FIVE Things You Learn as a Preemie Parent

Navigating the journey of having a new preemie baby is a unique experience filled with learning, discovery, and a range of emotions. Here are FIVE insights that might prove helpful to new preemie parents:

  1. Kangaroo Care Isn't about Australian Wildlife: Kangaroo Care, also known as Skin-to-skin care, is immensely beneficial for your baby. Beyond the adorable animal association, this practice involves placing your baby on your bare chest (for fathers) or between your bare breasts (for mothers). The direct skin contact and close proximity foster bonding, compensating for some lost bonding time in the womb. Nursing staff often cover both you and your baby with a warm blanket, creating a cozy environment for this precious cuddle time.

  2. Delayed Feeding Milestones: Your preemie might not be ready to breastfeed or take a bottle right away. The natural sucking reflex typically develops around 32 weeks of pregnancy and fully matures by 36 weeks. Preemies born early may lack this reflex, leading medical staff to use feeding tubes initially. Oral stimulation through pacifiers or fingers is encouraged to develop the sucking reflex gradually.

  3. Bonding Takes Time: Bonding with your preemie may take extra time, given the hospital setting and the presence of medical staff. While the NICU may lack the coziness of a home nursery, work with the staff to personalize your baby's space. Incorporate family photos or a small blanket with your scent. Finding cute preemie clothes suitable for the NICU environment can make the experience more enjoyable and help create a connection between you and your little miracle.

  4. Post-NICU Therapy May Be Needed: The emotional toll of witnessing your baby undergo numerous medical procedures in the NICU can be akin to post-traumatic stress. The constant sounds of beepers and alarms, coupled with uncertainty, can impact your emotional well-being. Many hospitals offer social services and supportive care, so don't hesitate to seek help. Taking care of yourself is crucial, ensuring you're in good emotional health when your baby finally comes home.

  5. Emotional Roller Coaster: The NICU journey is an emotional roller coaster for many parents. Fluctuating between moments of joy, sadness, and anxiety is a common experience. Recognize that these emotions are part of the journey. Holding onto hope and faith can be a powerful gift to yourself during this roller coaster ride that, unlike Disneyland, is not always filled with thrills but requires resilience and optimism.

Embrace the journey, and remember that each day brings new opportunities for growth, connection, and celebration.