I was depressed when I found out my baby has a heart problem. Is that normal?
Yes. Feeling angry, guilty, sad or depressed is normal. Knowing that your baby has a heart problem is stressful. When you first found out about your baby's problem, you may have suffered shock.
Is it okay to pick up my baby?
Yes. Try not to be afraid to pick up or hold your baby. You won't hurt your baby by holding him or her. Your baby needs your love and attention. Play with your baby. Talk to your baby. These things are important for both of you. Your baby needs to be loved and cared for just like any other baby.
Why is it harder for my baby to feed?
Babies who have heart disease may get tired easily while they're feeding. If feeding makes your baby tired, try giving smaller amounts of milk or formula at one time. It may help to feed the baby more often. Your baby may also need more food because a heart defect makes the heart work a lot harder. The extra work of your baby's heart makes your baby burn more calories—like the way you burn more calories when you exercise. For this reason, your baby may need more food to grow.
Can I breastfeed my baby?
Yes. Breastfeeding a baby who has heart disease can be more challenging because the baby gets tired so quickly. But breast milk is the best food for your baby. It helps protect your baby from infections. An infection could make your baby's heart problem worse. You may need to give your baby formula too, so he or she can get enough calories.
If you're having trouble breastfeeding, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may suggest that you see a lactation specialist.
What about formula?
If you decide to use formula, you may need to use a special kind that has extra calories so your baby can gain weight. A pediatric nutritionist or dietitian can help you choose a good formula.
Where can I go for help?
Support is very important. Parental support groups let you talk with other parents who are going through the same thing. You can talk about your fears and share what you know. This can be very reassuring.
Talk with your doctor or a hospital social worker to find out about respite care, day care programs and home help services. A counselor may also give you ways to cope with a sick baby.
Caring for Infants with Congenital Heart Disease and Their Families by RB Saenz, M.D., DK Beebe, M.D., and LC Triplett, M.D. (American Family Physician April 01, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990401ap/1857.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff