The amount of preterm births is on the rise. A baby is classed as preterm if baby is born before 37 weeks. Some babies will be born preterm and still be healthy enough that you can take them home with you (as was the case with my middle child). However most of the time, preterm babies will need extra checks and scans and most likely a lengthy stay in the neonatal unit.
All NICU mums will know how stressful and traumatic it is to see your baby all hooked up to machines and drips. You are just about coming to terms with whats happened, whether you went into labour early or had to have a c section due to complications. Along come guests, friends and family to show their good wishes and support. As much as they are trying their hardest, sometimes they can say the wrong thing which can set us off in anger or tears. So heres a list of things NEVER to say to a NICU mum:
1) Hes so tiny
Yes he may be tiny but parents already know this. Babies that are born preterm are celebrated at every weight increase and I personally know the joyous feeling of getting baby weighed after 3 days and finding out that your baby has put on weight, seeing that the tiny baby clothes are no longer fitting him. We get so happy that hes getting bigger and fitter and then someone comes along and says “aww hes so small!”. I know they mean well but it sets our mindset back and forces us to remember that no matter how well he is doing, he is still behind in his development.
Try commenting on baby’s appearance in other ways like how cute baby is or any family resemblance. This is much more likely to be well received and even reach a smile!
2) Don’t be so paranoid about germs!
This phrase was a pet peeve of mine. Yes they are small and need to build their immune system but don’t make parents feel overprotective if they want to keep their premmie newborns away from people who have had serious illnesses or even just regular germs. Theres a reason why even parents are made to wash, scrub and even wear an apron before going to meet their own baby!
When preterm babies are finally discharged from the hospital, it’s usually with a careful set of guidelines for their care. Parents are told to limit contact with anyone who has been sick, to keep babys area clean as possible and family and friends should respect that.
“I would say the biggest thing I see that’s not well understood is that when a baby is born prematurely, their immune system is compromised … so if they get sick, it can set them back far more than a term baby,” said Nick Hall, founder and president of Graham’s Foundation, which provides support for parents of preemies and for related research.
People think the parents are being hyper-vigilant. But parents of preemies aren’t being over-the-top or rude. They’re simply being good parents and following the advice of medical professionals!
3) At least you can get some sleep at night!
Ahhhhh! Just because baby is in hospital, it doesn’t mean that mums are going to get a full nights sleep. We still have to get up to an alarm every three hours. Get our breast pumps out and sit at this pump for 20-25 mins (longer if you only had a single pump), then store the milk correctly, then wash all the pump bits and make sure its all sterilised ready for the next pump session. All in all, it would take an hour, roughly the same amount of time it would take to change a babys nappy, feed and put baby back to sleep. So, did we get a full nights sleep? Nope, sorry ladies, wherever your kids are, you wont be getting a full nights sleep!
4) Having a small baby must have made for an easy labour – less pushing involved!
Oh man! A baby is a baby. It doesn’t matter how big or small that baby is, it could still take 4 hours or 40 hours to push that baby out! It all depends on circumstance. I had no pushing because I had C sections. But again, the cut made is still the same size regardless of what size baby is. If anything, having a small baby is worse when having a C section because they is so much more room to move around. I remember my surgeon coming and telling me after that she had to get her hands in and pull him out because he kept slipping out of the forceps as well! So much trauma! We know you mean well and just want to make a light hearted joke but in the emotional state we are currently in, it will be mistaken and misinterpreted. Instead, focus on Mum and ask how she is coping with everything. Ask how the birth was. Maybe throw the joke in a few months down the line – it will be much more funny to us then!
5) Did you know he was coming early?
Some people are fortunate enough to know when there is a problem and can keep an eye on it. I had pre-eclampsia and so my blood pressure and size of baby was constantly getting checked and doctors decided on when they best time to take him out would be. But at the time, we didn’t say anything to anyone as we were working week by week to see how long we could push it. However some people go into spontaneous labour and have no clue that baby is coming early. Even knowing that baby was coming early, I hated this question because I had to answer yes and then everyone wanted me to explain everything. It was fine the first couple of times but after a while it got tedious. My advice would be to wait to see if Mum mentions it. If she does, then ask, but don’t push for reasons beyond what she tells you. She will tell you what she is comfortable telling you!
There are so many more that haven’t been mentioned yet, (maybe a part 2 will come soon!). We know you all mean well and it is well appreciated too. At times like this is when family and friends keep us afloat and we have that shoulder to vent on. So thank you to all those who have been a lovely support. Stay with us! We will get there!
Have you got any comments that you hated being asked? Let me know below!
x H x