Over the years, I’ve frequently been asked “What can I do?” by friends and family members of preemie moms. While we are conditioned to get things for the baby, preemies have everything they need in the NICU. It’s the parents who could use the support most.
Every week I interview a preemie mom about their experience in NICU and each have shared the most helpful things friends and family have done to support them. Here are seven actionable ideas straight from those preemie moms.
1) Offer to meet them at the hospital
Yes, preemie moms do need some time away from the NICU. But they are often timing visits around touch times with their preemie every three to four hours where they get to change their baby’s diaper, take their temperature and possibly feed them. Pair that with a rigid pumping schedule and other life responsibilities—it can get difficult to meet you somewhere. Consider taking them to dinner within walking distance, or simply bring them a snack and chat with them on a bench outside the hospital.
“One of the biggest thing someone can do is offer to go TO the hospital and take lunch or meet in the cafeteria for a quick coffee. I know I wanted to stay as close to my baby as much as possible, so it was nice to walk just downstairs and have a quick bite to eat or coffee with a friend and chat between touch times.”
–Brittanie Flores, son, 32 weeks
2) Bring snacks, books and crafts
hours can be quiet, long and monotonous. Books, magazines, nursing snacks, journals and crafts that can double as NICU room décor make thoughtful gifts for a preemie mom. Here are two book ideas for preemie moms.
“We have a lot of clients that are nurses at the hospital where I delivered. They would show up with bags full of stuff to do and snacks.”
–Megan Harlan, son, 34 weeks
3) Offer your time
You will hunt for a magic item to buy to bring your preemie mom comfort. Instead, think of things that will make their life easier. Offer to drive them to the hospital. Pick up the dry cleaning, groceries or their other children from school and keep them for a playdate.
“I had so many people that made sure I was taken care of and loved. They all had this village to oversee me. (They) switched off staying with me and getting me necessities.”
–Callie Davis, twin girls, 28 weeks
4) Feed them
Some new parents love having food delivered or in the freezer while their child is in NICU. Others appreciate the meals once baby is home and life gets even crazier. Ask their preference—but I don’t know a person who would say no to a lasagna or batch of cookies at any stage!
“We loved it when people brought us food. The last thing we were thinking about was meal planning and grocery shopping. My friends even set up one of those meal delivery systems where people could sign up for a day to bring food over. We were grateful and it was one less thing we had to worry about.”
–Katie Williams, son, 28 weeks
5) Give a gift card
A few hours of normality is a huge gift to preemie parents. While their child is with the world’s best babysitters, treat them to some time together with a gift card to a restaurant, yoga studio or movie theater near the hospital.
“To keep our sanity, we occasionally went to see a movie or would take a cookie and coffee break and bring back cookies for ourselves and the nurses.”
–Natalie Mikles, twin girls, 28 weeks
6) Give them a baby shower
Many preemie babies beat their baby shower which means mom and dad do not have the typical essentials. Ask permission to host a gathering for them then honor them with a shower in their honor. If the thought of this makes them sad or uncomfortable, collect donations for a gift card they can use to shop on their own. Offer to help put the nursery together while they’re visiting baby in NICU.
“My friends and family threw my baby shower one Saturday towards the end of his NICU stay.”
-Danielle Walker, son, 32 weeks
7) Make it a double—add a service for your preemie mom friend
Getting a manicure? Pick up a gift card for your friend. Have groceries delivered? Add a gift card for her to try out the service. Having your lawn mowed? Send them to your friend’s house next.
“Our next door neighbor paid her lawn service to mow our lawn when they came to do hers, which was huge at the time. You just don’t have a lot of spare time for those types of household chores and it was nice to not have to think about it.”
–Heidi Montgomery, daughter, 26 weeks
What would you add? What has someone done for you that was helpful or meaningful?