Mom friends are the best when it comes to sharing the slings and arrows of outrageous parenting mishaps. Everyone deserves buddies who can joke about that 3am shower they got mid-diaper change.
However, if one of your pals has a premature infant, you need to exercise additional sensitivity. Please do these ten things to support your preemie mom friends.
1. Cool the Excess Bragging
You’re proud of the progress your little one is making, and you can’t wait to tell the gang how your little bundle held their head up for the first time at your next gathering. Doing so can be as potentially embarrassing as asking a woman when she’s due—only to find out she isn’t pregnant. You don’t want to be met with awkward silence when someone turns to your friend and says, “So how is your baby progressing?”
Preemies sometimes catch up with their peers, but they all do so at individual rates. Often, to find the corrected age, you must subtract the preterm weeks from the child’s actual age. They might be doing at three months what your infant did in one—but there’s no need to play the comparison game.
2. Listen, but Don’t Expect to Visit
Parents of preemies experience unique challenges that you might not understand. Instead of offering advice, please use your active listening skills. It sometimes helps to clarify, “do you want to vent or would you prefer my input” when the conversation starts to show sensitivity.
However, don’t expect your friend to welcome you to their home the day after bringing their baby home. Infants who have been in the hospital might need an adjustment period during which they can only see immediate family. Plus, the ongoing COVID-19 threat means limiting contact with those outside the inner circle.
3. Ask, But Don’t Speculate
It’s okay to ask questions—within reason. Few preemie parents will mind inquiries like, “Can I pick you up anything at the store?” They might understandably take umbrage with, “Did you not take your prenatal every day?”
Also, mind your language. Curb your tongue when you hear the phrase “at least” about to cross your tongue. Saying “at least your baby survived” when your friend has a medically fragile child in the hospital is the epitome of tone-deaf, especially if they have no clue how they’ll afford the bill.
4. Pick Up Some Groceries
Psst—while vaccines are on the way, COVID-19 remains a threat. To parents of preemies, every trip to the store is now fraught with more danger than it was in March, even though they no longer have to fight for the last toilet paper roll. Even if they leave their infant at home with their partner, they may worry about the germs they encounter when shopping.
Do them a favor and offer to pick up what they need. You can use an app like Our Groceries to coordinate your shopping lists across remote devices, and you can work out the financial details however you like. Venmo is a great option.
5. Prep Their Meals
When you have a preemie, your entire schedule revolves around them. However, the rest of the gang still needs to eat.
When you do your weekly meal prep, offer to make some ready-to-zap freezer meals or at least chop your pal’s broccoli for her. Your efforts could mean the difference between getting proper nutrition while breast-feeding and living on takeout pizza.
6. Clean Their House
Giving birth and dealing with an infant is exhausting. Add the health woes that typically accompany preemies into the mix, and there’s no time left over for vacuuming up the ever-growing mountain of cat hair on the living room couch.
Offer to help your friend with the housecleaning. If their child is too medically fragile to have strangers in the home, a gift certificate for a professional service is a thoughtful way to let them know that they won’t have to wade through fur and cracker crumbs forever.
7. Walk Their Dog
Poor Fido! Even very good boys can get jealous, especially if a new baby gets in the way of their romp in the park.
Offer to take your friend’s dog for a walk. You don’t even have to step inside—they can open the door and let Rover out, leash in tow.
8. Help With Older Children
Your friend’s preemie will take all of her time, leaving her older children feeling neglected. Can you pick up the slack?
Offer to help her kids with homeschooling. If she feels safe, you can host them at your house. Otherwise, you can use technology like Facetime or Skype to tutor via computer.
9. Keep Checking In
When your friend has a preemie, it may seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the earth. Please understand—they have a lot on their plate.
They still need your support, even if they lack time to show appreciation, so keep checking in with them. You might set up a weekly phone call or merely shoot a weekly text to let them know you’re there and you care.
10. Provide Financial Aid If Possible
Those who could work-from-home during the pandemic probably weathered the storm okay. However, if your friend worked outside the home in a role that requires in-person contact, they might be feeling the financial strain.
The problem compounds if medical bills factor into the equation. The average normal birth costs well over $10,000 without insurance, and preemies can skyrocket those costs. It’s unfortunate, but the US remains the only industrialized nation that lacks universal healthcare, driving many to make heart-wrenching decisions. If you’re among the fortunate with extra to spare, lend a hand.
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Kara Reynolds is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving. As a mom and stepmom, Kara hopes to normalize blended families and wants her readers to know that every family is beautiful and messy just how they are. When she’s not writing, Kara enjoys pilates and likes a little coffee with her cream. Find more from Kara on Twitter @MomishMagazine.
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