WORLD Prematuring Day was celebrated globally on Sunday 17 November. Globally premature birth is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under the age of five. There are 15 million babies born prematurely worldwide every year, and 8 out of 100 of these are born in South Africa.
In South Africa, neonatal facilities at hospitals are overcrowded which 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 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.
The last thing you want to worry about as parents of a preemie baby is having to do household chores. So, family and friends 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 as well as packs of Huggies® 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.
Raising awareness of pre-term birth is the first step to defeating it. According to renowned Baby and Childbirth educator, Lynne Buff, expectant moms should be aware of information related to medical conditions which could result in pre-term labour and educate themselves on the signs of early labour. It is critical to consult with a midwife or obstetrician as pre-term labour can be halted in many instances.
Additionally, expectant moms should also look after themselves during pregnancy by:
- Having regular, sound antenatal care at the recommended stages of pregnancy
- Manage weight gain, around 12 kg is the average over the course of pregnancy
- Infected gums produce prostaglandins – the same hormones that initiate labour. Visit a dentist at least once during pregnancy and brush teeth at least twice a day and floss
Lynne Bluff also points out that it is, however, important to realize that in the majority of premature births, there is nothing a mom could have done to prevent it from occurring.