How to support parents with a premature baby

How to support parents with a premature baby

This Sunday, 17 November, is World Prematurity Day. Here are five ways you can offer support to new parents to ensure they focus on their baby.

Hand of the physician and newborn in incubator
Hand of the physician and newborn in incubator/ iStock

Sunday the 17th of November is World Prematurity Day. Globally, premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. There are 15-million babies born prematurely every year, and 8 out of 100 of these are born in South Africa . This means that you are likely to know someone who has had a premature baby and who has spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Giving birth to a child is one of the paramount, most positive experiences in life. Having a baby born too soon is a significant trauma for families. Pre-term birth also represents a severe financial burden for many families due to medical expenses and our often-struggling public healthcare system. 

In South Africa, neonatal facilities at hospitals are overcrowded. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Groote Schuur Hospital reports a frequent occupancy rate of 120%, as opposed to the desired 80% occupation rate. This type of overcrowding may lead to an increased risk of infection and further complications for these babies.

Huggies, a global player in the baby care industry, shares some of the ways that you, as a family member or friend, can help so that new parents can focus all their love and attention on their preemie baby. 

Help with older kids 

New parents to preemie babies often spend the majority of their time at the hospital. If there are older kids, they can sometimes feel that they aren’t getting attention and can feel alone. So, help to make them feel special. Organise a playdate, school pick-ups, an outing or bring them something special to brighten their day. 

Household chores

The last thing you want to worry about as parents of a preemie baby is having to do household chores. So, family and friends, why not offer to do the grocery run, or the laundry or even the vacuuming or mopping. These are the little mundane everyday things that need to be done. They might sound like simple tasks, but these are the things that keep a household running. 

Hospital care bag

Give new parents everything they need for days at the hospital. Pack a care bag filled with healthy snacks and water to keep energy levels up, add in a soft blanket for the skin-to-skin sessions with baby (Kangaroo Care), as well as packs of preemie nappies. Oversized nappies can cause the baby to lie with their legs in a ‘frog-like’ position, which hampers muscle tone development and can cause hip dysplasia.


Parents of preemie babies spend long hours at the hospital and forget about their own needs. Having wholesome and delicious meals ready and waiting for them after a long day goes a long way in terms of helping them keep their energy levels and nutrition up. 

Just be there and support them 

Having a baby in the NICU is sometimes a lonely and isolating experience, so if you can visit, do. Take the new parents out for a cup of coffee and have a chat. Listen and be there for them on those days when they need a hug. There are going to be many ups and downs on this journey and knowing that they have a support system there for them will make a huge difference.

READ:  More medical support needed for premature babies: expert

Image courtesy of iStock/MychkoAlezander 

Article courtesy of Huggies

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