Prematurity is the number one cause of infant death in Canada.
And the number of babies being born early is on the rise.
Facts like these are being highlighted as part of World Prematurity Awareness Day this year by the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation-Fondation pour Bébés Prématurés Canadiens.
Prematurity (being born three weeks or more before due date) accounts for about one third of infant deaths in this country. It touches more people than you likely realize.
Things to Say to Preemie Parents
These parents have just had a baby; say the usual things you'd say about how beautiful their child is, how wonderful they are at being a parent. Avoid comments about weight, about coming home. If you're asking health questions, focus on now – not what might have led to this moment or what challenges are still to come.
(Mount Sinai offers great information on causes and warning signs of premature birth.)
Congratulations – you had a baby! (S)He's beautiful!
Do you have a photo I can see?
I admire the strength you and your baby have to go through this.
You are a wonderful parent.
Ways to Support a Family in the NNICU
Drop off snacks or meals: Pick up some snacks that are quick to eat and easy to carry, like a box of granola bars. Prepare some meals that can be put in the freezer; be sure to label them with the contents and date, and your name.
Take care of seasonal tasks: Mow their lawn, shovel their driveway, chop wood. Choose your task based on your knowledge of what they'd be comfortable with.
Step up for chores: Walk the dog, feed the cat, offer to babysit other children. Anything that might help them spend more time in the NNICU.
Deliver gift cards: A $5 coffee card says more than you can imagine. Gas, take out, parking. Anything you can help with, however large or small, will be appreciated.
Bring baby gifts: The baby might be in the NNICU, but it doesn't mean you can't buy a fun knitted cap or photo album or books for parents to read at the bedside. You can also donate to the NNICU, give blood, or do something that will bear their name, like a donation to the Trans Canada Trail.
Get your shots. If you are close to the family and want to visit, make sure you've had your flu shot and any other vaccinations (whooping cough, etc.) that would help the parents feel more comfortable with you around their child.
How to Support Someone in Crisis
Be there. Sit and listen, or just sit. If you have trouble being near a person in crisis, just send a note to say you're thinking of them and are there when they need to reach out.
Don't say you know how the person feels or can imagine how they feel – even if you have gone through something similar.
Don't offer advice, particularly medical advice. Don't question the care they are receiving, even if they are. Listen, ask them if they've voiced their thoughts to their team, but don’t offer advice.
Don't say you're sorry. They've had a baby – that's a special thing, not something to be sad about.