Coping with a premature baby

By Miracle Babies Foundation

Every year in Australia around 45,000 newborn babies require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). 25,000 of these are the birth of a premature baby and up to 1,000 babies lose their fight for life.

“There is no right or wrong way to cope”

Coping with having a premature baby or sick newborn can be hard and very overwhelming. It is common for parents to feel a range of emotions and everyone will handle the crisis in their own unique way.

Throughout your hospital journey you may experience a combination of powerful emotions, these may include fear, love, guilt, elation, anxiety, joy, isolation, pride, sadness, anger, confusion, numbness and disappointment. There is no right or wrong way to cope and it usually takes time to adjust to new experiences and new environments.

These are all natural responses to a very emotional and stressful time. Many parents experience grief over the loss of a normal pregnancy and all the experiences that come with a joyful birth experience.

Please remember you are not alone and each year thousands of families are experiencing this special journey with their baby. Many find comfort in connecting with other NICU families who can share and support each other through this unique entry to parenthood.

Parents share their tips on having a premature baby / sick newborn…helping you get through the coming days, weeks and months:

  • Try to learn all you can about the medical equipment, medical conditions and staff who are helping to care for your baby. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Ask to spend time having cuddles, don’t wait for it to be offered. Kangaroo Care can help your baby maintain a stable heart and breathing rate and develop better both physically and mentally.
  • Spend time reading stories to your baby. Your baby has spent months in-utero listening to your voice and it can be a truly special time for the both of you to share.
  • Keep a journal of your baby’s progress and your feelings while in the NICU.
  • Say “hello” to other parents in the NICU or SCN and make time to chat with each other. The friendships and support networks formed in hospital will be a great comfort once you have been discharged as well.
  • Ask if you can keep mementos such as your baby’s first hospital bracelet, a (clean) tiny sized nappy, phototherapy mask, old leads and blood pressure cuff, in time you will look back and wonder how it was ever too big for them.
  • Take lots of photographs and videos of your baby. Some parents take pictures of their baby next to an item, such as mum or dad’s wedding band on the baby’s wrist or arm. This will give people an idea of your baby’s size later on.
  • Ask if you can take some hand/footprints if your baby is stable enough. You may also be able to arrange to have hand and foot casts made.
  • Be as much of an active participant in your baby’s day as you can, it’s all part of the preparation for graduation day.
  • Attend parent support sessions. Miracle Babies Foundation provide parent support in many NICU Hospitals allowing current families the opportunity to meet and share experiences and emotions with past graduate parents and each other.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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