Supporting a friend with a premature baby

Coping with the early arrival of a longed for baby can throw parents and families into disarray, but how, as a friend, can you support them through this difficult time?

There are two things to consider; what can I do to help practically and how can I help them emotionally?

First, the practical support

Going beyond words, giving real, practical help when they are stretched to the limit is absolutely vital. Whether it’s helping with other children, walking the dog, the school run, shopping, laundry, cooking, lifts to the hospital – you name it and they’ll need it.

If you’re thinking of giving clothes for the baby, make sure they’re very easy to put on and take off as well as kind to their skin – loose necklines and armholes are good. It is worth seeking out Preemie and Early sizes if possible. Most parents won’t have bought these smaller sizes and putting babies in clothes that are way too big simply highlights their size and fragility.

Your friends will spend the first few weeks shuttling to and from the hospital, so offers of lifts, or meeting them there for a coffee or lunch will give them a breather and some company without them feeling guilty about not being near their baby.

Premature babies are very sensitive to touch, noise and infection, and their parents are understandably highly protective, so don’t be offended if they are reluctant to let you have much access to the new baby, even when they have come home from the hospital.

Emotional support

Celebrate as you normally would when a baby is born. This allows the parents to celebrate too and helps to avoid dwelling on the negative implications. Little gifts for Mum and Dad will help them to feel loved and supported.

Everybody deals with this situation differently. Some people prefer to cope alone or with a few close friends and family, others need lots of people around for support. However, your friends choose to react, respect their wishes, but let them know you’re there for them when they need you.

A text, email, quick phone call or voice mail or even a good old-fashioned card in the post are all simple ways to let parents know you’re thinking of them. Don’t be hurt or offended if you don’t hear back though – they’ve got a lot on their plate.

Your friends will undoubtedly show less interest in what’s happening in your life or indeed anything that is going on around them. Try to not to react if they forget a special occasion or can’t get to an important event. It’s not that they don’t care – it’s just that right now, all their energy and focus will be on their new baby.

The above are just a few suggestions, to help your friends through the first few weeks after their baby is born. It’s worth remembering that the emotional and practical impact of having a premature baby can last long after the child comes home, though, so don’t let the practical and emotional support dry up until their need has truly passed.

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Supporting a friend with a premature baby