Caring for a premature infant can be challenging. You may experience:
- Emotional distress, including feelings of guilt, anger, and depression.
- Anxiety about your baby's future.
- A feeling of a lack of control over the situation.
- Financial stress.
- Problems relating to your baby while he or she is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
- Fatigue (tiredness).
- Frustration that you can't breastfeed your infant right away. (You can pump and store your breast milk for later use.)
Take Steps to Manage Your Situation
You can take steps to help yourself during this difficult time. For example, take care of your health so that you have enough energy to deal with the situation.
Learn as much as you can about what goes on in the NICU. You can help your baby during his or her stay there and begin to bond with the baby before he or she comes home.
Learn as much as you can about your infant's condition and what's involved in daily care. This will allow you to ask questions and feel more confident about your ability to care for your baby at home.
Seek out support from family, friends, and hospital staff. Ask the case manager or social worker at the hospital about what you'll need after your baby leaves the hospital. The doctors and nurses can assist with questions about your infant's care. Also, you may want to ask whether your community has a support group for parents of premature infants.
Parents are encouraged to visit their baby in the NICU as much as possible. Spend time talking to your baby and holding and touching him or her (when allowed).
Ongoing Care for Your Infant
Your baby may need special care after leaving the NICU, including:
- Special hearing and eye exams
- Speech or physical therapy
- Specialty care for other medical problems caused by premature birth
Talk to your child's doctor about ongoing care for your infant and any other medical concerns you have.