For many women like myself, a premature birth is not something they are expecting, let alone something they can prepare for most premature babies come as a complete shock. But if you’r fortunate to know some time before hand that you may deliver a prem there are some things you can do to prepare for her arrival.
Get in touch with you local NICU/SCBU
- One the most common things our mums tell us is to meet the staff and get a tour of the unit your baby will be staying in. Your midwife/obstetrician should be able to put you in touch.
- Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want – maybe take notes! Take your partner or a support person if you can too. They will ask questions you may not think of and remember it later on.
- On your tour, find out where everything is kept and what you need to bring. Some units supply meals and even prem clothing (for more on clothing see below).
- Ask how involved you will be in your baby’s care – nappy changes and feeds etc.
- Find out if there are rooms for you to stay in once you have been discharged from hospital.
- This is also a good time to discuss feeding your baby and expressing.
NB. Auckland NICU has an online video tour.
Join support groups such as Early Buds online but avoid Google – you’ll fear the worst and cause yourself unnecessary stress. Women who have been there before you can offer some of the best support and advice.
Organise some preemie clothing
Depending on your gestational period, you may want to buy some prem sized clothing.
Some mums says their babies outgrew prem clothing quickly however others wear prem sizes for several months. Perhaps have a few items on hand but wait until baby arrives to see what sizes you need.
Most units have prem clothes you can use and they do the laundry too. You’ll have plenty of washing to do when you get home so make the most of this while you can. Some hospitals or NICU stores hire out pre-loved prem clothing. We have a lovely range of essentials in our store.
Look after yourself
Get plenty of rest while you can – relax and sleep often.
You are going to need the support of your family and close friends, so tell them what to expect. We have a great section on our website with advice for people supporting parents of prems HERE.
Find out about the unit’s visiting hours and let your support people know.
You might also need to arrange for people to keep an eye on your house and feed your pets.
It may be some time before your baby breastfeeds but you can still ensure your baby gets a great start by expressing milk until they are ready to feed. Buy or hire a good, hospital-grade, electric breast pump. If you can, a double pump is much more efficient. These can be bought at good baby stores or chemists. Again, the nurses in NICU/SCBU can recommend which breast pump to use and where to hire them – often the hospital hires them out.
- The nurses will also be able to show you where and how to store your milk.
- You might also like to stock up on breast pads. Some mums recommend fenugreek to boost your milk supply – you can get this at chemists and health shops.
- Baking feeding biscuits or oaty cookies like Anzacs to take to hospital with you is also a good idea.
- Speak up or look for support online if you feel expressing/breastfeeding is not working for you.
Get your hospital bag ready
Ensure your hospital bag is ready – some items our mums recommend packing are:
- A drink bottle
- Summer tops or singlets (it’s very warm in the units)
- Your own coffee mug and some quality coffee
- Rescue Remedy or Rescue Remedy Sleep
- A journal and pen
- Books and magazines
- A nice, mild hand cream as your hands dry out from all the sanitising
Prepare some food
- Cook and freeze some meals for at home but also to take to the unit with you. Include snacks, easy lunches and dinners. Anything that will help you avoid eating from the vending machine 24/7
- Some units provide meals for mothers – ask about this on your tour
Once baby has arrived
- Keep a record of your baby’s progress. Take plenty of photos, keep a journal and make sure your baby’s Well Child Book (Plunket book) is filled in. If you can, get hand footprints done too.
- Speak up and ask for help when you need it
- Make sure to get some fresh air every day
- Accept offers of help
Just remember that lots of us have done it and survived and now have happy, healthy children who are bright, active and intelligent. Good luck, Janelle