Welcoming a new life into the world is a beautiful experience, but it can also be challenging, especially when your loved one arrives prematurely. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely yearly. As a parent of a premature baby, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted from juggling caregiving responsibilities and your own needs.
In this Unforgotten Families blog, we’ll explore the importance of balancing caregiving and self-care and provide tips to help you navigate this journey as a new parent with a premature baby.
What classifies a premature birth?
“A developing baby goes through important growth throughout pregnancy—including in the final months and weeks. Premature (also known as preterm) birth is when a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of death or serious disability.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Some common risk factors for preterm birth include multiple pregnancies, maternal age (under 18 or over 35), chronic health conditions, infections during pregnancy, stress, smoking, and substance abuse. However, in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown.
What do you need to know as a parent when caring for your premature baby?
Every family’s journey to caring for their preemie is unique, but here are a few things that will help you confidently navigate this new chapter.
- Whether your child is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or at home, as a parent, ensure you are getting enough rest and eating well. Asking other family members for help is also a great option so you can have some time to yourself. Remember, you must care for yourself before you can properly care for others.
- Avoid public places when possible and limit visitors.
“Most doctors recommend not visiting public places with preemies. And limit visitors to your home: anyone who is ill should not visit, nobody should smoke in your home, and all visitors should wash their hands before touching your baby. Talk to your doctor about specific recommendations — some family visits may need to be postponed until your little one’s immune system gets stronger.” – Nemours KidsHealth
- Suppose your preemie is temporarily cared for in the NICU. In that case, we encourage you to become familiar with the equipment to limit your feeling of stress and worry. Trust your team of healthcare professionals when they say that your baby receives the best possible care with innovative equipment and around-the-clock care.
Embrace the little things. We know it’s easier said than done, but through all the worry and challenges, take time to embrace even the littlest moments with your baby.
What resources or preemie support groups can parents connect with?
Several preemie support groups and premature resources are available to help you and your loved ones. While some of the organizations listed below are national or international, we highly encourage you to look into local groups in your area or contact your city’s public health department to find additional resources for premature support groups or services.