Nearly 13 million babies, or about 10% of total worldwide births, are born prematurely each year. When a baby is born extremely premature, parents find their world turned upside down, sometimes faced with life and death decisions, while facing an uncertain future for their baby. Experts are just beginning to understand the intense psychological effects that a premature birth has on the parents.
DO YOU KNOW THE PARENT OF A PREEMIE?
A community of parents of preemies has compiled a list of simple acts of kindness and helpful words that you can share that are of great help to them while they are in the hospital and transition home with their baby.
10 Things to Say to the Parents of Preemies
1. Congratulations! Your baby is beautiful!
2. You're stronger than you know, and your baby is strong like you.
3. If you'd like someone to be there with you in the NICU, I'd be happy to just sit with you.
4. Can I see a picture?
5. When can I come and visit him/her?
6. After this experience, your bond with your baby is going to be so strong.
7. Prematurity is not your fault and it's really unfair.
8. What can I do during cold and flu season to keep your family safe?
9. Cry if you need to; I can be strong for you when you need to take a break.
10. You're a great mom! / You're a great dad!
10 Things to Do for the Parents of Preemies
1. Go food shopping and then cook and freeze a couple (or a lot) of meals that are easy to reheat.
2. Look after a preemie parent's other children so she or he can spend that much more time in the NICU.
3. Visit the new parents and their preemie as soon as the time is right – and focus on the baby, not the equipment.
4. Reschedule a NICU or home visit when you know you've been exposed to germs but aren't feeling sick (especially during flu and RSV season).
5. Help them get to and from the hospital when transportation is an issue.
6. Walk the dog, feed the cat, mow the lawn… anything that gives a preemie parent less to do at home.
7. Just listen. Parents of premature babies may have thoughts or feelings you don't understand; you don't have to 'get it'.
8. Give a gift their baby can use right now – premature babies who aren't ready for clothes can often wear specially sized hats.
9. Be understanding when the mom or dad of a preemie doesn't have a lot of time for you, even if you've been missing them for weeks or months.
10. Request a Graham's Foundation NICU care package on their behalf by visiting the Graham's Foundation website.