When a child is born prematurely, issues continue long after they leave the hospital. Just because a preemie has been released, does not mean they are now like any other newborn child. Special precautions need to be taken for quite some time.
Preemie parents deal with issues for years to come. In addition to possible medical concerns, the effects of having a child in the NICU are lasting. Here are some tips offered by our members when asked, “How can friends and family help once you’re home from the NICU?”
- Be respectful of the parents’ wishes. You may think that they are being over-protective, but please keep in mind that a preemie and a term baby have different needs. These parents have just been through a very difficult time, so help them relax but following their instructions.
- Wash your hands when you enter their house. Germs are a preemie parents’ worst nightmare, so sanitize!
Tips for Friends and Family of a Parent with a Preemie in the NICU
Having a newborn can be stressful to any parents. Having a preemie who has to stay in the hospital amplifies that stress beyond belief. While the parents struggle, it can also be a difficult time for friends and family members. You may be eager to help out, but don’t know how. Often those on the “outside” feel helpless as it can be difficult to get in contact with parents and you may not be able to visit the baby.
We asked our members, “What advice would you give to friends and family members of a parent with a preemie in the NICU? Or what did you find most helpful that someone did for you?” We found some common themes and other helpful advice as well. Everyone deals with stressful situations differently, so use the tips that you think will be most helpful to the parents and try not to push too hard if they are not receptive.
- Instead of asking how you can help, offer to do something specific like cook some meals, look after older children, or do some household chores. With the overwhelming emotions of having a preemie, the last thing new parents want to think about is creating a list of things for others to do. Offer what you can and let the parents either accept your offer or reject it.
- Let the parents know you are thinking of them, even if they do not respond to you. A text message, phone call or email can go a long way in lifting someone’s spirits, but often new preemie parents are busy juggling life in the NICU, their emotions, and home life, that it is hard to respond. They do appreciate your kind words.