I’ve recently met several parents of premature babies and it’s hard to fully appreciate how stressful it can be when you haven’t gone through it yourself. I didn’t realize that some moms/dads stay at the hospital for weeks (!!!) while their preemie babies are growing.
There are a slew of online articles on the subject which can help. BabyCenter, for example, is a great resource for what type of care preemie babies need. We also found a great article on how to help preemie parents in the NICU which you can read here.
What is clear from reading up on this is that parents of premature babies experience many different emotions including fear, powerlessness and feeling disconnected from their baby. Imagine getting ready for your baby’s arrival home and then having to quickly shift into hospital mode. We sympathize with any new parent going through this.
Some ideas to help the parents
I’ve asked some of these parents what they want/need/expect from those closest to them. Some parents are too tired or emotionally exhausted to even think of anything. Others want to be left alone. While everyone is different, here are some ideas on how to help without getting in the way:
Prepare/buy a healthy meal
Hospital food isn’t always that great so a nice homemade or healthy meal can’t hurt. Be sure to include utensils and condiments.
Offer a couple of hours of help if they need it
A quick email offering your time for whatever the parents may need, even a small break from the hospital or babysitting other children will be very much appreciated.
Cover some expenses
Cover the cost of hospital parking or offer a gift card to the hospital’s coffee shop. It can get pretty expensive!
Offer a Netflix subscription or an Apple Itunes gift card. There’s not much to do at the hospital and entertainment can definitely help pass the time.
Sometimes, all it takes is a quick note saying that you’re thinking about them and are there if they need you.
Whatever you do, everyone needs to know that there are people who love them and care about them. Getting that point across with an email or a quick note is easy and will be appreciated.