Feeding a CHD Baby *Vital Baby Review*

A major factor in Martha's recovery was getting her to gain weight. She was born weighing 2.75kg, but after surgery she went as low as 2.38kg - bringing her up to a more healthy weight proved to be a lengthy battle.

Babies who have a heart condition burn more calories because their hearts have to work harder to pump blood around their bodies, breathing requires serious calories too. The simple task of sucking on a teat, swallowing their milk and breathing through their nose will tire them out faster than normal heart babies too - which causes them to burn calories quicker. Another problem is that their hearts cannot cope with too much food in their stomachs. To try to combat this Martha is prescribed a specific Formula Milk with a higher calorific content.

Martha came home from Hospital on the 14th September with a Naso-Gastric Tube. Her Dietician and Cardiologist had told us that she was to have 140ml per kilo over 24 hours and was feeding every 3 hours. Whatever she didn't finish from her bottle we would have to administer through the tube directly in to her stomach.

She would feed for almost an hour and even then she would leave between 20-30ml of a 62ml feed. By the time we we're finishing one feed we were almost ready to begin the next. She wasn't getting enough sleep between each feed - and we were getting up twice a night for an hour each time to feed her.

I felt like I was being tortured. My body was awake - but my head was never in the game.

During one particularly bad night I was awake at 2am staring at a clock thinking "I need to be getting up
for the day to get Osh to school in 5 hours time, between now and then I have another hour long feeding session to fit it!"

After going from Latex to Silicone teats in a particular brand of Bottles without much success, I thought it was time to give the Vital Baby Nurture bottles a try.

I have to admit that they felt strange to hold at first as the body of the bottle itself is made of medical grade silicone (with plastic shoulders), but I found this later to be one of it's best features - I began feeding Martha the bottle by gently squeezing some of the milk in her mouth so she'd get a taste of the milk and continue sucking from the teat.

Ten minutes later and she was done. In one bottle change she'd gone from feeding for an hour to drowning her bottle in just over ten minutes.

I sat there with her on my knee winding her, just waiting for the to bring the whole thing back up after drinking it so quickly - but she didn't.

"It's just a one off, a new bottle" I thought, trying to convince myself that by her next feed she'd be just as slow as she had for previous feeds - but I was wrong; 10 minutes and the bottle was gone.

I washed and sterilized the two bottles I'd been sent for this review, couldn't wait to show Mark and Mam later on that day - they'd been worried (as had I) about her feeding; they were over the moon with her not only finishing a whole feed - but also not getting tired out by feeding for an hour.

Well two bottles just wouldn't do and before the end of the day I had visited the company's website to buy two more bottles for Martha Grace. This is what you do when you're a parent and you find something that works for your kids - you don't ever want to be without it.

We've been using the bottles for almost 5 weeks now and Martha has gained weight beautifully. During her last appointment at Great Ormond Street it was decided that she was well enough for plans to be made for the next operation she needs. What's more - she is well enough to be "demand-fed" which is a bonus for us; she doesn't wake up in the middle of the night so she's skipping the night feed. We have of course increased her daytime feeds to compensate this, but even with a larger feed she doesn't take longer than 10 minutes to feed.

She also doesn't bring much wind up after feeds as the bottles come with an anti-colic Air-Flow teat. What these do is allow air to flow back inside the bottle to that the vacuum which is formed by the baby sucking is relieved.

As the body of the bottle itself is silicone I do find that it takes longer for the Formula to warm up in a jug of boiling water, this isn't a huge inconvenience but if your baby isn't very patient when they wake up hungry you might want to bare that in mind

It may be a oversight by the designers, but the measurements up the side of the bottle are stamped in to the silicone rather than printed on like conventional bottles - I have found it to be difficult to see how much Formula I've poured in sometimes as the measurements disappear against the white of the Milk. However this didn't put me off buying my additional bottles, it's just me being very picky - it's a small price to pay considering how much Martha has come on since she's been able to finish her feeds orally.

I'm not one to make any medical claims, everyone told me to buy the shops own brand bottles as the teats would be softer than the more popular brands. But I found that Martha struggled with the softer teats as she would suck too hard and her mouth would clamp around the teat and she wouldn't be able to get anything through. It's also helped that we can squeeze the body of the bottle to help Martha get the milk out when she starts becoming lazy at the end of her feed.  If you have also have a Heart Baby, a Baby with a cleft palate or is premature, or maybe none of these but you find your baby get's tired half way through a feed - I would most definitely recommend you try Vital Baby's "Nurture" silicone bottles.

If you would like more information about the "Nurture" bottles from Vital Baby, or about any of their other products please click here. A single Bottle is £6.99 while a twin pack is £11.99, to buy the teats separately is £3.29 for a pack of two. They are also available at larger Boots stores (they aren't in my local store, but I have seen them in a couple of inner city branches)


*Disclaimer - We were gifted two "Nurture" bottles from Vital Baby for the purpose of this review, however - I then chose myself to purchase two further bottles which I paid for in full as I was so happy with the product. This post was not intended to offer any medical advice so if, as a parent you are concerned with your baby's feeding - please consult your health professional. The information in this post was specific to our baby, is based on her weight and her heart condition.

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