November 9, 2016
The chances are that you or someone you know have had a baby born prematurely – before 37 weeks of pregnancy. After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 1 in every 10 babies born in 2014 made their debuts early. While many organizations are working to lower this number, an estimated 15 million babies continue to be born too early every year.
Many of these babies will spend time in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and have talented medical professionals care for them around the clock. Understandably, this is difficult for parents who watch their strong babies fight to thrive. It can also be difficult for the parents’ friends and family, who may feel helpless.
Does that sound like you? While you may not be able to wave a magic wand and make the baby healthy enough to come home, there are many things you can do to help the parents. Here are a few suggestions on how to assist parents who have a preemie in the NICU:
Bring Healthy Food
Parents with a baby in the NICU spend all their energy on their baby, leaving no time to cook a decent meal. Hospital food and fast food can get tiring and unhealthy quickly. Make a few freezer meals with simple directions on reheating and give them to the family. Think crockpots, casseroles, and things like that. They will appreciate the gesture and the homemade meal.
Find the Right Time
Of course, you may also want to see the family’s new addition and give your love. Make sure to ask ahead of time if the family would like visitors and what time would be best for the family. Be mindful of how the family is feeling and leave when it seems right.
Take Photos, the Right Way
To make the visit extra meaningful, take candid photos while you are there, and don’t post them anywhere. In the heat of the moment, the parents may not be thinking about capturing these trying times on film. However, they may cherish these photos later. Hold onto them until the time is right.
Sometimes babies in the NICU can’t be held too often. However, there are other ways that parents can form the much-needed bond with their babies. Consider bringing books, music, or small blankets that the parents can use to feel closer to the baby. They can read inspiring stories or sing along to the happy music. If you bring a small bit of cloth, the parents can sleep with the blanket and then give it to the baby to snuggle.
Just Be There
Sometimes no words of encouragement or grand gesture can be as comforting as just the act of being there.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Please share so that everyone knows how to help premature babies and their parents during a NICU stay. For more tips, follow Epic Health Services on Facebook.