Parents of Premature Babies Inc. FAQ
advice from Preemie-l http://www.preemie-l.org
The first thing to recognize is that this is a very difficult and confusing time for the new parents. Having a preemie baby may well be the most stressful things that will ever happen to these parents. They may be at once terribly worried, yet fiercely proud and protective of their new baby. The parents will almost certainly need all the support they can get in a whole range of ways.
They may not know how to react, and neither may you.
One thing that many parents in our group have reported is the feeling of isolation they encountered, as friends and family avoided them at this critical time of their life. The new parents may be preoccupied, worn down, stressed out, overwhelmed with the roller coaster of their babyís struggle - but they need to know that their family and friends are still there.
Some practical advice:
1. Be sensitive to the emotional strain that the premature birth is placing on the preemie parents. Try not to do anything to make things harder for them.
2. The baby or babies may be very sick, so being too congratulatory can be unhelpful. Acknowledge what the parents are going through and their fears for their baby.
3. On the other hand, many parents in our group report that the lack of recognition of the new baby by friends and family was distressing Even when the babyís outcome is uncertain, parents appreciate gifts such as baby clothes and toys because they recognize the baby.
4. If the parents have other children, do all you can to look after these children, entertain them if thatís what they want, comfort them if they are anxious, provide a stress-free haven for them if you can.
5. If you send cards or flowers, be thoughtful. Some flowers look like they belong at a funeral. Cards with pictures of plump full term babies can cause distress. Stock messages are often inappropriate. Blank cards on which you write your own message, poem, something from your heart, will probably be much more appropriate.
6. Be careful not to place expectations or any sort of load on the new parents - they have a great deal to grapple with, and they may not have the time or the energy even to talk to anyone for a while. Understand if they donít call back. They will still be comforted to know that you are thinking of them.
7. If there are any practical things that you can think of which might help the parents, then do them, in the lowest key, most sensitive manner you can manage. If you can mow the lawns, look after pets, clean the house and leave flowers or a prepared meal, it will always be appreciated.
8. Food is a wonderful comforter, and preemie parents need all the comforting they can get. Things like supermarket shopping can be unbearable for parents trying to cope with a baby in precarious health.
9. Find out if its okay to visit, or how the parents want to manage visitors, and follow their wishes. If you are a close family member, you can volunteer to keep family and friends updated on the babyís health so that the parents donít have to deal with so many people.
10. Be there for them. Donít keep away because its hard. Try to stay the distance too - some preemies are in hospital for many months and support from friends and family often drops off over time while the parents are becoming increasingly exhausted with the hospital routine. Often the need for support increases as time goes on.