According to the premature and sick baby charity Bliss, around 100,000 babies will be born needing neonatal care this year. This means that one in seven babies will have spent time on a neonatal unit – some of whom will be joining the same baby groups as you.
It can be difficult knowing what to say to a mother whose baby spent time in neonatal care in order to make them feel as welcome and included as possible. We spoke to four mums of babies born premature or sick to find out what they wished other mummies had said to them.
How to talk to the mum of a premature or sick baby:
1) Some questions may be difficult for us to answer
“New parents usually ask each other the same sorts of questions such as: ‘How old is your baby?’, ‘Was it an easy birth?’ or ‘Are they walking yet?’” says Claire Cousin, whose daughter Quinn was born seven weeks early.
“Please keep in mind that these sorts of questions can bring back the trauma and emotions of the experience a parent went through in their baby’s first days. If you have asked a question that upsets someone, try to be supportive rather than shying away as this will just make the mum feel more isolated.”
Natasha Spann, mother to baby Ethan who spent 100 days in hospital, agrees.
“As Ethan is on oxygen, people naturally wonder why,” Natasha say.
“I tell them that he was premature and he struggles with breathing, for many people that answer is not enough and I am often probed further. Some of these questions force me to relive a really scary time, some remind me that he is developmentally behind peers and some I don’t have an answer to. These questions from people I've only just met can feel rather intrusive and uncomfortable.”
Photo: Natasha Spann with her son, Ethan, in hospital and now
If your baby was born premature or sick, find information and support at Bliss.