Did you know that preterm births account for 12% of births in the US? A premature baby is is one who is born between 27 and 34 weeks gestation. A baby born between 34 and 37 weeks are considered “late preterm,” and a baby born before 26 weeks is referred to as a “micro preemie.” It is not uncommon for babies who are born early to experience health issues, which is extremely scary and stressful for the family.
I asked local preemie moms to talk about the difficulties they encountered with their baby, and what people said or did that they found both hurtful and helpful. Their responses are below.
What Not to Say to a Preemie Parent
- “You know, there is such a thing as being overprotective” – said when the parents were following the doctor’s orders to keep their son out of crowds
- “You’re so lucky you can sleep at night” because here baby was in the NICU for seven weeks
- “Why can’t we see him? You’re keeping him all to yourself” – not understanding the seriousness of how sick a preemie can get
- “She’s too big to be in the NICU” – not all premature babies have low birth weights
- “Good thing she was born early because if you were full term she would have been 11 pounds” – it is never a good thing when a baby is born before she’s ready
- “Why was the baby born early? Did you have (insert medical condition)?”
- “How come your baby isn’t (rolling over, sitting up, walking, etc) yet?” – preemies will hit milestones when they are developmentally ready
- “You’re so lucky you had your baby early! I’m over being pregnant and just want to deliver already!”
- “She’s so tiny!” – yes, I can see that. But compared to how little my baby was at birth, she’s quite big now!
- “Should you really have the baby out?” – preemie parents don’t do anything that would deliberately put their baby’s health at risk. This outing was likely approved (and encouraged) by the pediatrician.
- “When is she coming home?” – preemie parents want to know that, too, but a lot can happen with a premature baby and their “going home” date can change. When they know, they’ll let you know (or they may wait until they’re on their way home, and that’s fine, too).
What’s Hard About Having a Preemie
- Finding clothing that fits – a lot of stores don’t stock preemie clothing or have a large selection
- Getting a car seat that your baby is big enough for – many of them have a minimum weight of 5 pounds
- Buying formula for preemies – often times stores do not have it in stock and it must be ordered
What’s Helpful for the Parents of Preemies
- “Letting me cry when I need to”
- “Offering prayers/positive thoughts”
- “Bringing me food or coffee at the hospital”
- How understanding and comforting the nurses were in the NICU
One woman shared this photo of her son who was born 10.5 weeks early. He weighed 2lbs 2 oz ans was 14.5″ long. Every year she takes a picture of her son with a picture from when he was first born and sends it to the NICU that saved his life. He is 16 now. What a wonderful way to keep track of his progress and thank the nurses who made such a difference.