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Taking Special Care of Daphne

Daphne Miller and her parents have done a lot of growing in just a few months. When she was born on April 15, Baby Daphne could fit in the palm of her parents’ hands. Now, she’s grown to more than 5 pounds and her parents couldn’t be happier to have her home with the family in Plano.

Feeding was among the biggest challenges for Daphne Miller and her mother, Misty.
Feeding was among the biggest challenges for Daphne Miller and her mother, Misty.

“She’s showing off her personality more and more,” said Daphne’s mom, Misty, 30. “She’s always had a big personality. The nurses used to call her a little spit fire.”

Five pounds may not sound like much for a 3-month old baby, but Daphne was born at 29 weeks, weighing only 2 pounds and 4 ounces. Daphne suffered from low birth weight caused by intrauterine growth restriction, a condition that prevents normal infant growth during pregnancy. Unlike full-term babies born between 37 and 42 weeks, babies like Daphne often have underdeveloped muscles needed for swallowing, sucking and breathing — making the feeding process one of the biggest challenges.

She spent two months in the NICU at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas before graduating to a stay in the Special Care Nursery. That’s where Misty and Quendell, 38, were able to learn from nurses and other care professionals on how to attend to Daphne’s special circumstances.

Misty came to the hospital every day for five weeks and participated in a program at the nursery to learn the physical signs of when Daphne was ready to eat.

The program, called Infant-Driven Feeding Protocols, lets premature babies in the hospital’s Special Care Nursery signal when they’re ready to eat. Traditionally, a chart-based, scheduled approach is used for feeding low birth weight babies but Misty learned to recognize that Daphne wants to eat when she starts shaking her head, sticks out her tongue and puts her fingers to her face.

“What’s nice is we don’t have to wait until Daphne cries to know she’s hungry,” Misty said.

Mom also learned to recognize when Daphne is upset or uncomfortable and the differences of each.

“When she’s upset she has what one nurse called her 'stop signs.' She splays out her fingers on both hands and her crying goes up an octave,” Misty said.

Daphne was able to go home July 1 and her parents continue to use what they learned at the Special Care Nursery.

The education was vital, Misty said. As a first-time mother, she hadn’t even taken a Lamaze class or read any of the books she had intended to before Daphne was born and really valued the chance to learn how to care for her daughter from professional caregivers. Even Quendell, who has two sons, has found a lot of value in what they learned.

“I feel like we’re in tune with her,” Misty said. “As she becomes her own little person that may change, who knows? But I feel we are better prepared moving forward.”

For now, Misty and Quendell are embracing everything that comes with being a parent of an infant.

“We still are having sleepless nights, but they’re happy nights because she’s home,” Misty said.

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