These comments have been boiled down by comments from our facebook followers who have a first hand experience of being a new parent to a premature baby, we have compiled them all to help publicize people's reports of their own personal experiences and perceptions so that for people who want to do better and say the right thing can find more guidance.
What not to say, and why not to say it:
“At least you didn't have to go through those last uncomfortable months a pregnancy"
Ask any preemie mother out there, and I am sure she would tell you, that she would trade the ventilator, the needle pokes, the feeding tubes, the surgeries, the hundreds of hours spent in hospital, breast pumps and any other complications that accompany having a preemie, all for swollen ankles and a sore back for a few more months.
"Why were they early, what's wrong with them, will they die, why do they look strange, what are all the tubes for and will they be normal?"
Even though these comments may just be out of curiosity, they may come across as negative comments implying that something is wrong/unusual/strange with their baby, perhaps try and say something more positive like "He’s beautiful — he looks like you” (or the other parent.)
"They are so tiny!"
A baby born early is small. Pointing out the obvious doesn’t necessarily encourage a parent that is praying for each and every ounce gained while in the NICU. Why not lead with something like, “What a beautiful child – a miracle and a gift,” instead?
"Your lucky, you get eased into being a parent" or
Parents who have a premature baby are on a constant rollercoaster ride, many do not get to hold their babies for the first time for hours sometimes days after birth, wake at night every 3 hours to express and are commuting to their hospital for many hours a day, they will face many obstacles and this experience is certainly not an easy start for parents or their babies. A prem will still need lots of work and attention once discharged, especially if there are ongoing medical or feeding/growth issues.
"It must be great having full time babysitters" (aka NICU staff)
The last thing on parents mind is having a night out on the town when they are worried about what might happen to their baby, leaving your baby hooked up to machines is not an easy thing to do, however parents do need to take small breaks for themselves, try suggesting a coffee and a chat in the hospital cafe instead.
"At least you can sleep through the night and recover from surgery"
Nope sadly not true, their baby is living in an INTENSIVE CARE unit for babies, neither parent will be sleeping well. Plus for mum there is of course the all-night pumping extravaganza - that really lends itself to rest, sitting at baby's bedside (incubator side) and participating in babies care routines. Not to mention the possible complications with mum such as pre-eclampsia.
What to say?
What can you do?
Click here for practical hints and tips of how you can support a new parent of a premature baby.