A Camper sent me a question—one every preemie mom has dealt with.
How did you handle visitors and people wanting to come see your preemie?
“I am so scared of germs,” she said. “The doctors definitely made it clear that we need to stay home and be in isolation of some kind. What did you do?”
Help from a friend or family member (with thoroughly washed hands!) can be a blessing. However, after weeks or months of waiting for your preemie to come home, some guests can’t help but want to stop by to see your little one.
Each preemie mom will find different techniques that work to say “no thanks” or “not now” to visitors. Here are the four tips that worked for me.
1) Be the boss
This is YOUR child that you have waited so long to bring home. Trust your gut and don’t allow any type of interaction that could put your vulnerable preemie at risk.
However, that goes beyond strangers, guests and family. That might mean keeping one of your other children away from baby if they have sniffles. And even you.
At seven months adjusted, my 32-weeker and I got a stomach bug. It was heartbreaking to be without her for about 36 hours, but for us to heal more quickly my husband cared for her and I only saw her when she breastfed. Even then I kept her covered. Better safe than return to the hospital!
2) Use text messages to gently brush off visitors
Ninety-nine percent of the planet texts, right? Avoid some guilt by corresponding via text. Be gracious, give a firm no, and then follow up with a next step.
“Thank you so much for checking on us! We would love to see you. I’m sure you can understand that we are going to spend some time together as a family for about two weeks. But we would love to try again and see you after DATE.”
If they call you, give some version of that message.
If they just want to “drop something off quickly,” that is harder to navigate. Babies have erratic schedules so push it back on your preemie. Use an excuse like it is time for baby to eat or lay down for a nap. Or “She’s had a rough day. Sorry to be brief but I know you understand.”
Stand with them in the doorway and usher them out.
3) Use social media to spread the word
Put out a post about your wishes. Share a photo of your little sweetie at home. Tell everyone you’re so happy to be under one roof.
“Thank you all so much for the love! After 57 days in the hospital, I’m sure you all can understand how elated our family is to be together. We’ll be getting used to our new routine for the next few weeks and keeping visitations to a minimum. We appreciate your understanding and continued thoughts and prayers. We look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks.”
But don’t mix messages. If your family or friends come by to see the baby, don’t turn around and post pics of your visitors with baby—-after asking for no visitors. Respect the time frame you’ve laid out and save the guest pics until after that window.
4) Don’t apologize!
You aren’t doing anything wrong by keeping your baby away from guests. If you find yourself feeling bad or apologizing, follow up the “not now” by turning it back to the visitor.
“Aunt Sally, we can’t wait for you to see her! We’re getting in a new routine but would love to have you visit in a few weeks. Thanks so much for understanding!”
That closing leaves it in their court. If they push back—they’re the inconsiderate one, not you.
You WILL cave and let a friend or family member over. Have antibacterial gel in every room. Hand it to people when they walked in the door. Ask if they are feeling well before they come over.
Ultimately, DO NOT feel bad–about anything! Be kind and firm and you’ve done everything right.
More Tips from Preemie Moms
Fellow Campers had a lot to say on this topic. Here are more tips and encouragement straight from moms who have been through this.
We ask that no one comes to our house if they are sick/been sick recently/been around a sick person and we ask these same questions before taking her to someone else’s house. Right when people come over, we ask them to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer and to do it again before holding or touching her. We also keep her in her car seat or an ergo if possible when waiting at the doctor’s office, less chance for a stranger to come up and touch her. It amazes me how strangers will just come up and touch her, it drives me crazy. I have heard there are little signs you can attach to the car seat or stroller that say, please don’t touch, I’m a preemie. Bottom line, go with what your doctor recommends and what you are comfortable with. Your baby’s health is your top priority!
Heidi M., Tulsa
Don’t be afraid to throw your doctor under the bus, so to speak. Explain to them that medically, their immune systems are compromised and what seems like just a sniffle or allergies to you is catastrophic to a newborn preemie. Offer up a FaceTime or Skype in the meantime and keep the hand sanitizer flowing.
Stephanie W., North Carolina
We had a sign on the door to ask everyone to wash their hands and made it clear that sick people stay away. People know I’m a crazy nurse momma!
Jessica A., Oklahoma
I made everyone but immediate family stay away. My mother was around helping with my preemie and my newborns since I had c-sections with them all. I told people that doctor said I had to keep people away for the first month of being home.
Amanda G. , Oklahoma
We chose to keep our daughter pretty isolated throughout her first year. RSV was terrible last year and the risk of her being back in the hospital was too high and something we didn’t want to take our chances with. Even trips to doctors’ offices we were super cautious. We had a small group of people that could come over. We made sure everyone washed their hands when they entered the door and we had visitors wipe down their phones as well. In the end, it was the right decision for us. Every family has to decide what works for them.
I kept my daughter pretty isolated as well. Only immediate family and they all had to be up to date on their vaccines. Lots of hand washing and sanitizing. I kept a close eye on flu & rsv season an no one who was even around someone who had been sick was allowed in my home. You have to be so careful.