Did you just find out that a friend or loved one had a preemie and you want to show support but aren’t sure what to do? Here are some tips from a mother who lost a preemie at 21 weeks and then had a 27-weeker who spent 94 days in the NICU:
- Do everything you can (especially at the beginning) to take care of the family’s basic needs such as meals, laundry, cleaning, and shelter. These are the things that are most important to keep the family comfortable and running, but it’s the last thing that someone who has just had a preemie wants to think about.
- Show interest in the baby and act on what is reality, not what should have been or could have been. Don’t be too optimistic and say to the parents that everything will be fine and you know the baby will live and grow to be a normal kid. You don’t know this and it’s annoying to have your closest friends and family ignore reality to try and be nice. It’s more comforting to know that even if everything doesn’t go right, your friends and family will be there to support you and help you through it, and will love your baby anyway.
- Occasionally ask how the baby is doing or go to visit the baby if you can because parents want their loved ones to see and know and love their baby just as much as if they had brought their baby home from the hospital with them. This is their baby, their pride and joy, and the more you understand about their baby’s health needs and situation the more they can talk to you about what’s going on and feel your love and support. As a parent, it’s difficult to suddenly be in a position where nobody understands what you’re talking about whenever you describe your baby. You feel so alone and deserted and you can’t even show off your brand new baby and feel like a normal parent. You want someone to celebrate the good news with you and to share your sorrow when there’s bad news, because the NICU Experience is full of ups and downs!
- Research preemies so that you are aware of the miracles that can happen and the risks that are involved in a preemie’s life.
- If you want to give a gift to the parents or the baby while in the NICU, consider the ideas listed in Ideas for a NICU Care Basket.
- When the baby is discharged from the NICU, make sure you adhere to any requests of the parents – like washing your hands every time you enter their home, or wearing a mask if you have a cold. Don’t ask them to bring their baby with them to public or friendly gatherings if they are quarantining their baby, but be respectful of their decisions about their baby’s care. Be sure that you don’t tell them they should or shouldn’t be doing certain things with their baby in comparison with any full-term children.
- Find out if the parents are celebrating their preemie’s birthday on the day they were born or on their baby’s due date (you never know).
Okay, that’s all I can think of for now. Readers, do you have more ideas?