10 Ways to Support Preemie Parents While Their Baby is at the NICU
For a pregnant woman, nothing is more terrifying than realising that you’re going into early labour and nothing makes you feel more helpless, vulnerable and scared than having to depend on the expertise of others to keep your baby – the baby you’ve wanted for so long – alive.
Giving birth is one of the paramount, most positive experiences in life, yet having a baby born too soon is a significant trauma for the whole family. And the process of recovery will require the understanding and support of everyone around.
If one of your loved ones is going through this experience and you’re wondering how you can be of help, here are 6 ways to show support and be present through their recovery:
1. Send them a message to let them know that you’re thinking of them:
Don’t forget to congratulate them as they’ve just had a baby! Let them know that their family is in your thoughts and prayers. A very thoughtful way to end your message might be “you don’t need to respond. Just know I’m thinking of you.” as it will take away their angst, knowing that they are overwhelmed and most likely won’t be able to reply promptly.
2. Share your preemie stories:
Sharing your or a loved one’s preemie story will bring comfort and hope to the new parents and reassure them that their baby is going to make it.
3. Buy them preemie sized clothes:
Items like preemie sized onsies that can be put on and removed easily without interfering with the cords, preemie mittens to keep the baby from pulling out tubes and even little hats would be very much appreciated.
4. Offer help at home:
Your friends might have other kids at home. You can offer to do a grocery run, pick up/drop off the kids from school, prepare some freezer meals…etc.
5. Support the preemie’s big sister/brother:
Being a big sibling to a NICU baby is so difficult. Your regular routine is thrown off, you barely see your parents, and you don’t get to meet your new baby brother or sister. A way to help out is to offer to babysit the kids, reassure and answer their questions or plan some activities with them.
6. Visit the NICU:
Ask if you can come visit, and try to be understanding if they say no. It’s an overwhelming time for them and support can take many forms. When you get to visit, make sure you ask questions about the baby’s progress – let them show their little hero off!, cheer them and their little miracle on, bring them coffee and/or offer to take them out for a short refreshing break.
Many pregnant women do not anticipate or prepare in advance for their newborn to end up in the NICU. However, every year, 15 million babies are born premature worldwide.
This is a period of terrifying uncertainty and a test of faith for the parents. Hence, being part of a network of support that they can fall back to when they don’t feel in control would make all the difference.
Did we miss anything? Preemie parents, if you have other ideas, please add them in the comments section below. We’d love for this to become a resource for all of those who have friends whose babies are born sooner than expected.