When someone you know suddenly has a premature baby, you may find yourself wondering how to react, especially if the baby is particularly early or small. Here are a few suggestions.
Assume the baby will be OK, and congratulate the parents on the birth as you would if the baby was full term by sending a card, gift, champagne or flowers as you intended. Despite all the worries associated with their early arrival, this baby is very special and very much loved.
Send a card as soon as possible
Don’t wait until the baby comes home to send a card (although you could always send a “welcome home” card then too). If you buy a card, be sensitive and choose one without a picture of a big fat full term baby on it. Send it to the home address so that they have the joy of reading your card when they come home to a house with no baby in it.
Some people worry about sending a congratulations card because they are not sure if the baby will live. However most prem babies do survive, and in the awful circumstances where a baby does not come home, the parents will really treasure those first congratulations cards as it gives life to the memory of their little one.
Good gift ideas for the mother:
Nice hand cream, as she will be washing them many times a day while expressing and at the hospital; a small photo album so she can carry photos of her baby with her; something to read (not baby-related) while she’s expressing at home; a home-cooked meal; a photo frame for her bedside table so she can see her baby last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
– for the baby:
Anything you might normally give a full-term baby (as they will still need it when they get home). There is not a lot of room in the hospital nursery for more than a couple of personal items such as soft toys, so don’t be offended if the parents leave your gift at home. If you’d really like to buy a prem-sized outfit, try searching online or try Target – they sell a small number of 000000 and 00000 sized outfits. Outfits should be extremely easy to get into while attached to a monitor. Don’t buy anything with covered feet as the hospital environment is quite warm and the baby may also need a monitor attached to their foot. Generally speaking, the earlier the baby is born, the longer they stay in hospital. Many prems born very early (30 weeks gestation or less) leave hospital near their due date, and may be the size of a regular newborn by that time.
Check before visiting
Don’t rush to visit your friends in hospital the first week after the baby is born without checking that they want visitors first. They may be spending a lot of time in the NICU or special care nursery, where visitors other than parents are not really encouraged. Leave some home-cooked food on their doorstep instead, and let them know you are happy to meet up when they have time, even if it’s just for a coffee in the hospital cafe, or after they bring their baby home. Don’t even think about visiting if you are unwell – even a common cold can make a premature baby critically ill, and if your friends catch a cold they will be unable to visit their precious little bundle in hospital.
Stay in touch after the first week
Do keep in touch via phone, text messages or email, or via someone who is closer to them than you, so that they know you are there and thinking of them as the days or weeks go by – and let them know that you don’t always expect a reply. Your friends may not have a lot of time to spend with you while their baby is in hospital, but it can be a lonely and stressful experience and they will really appreciate that you are thinking of them and have not been forgotten about after the first week has passed.
Offer some practical assistance
Leaving your baby in hospital, expressing milk via a pump every 3 hours, coping with a complete change to your plans for birth – having a premature baby is emotionally and physically exhausting and also very time-consuming, when you can’t just stay home and recover but have to commute to see your baby every day. You can help the family of a new premmie by
* cooking them a meal, either to eat now or put in the freezer – or giving them any vouchers you have for local restaurants. They won’t have much energy for cooking
* babysitting an older child for a couple of hours a week, maybe in the evening so the parents can go to the hospital together
* taking their dog out for a walk or washing their car
* helping with their housework or laundry, especially if they have other kids
* asking for a list and doing their grocery shopping
* giving them a lift to the hospital during the day – it will save them the trouble of having to find parking, and you can have a bit of a chat at the same time
Give your friend some “real mum with a normal baby” experiences
Sometimes parents of premature babies feel they really miss out because people are too worried about doing the wrong thing. In most cases it’s better to try and do something, than not do anything at all.
Admire their baby photos.
When you have the opportunity, ask if you can see photos of the baby, and offer positive comments about them even if they looks strange to you. This means a lot to the parents, who already see and love the strength and beauty of their child despite the tubes and wires.
Don’t forget the baby shower.
If you were planning to hold a baby shower for your friend, go ahead with your plans. A good time to hold it would be a week before the baby is due home from hospital.
Article written by Kathryn from Prem in Perth
The subject matter provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s advice. Please ALWAYS contact your doctor if you ever have questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested. .