Childbirth and motherhood can be a shock to the system, and we lean on the love and support around us to survive this season. So when a baby is born premature – the stress and challenges are amplified. And it really does take a village to get mama and bub through.
By Mama Disrupt®
Did you know that every year 15 million babies are born prematurely? And World Prematurity Day [November 17] is not only about raising awareness of preterm births, but also shining a light on the deaths and disabilities due to prematurity.
Your little bundle of love needs you more than ever right now… You can do this.
Having a preemie baby can be really scary – seeing your baby fighting for its life in the neonatal intensive care unit, with all the tubes and tape. It is a lot.
So it is no surprise that postnatal depression and anxiety is much higher in parents with premature bubbas.
But remember mama, your little bundle of love needs you more than ever right now. And there is help available. You can do this.
5 Things to do When Your Baby is Premature
1. Take a deep breath
Firstly, take a deep breath, mama. What you are going through is a lot right now. But know that the hospital staff are there to help and support you – whatever you need.
2. Ask lots of questions
Unless you have experienced a high risk pregnancy or had complications, giving birth to a premature baby is not something you would have thought about – let alone read up on, or known much about.
So don’t be afraid to ask LOTS of questions. Knowledge is power!
3. Look after your mental health
Mamas and papas who have a preemie babies are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer postnatal depression. So it has never been more important to look after yo’self.
“Many parents feel shock, guilt, and fear when their baby is born premature,” Miracle Babies Foundation CEO and Co-Founder Kylie Pussell says.
“The overwhelming and scary environment of the NICU is very technical and for many families an unknown and traumatic journey lies ahead. It can be very difficult to focus or think past the next few minutes or hours when your baby is in NICU, it can sometimes be hard to breathe as fear and anxiety take hold of your body.
“Being a new parent to a baby born premature can be one of the most challenging times of their lives, emotionally and at times financially.”
4. Nourish your baby [and know what options are available to you]
We know that breast milk is important for the growth and development of full-term babes, and it’s even more important for premature babies. They need all the goodness and nourishment they can get.
This is because important factors, such as DHA (a fatty acid vital for healthy brain and eye development) and immunoglobulin G (an antibody), are transported from mum to foetus via the placenta throughout pregnancy. So when they arrive early, they have not fully received these in the womb.
But #mumbods are so amazing, that the breast milk from mamas of preemies contains MORE fats and secretory immunoglobulin than milk from mothers of full-term babies. *mind-blown*
Premature babies also have immature gastrointestinal tracts, which can cause difficulties with digestion and absorption of nutrients, so they need a food that’s easy for their delicate guts to process. Breast milk contains enzymes that help your baby with digestion, as well as epidermal growth factor, which in turn helps their intestine mature.
If you are a preemie mama, and you can’t [for whatever reason] provide your bundle of love with enough breast milk at first, don’t stress, because they may be fed donor milk from other breastfeeding mums to bridge the gap.
5. Know what support is available
Miracle Babies has a 24-hour family support line, as well as support groups for preemie parents both within the hospital and once they are discharged.
There are also groups across Australia to support mamas with their mental health, including cope.org.au, gidgetfoundation.org.au or panda.org.au. They offer amazing support, often involving real mums who have been where you are. You are not alone.