Having a baby born preterm can be a particularly scary time for mums. Not only are you dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions, you also need to get used to the fact that, until your baby is well, they won’t be able to go home.  
 
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) can be frightening places for mums, but there are things you can do to make it easier on you.
 
Allison Fegan Molloy from Irish Premature Babies has the following advice:
 
Familiarise yourself with the NICU/ SCBU
Learn what the equipment does and ask medical staff what the terminology means. It is such an alien world for most of us that it can take a good while for the information to sink in, so each day, get an update on your baby’s health and progress.
 
Voice your concerns
Having a voice is empowering in most environments, and that holds true for the NICU. In fact, when parents are able to voice their concerns and thoughts, it helps them process the situation.
 
Interact with your baby
Even if you can’t hold your baby for a few days or weeks, you can still interact with them. Put your hands into the incubator to gently touch them or open the cover and talk to your baby - they will already recognise your voice from when they were in utero.
 
Keep a journal
Record their little milestones and take loads of pictures. Journaling your baby’s progress can be very therapeutic, and it will also help you see the progress they make each day. When at home at night, it can help with that empty feeling you have because your baby is not with you.
 
Accept help
If someone offers to mind other children, make dinner, clean your house or do some shopping, take their help. Family and friends often feel useless and want to support you in any way they can.
 
Find a confidant
It is important that you have a person to talk with whom you can share your thoughts. Link in with parents in the unit, go to social media sites or ask a charity like Irish Premature Babies for a NICU veteran buddy to chat/email.
 
Look after yourself
Eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids and rest when you can. It is physically and emotionally draining and it is important that you stay healthy and strong. And make sure you keep your six week post-delivery check-up.
 
Don’t feel guilty for going home
You can’t stay with your baby all the time and you should never feel guilty for popping out for lunch or coffee. It is important to get away from the intense environment of the NICU which can be really stressful.
 
Make sure to do the daily cares for your baby
Change their nappies, tube feed them, and when ready give them a bath. It is important you feel involved in the care of her baby. At times, you may feel like an outsider, but that little prem needs you more than anybody in the world.
 
Be gentle on yourself
Many women wrongfully feel very guilty for having a premature baby, but remember, this is not your fault. Don’t blame yourself for the preterm birth, it happens to 15 million women worldwide each year.

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