Having a baby born premature or requiring specialised care can be an emotional and overwhelming experience but know that support is available.
Miracle Babies Foundation provides support to families who have had a baby born premature or sick, connecting you with others who have had their own experience, and providing peer support, information and resources to help guide through your own experience.
Find below some tips and advice from other parents, to help you cope and also celebrate the milestones that your precious baby makes.
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 you are in the NICU. Journals become a great keepsake and you will be able to look at it and see how far your child has come.
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 video footage 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.
The routine hand washing can leave your hands very dry and cracked in a short amount of time. Invest in a good hand cream to help with dry hands and keep a hand sanitiser in your purse to use after you touch money, handrails, etc.
Celebrate every step and milestone however big or small. Your baby may have finally reached 1kg, come of CPAP or been in hospital 100 days. Photos, video footage, balloons or even a cake for those extra big events.
Leaving your baby in hospital can be a very emotional time. Do whatever it takes to help you feel okay, even if that means calling the hospital numerous times a night to check how your baby is doing. Be open to telling people you aren't coping or how you are REALLY feeling - you need the support too.
Some units allow you to provide your own clothes when the baby is stable enough to be dressed. For most mums, seeing their baby dressed for the first time is a truly memorable moment.
If your unit has a parent’s room, make use of it to read, watch television and chat with other parents.
If you feel you need a break from visitors, don’t feel guilty. Those that love you will understand so don’t be afraid to tell them when you need some space.
While your baby is sleeping, spend time just watching them. Observing their facial expressions and activities will help you to get to know your baby and their little personality.
Most units have a room set aside for expressing or breastfeeding. It is a wonderful place to spend time chatting with other mums who are going through the same experience as you.
Get as much rest as possible, try to drink plenty of water and eat well.
If people ask what they can do for you - cooked meals! A hearty meal after a long day at the hospital helps keep you healthy, maintain your milk supply, and people who care for you feel like they are doing something useful.
Above all, try and stay positive and be kind to yourself.
Visit www.miraclebabies.org.au to find out more about their support services. Their NurtureLine (24 Hour Family Support Line) is also accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Article supplied by Miracle Babies Foundation.