It’s not easy to know how to support a loved one when their baby has been born prematurely. This Top Ten list has been compiled with the help of parents who have all spent time in hospital with babies born too soon.
Meals – hospital food can be expensive and repetitive. You get little time to shop and the last thing you want to do when you get home is cook a meal. Instead of baby grows (which baby won’t be needing for a while), why not give vouchers for food outlets, get some shopping in, or perhaps prepare a meal. Buying healthy snacks which can be taken up to the hospital can help any parent through a long day. Or the idea I liked best – a gift of an envelope with £20 and takeaway menus in it!
Company – Spending time in neonatal intensive care or in special care can be an extraordinarily lonely place. You can become incredibly claustrophobic and you miss the outside world. The routine of having a premature baby makes it difficult to meet friends, so why not offer to meet and go for a coffee at the hospital.
Household chores – I hadn’t even noticed the laundry piling up, not until my mum came and took a load away. As everyday chores pass prem parents by, picking up prescriptions, cutting the grass or taking a load of laundry/ironing home can be an enormous help.
Nappies – Premature babies wear ‘micro-nappies’ and despite their micro name they still look huge on small babies! These can only be bought at certain stores and parents can themselves spending precious time going out of their way to buy them. Buying a pack of micro-nappies would be a welcome gift for any prem parent!
Information giving – Keeping everyone up-to-date of how things are going can be difficult and tiring, particularly when things can change day-to-day, if not hour-by-hour. Offering to be a contact person who will let friends and family know how you are doing, or understanding that your phone calls or messages can not always be answered is important to prem parents.
Visiting times – During the first days or weeks parents may be still be in shock and coming to terms with the dramatic arrival of their new baby and may wish to wait until they are more stable before inviting visitors. Being sensitive to this; meeting parents to support them at the hospital whilst not going into the unit can be a good alternative in the first few days. Each special care and neonatal intensive care unit will have their own visiting policy. This may be restricted to relatives only, visiting hours at certain times or who may hold the baby.
Preparing for baby to come home – ‘But I don’t have anything for him’ was my response to the midwife who told me my baby would be here very soon. Parents of premature babies, particularly if the baby is their first, may not have bought the things they need – car seats, buggies, cribs, bottles, clothes, monitors, changing mats, baby baths, mobiles etc – in readiness to come home. Help with getting the bigger items or the little things can make a big difference.