It’s the moment every mother imagines during pregnancy – having her newborn baby placed on her chest after delivery. But sadly, many women do not get to experience this if their baby is born premature.
Each year Worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon. My latest article on Essential Baby explores why early bonds are vital for premature babies and their parents. There are many things that family and friends can do to help parents who have given birth to a premature baby. Given the large number of babies being born too early there’s a strong chance that you know someone going through this experience. Please share this article and read below for some tips on how you can best support the parents of a premmie.
Support is crucial
Family and friends can struggle to support the parents of a premature baby, but it is vital not to abandon them, says Director of Life’s Little Treasures Foundation, Parool Shah.
Some things that can help are:
- Congratulate the parents on the birth of their baby. Offer to post birth announcement.
- Acknowledge the stress and toll Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) / Special Care Nursery (SCN) life can take.
- Offer positive comments.
- Offer to babysit siblings / Offer to pass on information to other family members.
- Cook meals for the family & help out with housework.
- Drive parents to the hospital. Parking can often be hard to find and / or expensive.
- Offer to keep parents company while they visit baby, or meet them for a meal.
Some things to avoid:
- Avoid comparing. This may only serve to maximise a parent’s grief.
- Do not intrude / pry and avoid giving parenting advice.
- Avoid abandoning parents. Stay in touch, knowing you are thinking of them helps.
- Avoid talking about setbacks that may happen or challenges that baby may face.
- Do not expect the parents to attend family gatherings.
- Do not visit when sick.
The birth of a premature baby can create a very complex and conflicting emotional mix of happiness-grief,” says Shah. “They have such a long road ahead of them. Be there when needed, and listen to them regarding the support or space required.”
Have you experienced a premature birth or do you know someone who has? What was the experience like for you? Did anything help minimise your distress?