With approximately 40 weeks to prepare for a new baby, it’s easy for expecting parents to prioritize and put off tasks that can wait, but if their baby is born prematurely it can throw everything off during an already emotional time. Friends and family can make the situation a little less stressful by knowing a few different
ways to support parents of a premature baby. Between logistics, preparations, and their general well being, preemie parents can use all the help they can get.
When you think of a premature baby, the image of a teeny baby in the NICU likely comes to mind, but premature babies are born any time before the 37-week mark, according to
March of Dimes, so many parents get to take their early arrival home with them, but that doesn’t mean their house is totally prepared or that they’re not also overwhelmed. No matter when the baby is born, new parents could use a little extra love and support.
Even the smallest gesture could mean the world to the new parents. Dropping off some coffee, picking up some diapers, or just letting them know you’re there to help are all things that will make them feel a little less alone during an otherwise difficult time. Here are some more ways you can help support new preemie parents.
Chances are good they didn’t stock up their pantry with necessities before heading to the hospital (and that any produce they did have in the house is on its last leg), so offer to pick them up or have them delivered. If they’re going back and forth to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), get some quick/easy food to make after a long day, and if they’re coming home with their new baby find out if they need some formula for the baby or bread and milk for themselves.
Drop Off Whatever Their Hospital Bag Is Missing
Packing the hospital suitcase takes time, and it’s very likely they forgot something during the panic or rush. After they get to the hospital and calm down a little, ask if they need anything and offer to bring it. Something as simple as a pair of pajama pants or an extra phone charger can make a big difference.
Listen If They’re Overwhelmed
Having a baby early is scary, emotional, and overwhelming, especially if the baby has a NICU stay ahead of them. Even if you can’t relate to their situation, listen to them when they need to vent, cry, or just be angry. Having a sounding board will help them get their feelings out and will let them feel heard during a time that is completely out of their control.
Help Cancel Or Reschedule Appointments
Expecting parents may try to squeeze in some appointments before the baby arrives because they know they’ll be short on time (or exhausted) once they bring their baby home. So, offer to cancel or reschedule their dentist, eye, hair, or whatever appointment for them. It might be a huge relief to have one less task on their to-do list.
Order Some Preemie Onesies, PJs, & Diapers
Oftentimes, early babies are swimming in newborn size clothes and diapers. Take it upon yourself to order some
preemie onesies, footie pajamas, and diapers and have them delivered to their house. Bonus points if you have them delivered to you and are able to toss the clothes into the washer with detergent formulated to be gentle on Baby's skin (you never know if their skin will react to specific products) so they can use them right away.
Offer To Clean The House
A lot of parents like to bring their baby home to a clean house, because who wants to put their baby down for tummy time on an unswept floor? While they’re at the hospital, ask if you can go pick up the house a little bit for them, or even send a service. No one wants to come home to a sink full of dirty dishes or a nursery with piles of onesies that need to be put away.
Find Out What Necessities They Still Need
They probably already have the big things like a crib, but maybe they didn’t have time to get the car seat installed or pick up a few swaddles or pacifiers. Offer to help out with some of those small, but important, tasks so they don’t have to. Even if the baby has a long NICU stay ahead of them, this is one less thing for its parents to have to worry about.
Help With Their Older Kids
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If this isn’t their first baby, they may not have childcare lined up for the older kids just yet, which adds a whole other layer to the already-stressful situation. Offer to have the kids over to your house (or go to theirs) for an overnight or two so they don’t have to worry about managing that situation just yet.
Visit When They’re Ready (& Respect Their Space When They’re Not)
Depending on the situation, the parents may want to have a visitor or two to sit with them in the NICU or their hospital room, so don’t be afraid to offer. If they don’t want visitors just yet, they will probably let you know. In that case, respect their space and offer to help in another way until they’re ready to see friends and relatives.
Send Meals & Gift Cards If Their Baby Is In The NICU
For a lot of NICU parents, it’s hard to leave the baby even to eat. You can help by sending over lunch or a gift card to have something delivered to them. Even if they can’t have food in the baby’s room when they have food sitting in front of them they may be more likely to step away to eat.
Offer To Update Friends & Family For Them
Well-meaning friends and family will be eager to ask parents for updates on everyone’s health and well being, but answering 10+ individual texts or calls is exhausting, especially if things are rocky. Offer to be their liaison to update everyone on their behalf. This way, they only have to tell one person what’s going on instead of fielding questions or getting unwanted advice.
Tell Them Their Baby Is Beautiful
Premature babies don’t come out looking plump like full-term babies, and if they’re in the NICU they’ll have wires and cords coming off them. Even so, tell the parents how beautiful their baby is, because it is! It’s something every new parent wants to hear and will help make the parents smile.
Parents of premature babies have a lot to unexpectedly process and manage when their baby arrives. Kind gestures, big or small, from friends and family will be so appreciated. Anything you can do to make things a little easier for them and allow them to focus their attention on the baby won’t soon be forgotten.