a way, advocating for premature babies by spreading awareness and encouraging understanding of the hardships we, as preemie parents, experience, but I just wish people would choose their words more wisely. Every baby, regardless of when they are born, is uniquely perfect in their own way. In my eyes, there is no "normal". I digress.

Anyway, so how does Dayton compare to a full term baby? It's the number one question I am asked.

Growth wise Dayton looks just like a full term 5 month old. He recently measured on the infant growth chart, for the first time, at 7th percent for weight, 4th percent for length and 28th percent for head circumference. He has gained over 11lbs since both and grown 9 inches in length.

Socially and Cognitively speaking he is right where he should be for his adjusted age. He is smiling and cooing. Recognizes familiar voices, reaches for toys, can sometimes hold things for a short period of time and is great at communicating (crying) when he needs something.

Physically he is struggling, but only slightly. Some preemies tend to have low muscle tone so physical delays can come as a result. This is the case for Dayton. We are working on things like his back and neck strength and keeping his hands spread open (as opposed to a fist).

Because Dayton's growth is catching up to his chronological age so rapidly, his Dr believes we should start seeing him catch up in other areas sooner rather than later. For example, his pediatrician says to expect teething to begin somewhere around 6 months of age. For Dayton, since he is 5 months now but adjusted to 2 months (remember we go by his adjusted age) he would still be 4 months away from starting teething. However, based on some early signs, he may start teething around 4-5 months adjusted /7-8 months chronologically, instead of 6 months adjusted/9 months chronologically. Basically he may start falling somewhere in between the two dates.

Whew. I hope that made sense but really it's just a prime example of how darn confusing it can be!

During Dayton's NICU stay be was seen by both an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. At the time of discharge, he was "released" from their care but only because he had not reached his due date quite yet and before a baby reaches his due date there really aren't milestones, per say, to be tracked. Since leaving the NICU Dayton works with an early interventionist for an hour every other week. She monitors his progress, sets long and short term goals for him, gives us advice and things to work on with him and thankfully, educates us on all of it. The plan for now is for her to work with him until age 3, or until he no longer needs to be monitored. Her goal is to catch any delays early enough that a physical or occupational therapist can intervene before he falls too far behind.

All in all we are know that we are very blessed that Dayton is where he is with all of it. He is growing and thriving and that's all we really want. We know everything else will works itself out in due time. While it is stressful to understand, track or even know where he should be and what he should be doing and when, we just take it day by day, and try not to push him too hard.

So, yes, being a preemie parent has it's challenges but I can imagine it's really no different than any family with a new baby, preemie or not. You live and learn, love them and encourage them and at the end of the day if they are happy and healthy then nothing else really matters.

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