Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What can I do to help?

When someone you care about has a premature baby it’s natural to want to help out. Often their baby came unexpectedly so the new parents may not know how to answer that question. Chances are they are feeling overwhelmed and scared. The NICU veterans on TB gathered together a list of ideas and suggestions to give you direction. Perhaps you are the new preemie mom – here are some ideas for when people ask. During this time you should be concentrating on your LO and your SO (and don’t forget yourself!). When someone wants to help, allow them. You won’t regret it!

·         Drop off home cooked meals. Have the family leave a cooler on the porch and put food inside so they don't have to cook or entertain guests.

·         Prepare meals that can be kept in the freezer and used as needed.

·         Walk pets, clean house, do laundry, tend to their garden/yard.

·         Provide rides to the hospital if mom cannot drive (after a c-section) or they rely on public transportation.

·         Sit with the family if they want company. Focus on your friend and don’t ask to hold their baby. They will offer you a turn if they feel comfortable.

·         Be the contact person so they don't have to call everyone with news/updates.

·         Pick up the following baby items: blankets, preemie/newborn clothes (no zippers or feet), hats, and socks. Also "normal" baby items like onesie month stickers that help keep NICU memories.

·         Make sure they know what freedom to expect in NICU. Once cleared with their doctors/nurses they may bring in clothes and bedding, decorate the crib with pictures, leave a Boppy for all the BF’ing practice they’ll do.

·         Some ideas for mom: nice water bottle, cooler bag for milk (Pack-it brand is excellent), hand lotion (scent-free is best because preemies are sensitive to fragrance), sanitizer, "to go" snacks, hands free pumping bra, nursing cover so she doesn’t have to rely on screens. Gift card for a mani, pedi or massage when Mom is ready. Haircuts are good ideas, too! We fall apart in there. Notebook/journal is great to keep track of time and events. “Mom’s One Line A Day” is a lovely gift and available on Amazon.

·         Gift cards for miscellaneous places (like Target or BRU), gas cards, or card for a restaurant near the hospital.

·         Provide magazines to read while sitting there.

·         Suggest getting a Kindle/purchase a new book for them.

·         Help mom pick out clothes that are easy to kangaroo in. It’s terrible to show up to see your LO only to discover your shirt is too tight to slip LO against your skin.

·         You don’t have to be local to help! One preemie mom said she got a great care package from some friends when they were in the NICU.  It included gift cards to fast food restaurants, snacks, oatmeal (to help with milk supply), hand sanitizer wipes, playing cards, magazines, a blanket, some preemie clothes, and some little signs to decorate his NICU room.  

·         Remember healthy foods! A fruit basket sent to the home would rock.

or select something from their registry.

Things to say/not to say:

Instead of, "Oh, he's so tiny!" try "Oh, what a beautiful baby!" NICU is intimidating – tune it all out. Your friend needs you to be strong.

Please don’t ask, "So does this mean he'll have health problems later on?"

When a preemie mom tells you about her baby's success, rejoice with her and don't compare her baby to a full term baby even if it sounds minor to you. One mom shared that when she was bragging to her mom about how Lillian took 15mL from a bottle, her mother replied that was not much. Heartbreaking! We celebrate every gram, every mL, and every little thing.

If you receive a mass email, read a public post or blog entry, or see a status, don't immediately call to talk. It doesn’t matter if the news is good or bad, that one update took a lot of emotional energy. By all means respond back if you’d like but in a non-rushed way (email, comment on the blog, or just text asking to call when I feel up to it). Feel out the situation – while we need our friends and family more than ever it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Expect mood swings.

One of our least favorite lines: "When can I come visit you and bring my 2 germy toddlers who are sick? I really want to see the baby!" You get the point! Instead say, "I'd love to visit when you are up for it. I'll be sure to leave my kids at home and make sure my hands are washed."

Compliment them on their adorable babies! Tell them how great they look in all those FB pictures. If you don’t see many give some gentle encouragement. Maybe she’s worried she’ll frighten others.

Weeks later don't admit that you were worried their baby was going to have the "alien preemie look" and how glad you were they wound up looking "normal."

Tell us about YOU – we want to be distracted!

However not all moms do. Again, tread lightly and assess her mood. One mom wrote, “Don’t assume since my baby is in the NICU that means I want to get out and have coffee and girl time. All I want to do is be with my baby. Offer to bring coffee to me, but don't think this is a great time to catch up after weeks of bedrest since I "don't have to worry about bringing the baby out."

Remember that it's not just mom going through this, it's DH too. Please, please remember dad!  Volunteer to take on some of his "man tasks" like mowing the lawn; he’s scared and overwhelmed, too.

Is she crafty? Bring supplies! or maybe she’d like a crochet lesson from you!

We hope this helps you help them or you help yourselves…………..you know what I mean! NICU is an abyss. It’s hard. It’s tiring. It will end. It doesn’t feel like it will, but it does, and you’ll even have some fond memories. Remember to save your baby’s first diaper! You’ll be amazed when you see it down the line.


The Preemie Moms


Precious and priceless so lovable too, the world’s sweetest littlest miracle is, a baby like you.

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