Becoming a parent weeks or months earlier than you planned can be an overwhelming experience.  Preemies Today has a variety of resources to help new preemie parents.  You can join our on-line forum, where you can ask questions among a community with over 1,000 other preemie parents.  You can also request a Parent-to-Parent Match, which will pair you with a parent mentor to help support you during your baby’s NICU stay and first few months at home. 

Advice from Veteran Preemie Parents

We asked our members what advice they would give new preemie parents and their recommendations are below:
  • Although it is one of the hardest thing to do, take care of yourself.  NICU parents can undergo a significant amount of physical, emotional, and psychological stress.  Try to take time to eat well and sleep.
  • Ask lots of questions.  Do not be afraid to ask your baby’s doctors and nurses lots of questions.  If you do not understand something or need them to repeat information, do not hesitate to ask.
  • Keep a journal.  You can bring it with you when you go to the NICU and write down the names of your baby’s doctors and nurses, your baby’s weight and length, and information about feeding, medications, and medical equipment.
  • Take lots of pictures!
  • Find out when your baby's "touch times" are. This is when the nurse changes the diaper, takes the temperature and rotates the baby (usually every 3-4 hours). You can plan to be there for "touch times" and actually do it yourself. It can help you feel useful and involved, especially if you can't hold the baby much due to medical reasons.
  • Set up a blog through Caring Bridge, Wordpress, or another site.  A blog can help you process your emotions and provide consistent updates to all your family members and friends so you do not have to repeat the same information.
  • Trust your instincts.  You spend lots of time with your baby and if something does not seem right, please let your baby’s doctor or nurse know.  
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to hold and/or provide kangaroo care to your baby.  Do not be afraid to ask your nurses to help you offer kangaroo care.  You and your baby can both experience benefits from the skin-to-skin contact of kangaroo care.
  • Be a strong advocate for your baby to ensure you are comfortable with the care and attention your child receives.
  • Get to know your baby’s stress cues. These cues may include hiccups, apnea, bradycardia, or holding the hand in front of the face. Ask a nurse to help you.
  • Don't feel guilty about spending time away from the NICU. Your baby is in good hands.
  • Remember you are not alone.  It can be very helpful to talk to other preemie parents through either Preemies Today or meeting other parents at your baby’s NICU.  Connecting with other preemie parents can make the NICU experience seem a lot less isolating and provide support and encouragement.
  • Make a point to get to know the nurses and doctors as people.  It will make it much easier on you to leave the NICU and help you truly feel that they are in good hands with their caregivers.
  • Bring in photos, good luck charms, blankets, or other items to decorate your baby’s isolette or crib and make your baby’s area seem more personal.  If you are not sure of your hospital’s policy, ask your baby’s nurse.
  • Don't be afraid if your baby's isolette has been moved when you arrive.  Babies are rearranged for all kinds of reasons.  If you have a reason why you feel your baby should be moved to a different area, speak up, too!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, and co-workers for help.  Many of them would probably love to help you but do not know how.
  • Consider seeing a counselor to help you deal with the emotions associated with a premature birth, especially if you are dealing with the grief of losing a baby.
  • Say daily affirmations and/or focus on gratitude.  The brain cannot simultaneously experience both fear and gratitude so reminding yourself of what you and your baby have going for you (e.g., My baby is getting great medical care) can help reduce stress.
  • Don't feel guilty.  You did nothing wrong. You and your doctors may never know why you delivered early.
  • Pray.
  • Meditate.
  • Take one day at a time.