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5 Things NOT to Say to the Parent of a Preemie

preemie, nicu, premature birth

It’s hard to know what to say to the parent of a preemie.

Inspire.com, an online patient community, has published a report called Insensitive Comments and Their Impact on Preemie Mothers. “Out of 630 preemie parents who responded to an online survey, more than half said they had experienced insensitive comments about their baby, contributing to feelings of stress and isolation,” ABC News reports.

20 percent of the parents who responded to Inspire’s survey have “lost relationships with one or more people who were important to them” over things said after the premature birth of their baby. Before you stick your foot in your mouth, it’s important to understand how your words can affect the parent of a preemie, especially a mother, who is “at a much higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder” after giving birth prematurely and spending months in the NICU.

With that in mind, here are five things you should never say to the parent of a preemie:

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  • 1 of 5
    Tina Brown of Rockland, IL says she heard that "every time she took her baby, Thatcher, out of the house." He was born 12 weeks early, at 2 pounds, 5 ounces, because of pre-eclampsia. Thatcher spent 71 days in the NICU before going home, according to ABC News. Photo via Flickr.
  • “Well, she’s pretty big for a preemie.” 2 of 5
    "Well, she's pretty big for a preemie."
    My friend Diana Saez is the mother of male-female twins who were born at 35 weeks, which isn't that early - if you're gestating one child. Twins tend to be born smaller than individual babies, and many twin pregnancies result in preemies.  Saez told me, "I didn't like it when people were positive to the point of invalidating what I was feeling.  Being in the NICU was a very confusing and complicated experience.  I was happy to see my children finally, but I was also disappointed and resentful of the other women in the L&D unit walking around with their babies, and my roommate who had her baby in the room with her." Photo via Flickr.
  • “You must be so happy to have one of them home.” 3 of 5
    "You must be so happy to have one of them home."
    In the case of multiples who leave the NICU at various times, be sure not to say, "You must be so happy to have one of them home." "Uh... not really," says Saez.  "It's hard to feel fully present and enjoy your baby when you know there's another one still at the hospital, with no family.  When they were both in the hospital and I had to go home after being at the NICU for 12 hours a day, I could at least tell myself they had each other." Photo via Flickr.
  • “Look, she’s back from the NICU. You need to relax.” 4 of 5
    "Look, she's back from the NICU. You need to relax."
    Deb Discenza, co-author of The Preemie Parent's Survival Guide to the NICU, says she heard that a lot after her daughter, Becky, arrived safely at home after being born 10 weeks early. Photo via Flickr.
  • “The next one won’t necessarily be as bad as this one.” 5 of 5
    "The next one won't necessarily be as bad as this one."
    Inspire user AllieKatesMommy wrote in 2007 that her mother-in-law was already pressuring her less than one month after discharge from 98 days in the NICU to have another child. AllieKatesMommy asked her MIL to change the subject, but the insensitive grandmother retorted, "Do you mean to tell me that this is the only grandchild I'm ever going to have?" AllieKatesMommy shared her frustration, saying, "I'm doing everything I can to keep the grandchild she has healthy. Her grilling about another grandchild is so selfish that... I'm not sure I'll ever forget what she said to me." Photo via Flickr.

Main photo via Flickr

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