23 Things All Moms of Preemies Should Know

Mandy Velez | Apr 22, 2019 Baby
23 Things All Moms of Preemies Should Know
Image: iStock

preemie hand

Having a premature baby is hard, but it's not new. Moms have been giving birth to babies earlier for centuries, and thanks to technology and incredible doctors and nurses, the quality of life for these babes and their parents is more manageable than ever. Still, it's never easy, no matter how many improvements in care have happened. There are some ways to help other moms and oneself, because anyone has the chance to become a preemie mom. Whether it's ways to help them, things not to say to them, or learning from the experience of preemies moms, they all help build understanding about what it's like to experience having a child early. 

So how can one understand what it's like or what to expect as things unfold? CafeMom went right to the source, and moms who have had preemies shared their thoughts. We also found sound advice from moms of preemies on Reddit, who have posted about the things they wish they had known or want other moms of preemies to know. Some of it's sad, some of it's uplifting, but all of the advice comes from the heart of people who have been there. Sometimes, that's the biggest piece of encouragement of all. Sure, parents need to keep track of feedings and medical issues, but preemie parents aren't alone. There are so many other moms out there slugging between home and the hospital, feeling guilty for even leaving or not having enough time for their other kids.

That's the takeaway of these bits of advice: It's OK to feel these things. It's OK to feel sad. It's normal to feel guilty. But there's help available in the form of friends, family, and even nurses. And asking for it is a good way to get it. It's definitely not easy, but it's possible to get through life with a preemie. We hope this advice can help. 

  • It's a Form of Trauma


    "Having a baby early and in the NICU with health issues is extended trauma and we need to take care of our mental health THROUGHOUT. Coming home from the hospital is usually when support dries up because people assume everything is good, but really it’s just the beginning of a different part of a hard journey. #PTSD." -- Kari C. 

  • Basic Baby Items Are Needed


    "She wished she had more options in terms of baby things. In the scramble to get to the hospital for her C section, we were rushing around looking for BASIC things like clothes and diapers for the baby, and they were surprisingly hard to find!." -- Delaney R., friend of preemie mom

  • Prepared Meals Are a Lifesaver


    "I learned quickly that what she needs most is prepared meals so I try to go once a week and cook for her for the week! My mom is there all week this week to cook and help feed the baby. It's a huge amount of work, even if your baby is healthy." -- Delaney R., friend of preemie mom

  • It's Normal To Feel Guilty


    Mom guilt is real, but it is a "totally normal feeling. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry at home too. The feelings of guilt will subside. As others said you aren't abandoning your child, your leaving her in professional care in the exact place she needs to be at the moment." -- HulkTheHitmanStatus

  • Befriending the Hospital Staff Makes Things Easier


    "Partner with the nurses. They're there bc they are tops at providing excellent care for babies and parents alike. They will make your lives much easier if you let them." -- dunimal

  • Sacrifices May Need To Be Made


    "Things weren't easy at home, I (dad) quit my job to be his little helper. He was oxygen dependant, trached, ng tube. It all got easier with time. Still really hard, but easier." -- HulktheHitmanStatus

  • NICU Might Have a Counselor Available


    "All I can say is it's ok to be sad and feel everything. I found our NICU had a social counselor who helped listen to mom's and she was really helpful in helping me process the NICU journey." -- pixelpunchout

  • Build a Milk Supply if Breastfeeding Is an Option


    "Now's the time to work on milk supply - work with the NICU lactation consultants and prioritize making sure mom has enough food and sleep (neither of which is easy to achieve if you are pumping around the clock)." -- [deleted]

  • Leave the NICU


    "I have twins in the nicu and it's been important for me to know when to leave the hospital. I made the mistake of staying way too long the first few days and was a super zombie for so long. It gets easy to stay there all day. Don't forget to take care of yourself." -- Piperoo

  • Ask for Help


    "Ask for help. Start asking anyone and everyone who can/Will come through for you. You will need friends and family to support you and your other kids with things like emergency and planned childcare, meals, rides etc." -- dunimal

  • Don't forget To Make Time for the Other Kids


    "Each parent must have time alone. Dad needs exercise. Older kids need exercise -- if you are not staying some place with a pool, get a membership to a pool and swim as much as possible with the kids. This is a guaranteed kid exhauster." -- yankowitch

  • "Learn all the wires and beeps. Then learn to ignore them."


    "There's a ton of things that could be hooked up to your little girl: wires, machines, ventilators, leads, tubes, etc. All of it will be hooked to machines that monitor vitals or control various things. Those things beep lots. And lots. Learn them and they become way less scary. Alarms may not be that bad. Feel free to ask a passing nurse to check on their machine if you think it's bad or it gets annoying. Then let it all the beeps fade into the background and focus on your daughter. The nurses are also pros at maneuvering the wires to move the babies out and about if needed." -- matchton

  • Do "Kangaroo Care"


    "Two words: kangaroo care. As much as possible, as often as possible. Skin to skin with baby. Dad can do it too! It's not just an emotional, feel-good thing. It's a scientific thing too. My child couldn't regulate temperature, couldn't breathe, could barely manage the sucking reflex... but all these things were measurably improved during and following kangaroo care. Best thing I ever did, and for as weird as it might sound, I really believe it's also the reason my child and I are still, many years later, completely obsessed with each other." -- paperparasol

  • Take Pictures (Even If It Feels Weird)


    "Take pictures. I know this sounds like silly advice, but my negative mother told me I shouldn't take pictures of my oldest son while he was there because he had an iv in his scalp. Young stupid me listened to her and now I regret it very much." -- ninjamom728

    "My husband took a ton of pictures of my girls when they were in the NICU. I thought it was weird to take pictures of desperately ill babies, but now I'm glad I have them." -- [deleted]

  • Read Up


    Though there is no set guide to having a preemie, because each family and situation is different, books can help give an idea of what to expect. One preemie parent redditor recommends one called "Preemies."

  • Speak Up


    "Trust the nurses, but don't be afraid to speak up about something that's worrying you, no matter how small. Part of their job is communicating with you." -- breakingborderline

  • Don't Come in if You're Sick


    "Do not come in if you're feeling under the weather. The stress of wondering if you've exposed your kid to something isn't worth it. Take the chance to get some rest." — breakingborderline

  • Consider a Facebook Page To Keep Loved Ones Updated


    "The influx of care and concern for our son from family and friends was overwhelming, and keeping everyone updated was pulling us away from our son. Neither my husband nor I like having our extended family on our own pages (Great Aunt Martha doesn't appreciate dick jokes), so we created an account for our son that everyone could follow. We'd post updates and pictures a few times a day, and we were no longer flooded with calls." -- rbaltimore

  • Write Everything Down


    "You are in a privileged position, don't squander it: write everything down. Get a moleskin or some bound notebook, and keep track of what's going on. Attend rounds, stay quiet, and keep track of what orders were given, written, and what orders were carried out. My notes on my son became a grand rounds topic for pediatrics. Lessons were learned." -- grep2grok

  • Long Walks Can Help


    "I would strongly recommend you and your wife get in the habit of going on long walks. I don't entirely understand why, although I think norepinephrine is involved, but long walks (runs, bike rides, etc) with a friend, are a tremendous aid to focus the mind on the issue of the day, planning, and sorting things out." -- grep2grok

  • It's OK To Have Rules for Visitors


    "We didn’t have a preemie (preterm but not preemie). But we have friends who have and they imposed VERY STRICT rules. You have a sniffle? Please don’t visit. You want to hold the baby? Wash your hands. Anyone who was belligerent about the rules could take a hike for all everyone else was concerned. Also, only very close family visited at first and everyone understood completely." -- seabalo

  • Don't Forget To Sleep


    "Sleep. Whenever you can, and as much as you can. Our second was only three weeks early, but she aspirated fluid during delivery and earned herself a trip to the NICU that wound up being a week long thanks to a case of jaundice. We slept on recliners in her room, and basically slept whenever there wasn't a need to be awake." -- geekymama

  • Things Will Get Better

    Things will get better

    "To the parents currently in the NICU, I can assure you that things do get better and that the future is so exciting! My son was born at 29+6 in August, and is now a happy, healthy little dude." -- coffeepupper

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