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A midwife shares five simple ways you can support the parents of a premature baby.

Each day around the world one in ten babies are born prematurely. In Australia alone, there are more than 27,000 such births every year. More than 27,000 little ones who must spend their first weeks in humidicribs instead of their parents’ arms.

The toll this can take on families is significant; from the emotional trauma of watching their baby fight for life, to the financial burden brought by medical care and time off work.

Today is World Prematurity Day, a global event to increase awareness of preterm births and strive for improvements in treatment and care for babies and their loved ones.

Here, midwife Liz Wilkes shares her tips for supporting a friend or loved one who is going through this uniquely trying experience.

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1. Celebrate when the baby is born.

While the new bub and parents may face a challenging journey ahead of them, depending on how early the baby is born, it is important that people still celebrate in meaningful ways. In most situations it is still appropriate to send a gift, flowers or a card to congratulate them on becoming new parents.

2. Offer your time and support.

The parents of a premature baby may be stressed, exhausted and emotional, which can make it tricky to know how to best support them through this time. Generally parents can find it very difficult to leave bub for a break, and may have to remain by the baby’s side for weeks. Offering to do other jobs at home, bringing meals, providing transport and keeping one of the parents company at the hospital whilst the other rests will be appreciated.

Encouraging self-care for the new parents is also important, because it will be one of their last priorities. Check they have someone in their close friendship and/or family circle, as well as in the hospital, to talk to about their concerns and worries, with professional help available if they need additional support.

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Watch premmie twins from Victoria holding hands as they snuggle with their dad…

3. Help the mum with breastfeeding challenges.

Mum will be working hard to try and establish milk supply earlier than expected, which can be a significant challenge. Whilst in hospital she may be able to use an internal system, however once home it’s a good idea to have a high-quality, comfortable breast pump, which may help mum to stimulate milk supply and flow. Time is of the essence for mums expressing for premature babies, and something like the Philips Avent Comfort Double electric breast pump may collect a larger volume of milk, faster.

4. Consider practical gifts for the parents…

Parents of a premature baby will be spending the majority of their time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Unit (SCN) depending on babies gestation. It is important for them to be able to carry breast milk safely and therefore transfer bags could be a good present.

Other options include a good book or Kindle device, or a magazine subscription to occupy the hours of quiet time in hospital.

5. …And for the baby.

Gifts for the baby can be difficult to buy as they are too small for most clothing. When baby arrives early, parents are often not ready and may not have had time to hold a baby shower, so it might be a good idea to ask what essentials are still needed. Sometimes the best gifts are also the simplest, such as gift cards, soft toys or flowers. If you can find premature baby clothes, these will also be greatly appreciated.

Liz Wilkes has been a midwife for over two decades years and is an ambassador for Philips Avent.

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