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.
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.