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Cloth diapering in the NICU: one determined mother’s story

Levi 3

all photos by @miraculously_made

The story of Levi Nathaniel

Levi 7Sheila McGee was just past the halfway point of her pregnancy — 21 weeks along — when she woke up and went to the bathroom.

The baby inside her belly would have weighed less than a pound and, if stretched out, lay about as long as a medium-sized vegetable, like a carrot or zucchini. At this point, a developing fetus, according to most doctors, needs three more weeks inside its mother before being considered viable.

So imagine McGee’s fear when fluid wouldn’t stop flowing from her even though her bladder was emptied.

Within hours, her worst fears were confirmed: she was leaking amniotic fluid.

McGee said the days that followed at the hospital in Mobile, Ala. were nothing short of a nightmare.

“The anxiety is what bothered me the most because they could have had to induce me any day,” she said, recalling her time on bed rest. “Just depending on how my body cooperated.”

Her body cooperated for four weeks. Enough time for McGee to be given steroid shots for the baby’s lungs, and medications via I.V. for his brain development.

At 25 weeks McGee became ill and doctors had no choice but to induce her. Levi Nathaniel was born, weighing just one pound five ounces.

“Words can’t even describe what that felt like,” says McGee. “Levi is my first baby. I heard from other women that when you have the baby they lay that baby on your chest but we never got that.”

A team of specialists whisked Levi away almost immediately to stabilize him.

Levi had a nurse at his side 24/7 and his mother spent long stretches with him as soon as she was healthy enough.

But she had to wait two weeks before holding him for the first time. When she did, Levi became too comfortable in his mother’s arms.

Levi 4“He was so comfortable he actually fell into too deep a sleep and his heart rate dropped and the nurses rushed over to get him back in his isolate,” McGee said.

As frightening as that experience was, the nurses made sure McGee couldn’t dwell on it and handed Levi to her again the next day.

“I know that my presence is also why he thrives. Because I know it’s my voice that he knows, it’s my heartbeat that he recognizes. We did a lot of kangaroo care in those early days for the heartbeat and the skin to skin contact,” she says.



As soon as Levi had grown strong enough for clothes, McGee started cloth diapering him.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” she says. “Him coming early still didn’t change that thought, I just had to change my plan.”Levi 5

McGee and her husband had invested in a stash of one-size all-in-one diapers but quickly realized that wasn’t going to work with their two-pound-eleven-ounce preemie.

“I thought ‘these will fit an adult! He’ll never fit in these,’” she recalls laughing.

Still determined to use cloth, McGee started building a stash of newborn diapers. She has found pre-folds and a diaper cover work best with his tiny frame.

She doesn’t expect nurses to deal with the cloth, though, so she uses them for the long hours she is at Levi’s side and lets the nurses use disposables when she isn’t there.


When we spoke, McGee was living at the Ronald McDonald house attached to the hospital, her husband was commuting daily to work from the hospital and checking in on their home in Biloxi, Mis on weekends.

But she sounds calm and confident despite all they’ve been through.

When asked what helped get her through the past three months she says prayer, patience, and arming herself with the knowledge necessary to take part in her baby’s care (and not be pushed around).

Levi 8Though the baby is the patient, McGee said that as a parent, she took the role of advocate, not hesitating to ask questions, go up the chain and report anything she felt was wrong.

Though there were some nurses who made her like she was in the way at times, there were others – especially the experienced nurses who first took care of Levi – who helped build her knowledge and made her feel comforted during such a stressful time.

And she says faith helped her family get through the most stressful moments.

“Pray to whoever you pray to because you’re going to need that.”


Today, Levi is doing incredibly well, constantly working on growing stronger. At three months he weighs just over four pounds, is breastfeeding for at least half his feeds and doctors say he could be home in just one week.

“We still have a journey ahead of us but we’re in the homestretch,” says McGee.

Follow Levi’s progress on his mother’s Instagram page @miraculously_made

Levi 6          Levi 2

2 Responses to “Cloth diapering in the NICU: one determined mother’s story

  • Jovanna
    1 year ago

    Awesome story, I truly relate to everything McGhee said and has went through being the parent to two preemies. God bless I will continue to follow your story and pray for your family.

  • michele D blumenshine
    1 year ago

    I loved your story. I had a32 week baby and spent 3 weeks in NICU and also was a big advocate for doing what I wanted with MY baby…as in using organic soap, my own diaper cream, and cloth diapers. You’re right…some nurses supported you and some made you feel like a psycho mom!-nonetheless, this was My baby and I continued to be there. Pretty soon most of them got used to me and some of the docs even asked me questions about the natural products. Mom’s, keep advocating for your babies out there…you just might influence the next nicu team!

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