Thursday, September 24, 2009

Top Ten Tips on Supporting the Mother of a Premature Baby

People often ask me how they can best support the mother of a premature baby. Here are my top ten tips.

1) Recognize that the family has been through a traumatic life threatening experience. They are stressed and confused and proud and worried and on an incredible rollercoaster of emotions. Be understanding.

2) Be encouraging. Tell the parents what a great job they are doing in managing a journey they never expected to be on.

3) Don’t expect them to keep everyone update on moment by moment changes in their baby’s health. They are just keeping their heads above water. Do suggest that you could set up an account on that they could update or that you could update as a point of contact for the rest of the family.

4) Offer to drive parents to the hospital to see their baby if they are away from the hospital.

5) Offer to collect their mail, feed their animals, or take care of an older child if there is one.

6) Bring them food. Don’t ask them to make a grocery list, it will be too much to think about. Make the food magically appear and it will be gratefully accepted.

7) Honor their wishes in your visits. We really wanted to show our little guy off even when he was in an isolette but more than a couple visits a day with all the testing and decisions we were making was overwhelming.

8) See if you can email the parents a message through the hospital. It meant so much to us to hear that people were holding us in their prayers. Keep messages simple. “Congratulations! We are sending you all our love.” Don’t be sorry about their circumstances or their child’s illness. Parents are protective and they need your support not your pity.

9) Never call parents overprotective or tease them about holding the baby all the time after they get out of the hospital. When a baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit parents can not hold them whenever they want to. My arms ached to hold my baby. Once we were home I would not put my son down and I was nervous about letting others hold him. Once the crisis is over remember to keep in touch with new mothers and listen. Post partum depression or the “baby blues” are an increased possibility in this population and mothers may go through a time of unexpected emotional exhaustion after their baby has stabilized.

10) If you are sick, even with the sniffles, stay home. Parents of premature babies must be hypervigilant about keeping their child away from illness. The first few weeks home they may not even be able to go out to run errands with their baby due to potential exposure. Then it would be a great time to offer to make some trips for them around town.

There are many helpful sites on the web for parents of preemies and for extended families. A few of the links I recommend are: – a free site where you can make a page for your family and update them on the progress of your baby’s health. - a wealth of information for parents and extended families of preemies a wonderful organization and wonderful information.

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