Getting involved with your newborn
At the beginning, your premature baby will probably need to spend some time in a neonatal unit. With all the machines and staff there, you may feel like a bit of a spare part but it’s important for your newborn to know you and your partner are there. If your baby is around 24 weeks old, they may already have been able to hear your and your partner’s voices from inside the womb, so simply talking to them or being around them may help them feel more reassured.
Premature babies can seem tiny and fragile but don’t be afraid to offer them a comforting touch; your neonatal team will be able to advise you and your partner about the level of physical contact your baby can have.
Once your premature baby is strong enough, you and your partner will be encouraged to get involved in their care: changing nappies, bathing and massaging. You should also be able to help out with feeding too.
Helping around the house
If you’re on a break from hospital duties but need to keep yourself busy, you could catch up on any household chores, which may have stacked up. It may not be exciting but it’ll be very handy when you bring your newborn home. When they do come home, ask close friends and family if they’d mind pitching in with things like shopping and cooking, so you and your partner can both be free to help settle your baby into their new surroundings.
If you have other children, you’ll also have to introduce them to their new sibling. They may naturally feel a bit left out, given the amount of time you’ll have been spending at the hospital, so try and get them involved too, if they’re old enough. Again, family and friends can be invaluable when it comes to picking up children from nursery or general babysitting duties. For more advice, take a look at our article on sharing the workload.
Postnatal depression can affect dads too
Postnatal depression is usually seen as something new mums go through but it’s little known that a new dad can feel it too. With the added stresses and worries associated with an early birth, it’s not surprising that mums of premature babies are more likely to experience postnatal depression. And if the mum has it, evidence shows that the dad is also likely to have it, but usually a little later on.
Postnatal depression can put an added strain on an already difficult situation; what’s more it can affect your baby’s development. So it’s important to be able to recognise the symptoms and seek advice from a healthcare professional if you think either you or your partner is suffering. Symptoms include:
• Panic attacks
• Being tired all the time
• Inability to sleep
• Loss of or excessive appetite
• Loss of self esteem