The OTs, or Occupational Therapists, were my very best friends in the NICU. For one thing, there were only three of them in my NICU and as soon as I started learning to breastfeed my baby I got help from one of them almost every single day. They were incredible. They were encouraging, helpful, informative, and very skilled at what they did. Also, because of how frequently doctors and nurses rotated around the unit, the OTs were one of the constants of my experience: I got to know them and their individual strengths and talents, and they got to know me and my preferences for my baby’s care.
The very first day I got to attempt nursing my tiny preemie the OTs were there. They helped me find a comfortable position for nursing, they taught me how to get my baby to latch on, and they praised every inkling of progress. They arranged for pumps, nursing scales, and nursing supplies to be at my baby’s bed when I needed them, and they helped me to have privacy. They encouraged my ideas and my involvement with the baby and made sure that nurses and doctors were aware of my nursing schedule and habits. Later on, they even helped me come up with sleeping schedules for my baby and ways to help round out my baby’s flat head. They helped me to realize that I was the mother and I could request certain things to be done and take certain matters into my own hands. They always kept up on my baby’s progress and frequently came to find me when an exciting milestone had been reached.
I believe the OTs worked an 8-5 schedule, so if you only make it to see your baby in the evenings they may not be available. Hopefully your nurses are helpful to you. Even if you don’t see the OTs, they still spend time feeding and monitoring the growth of all of the babies in the unit. On occasion when I wasn’t there the OTs would tell me how well my baby bottle fed while I was gone. In fact, I think that was one of their duties – to help bottle feed the babies who were advanced enough to do so.
If you are in the NICU with your baby during the daytime and you have not had help with nursing or bottle feeding from the OTs, be sure to request to see one the next time you go in. They are there to help you and will make your life easier and less stressful if you will let them. Hooray for wonderful OTs!