Jennifer Mills-Messina, M.D.

Caring for a premature baby can take a toll on parents physically and emotionally. Premature babies are born before their bodies and organ systems have completely matured, requiring special medical care. Parents of preemies may find themselves anxious about their baby’s health and can often times feel angry, guilty, or overwhelmed.

Having a sick baby is upsetting. Most parents don’t expect to have problems with pregnancy. They don’t expect their baby to be sick or premature. It is quite natural for parents to have many different emotions as they try to cope with the difficulties of a sick baby. But it is reassuring that today’s advanced technology is helping sick babies get better and go home sooner than ever before. Being separated from your baby when he or she is in the NICU is painful. But it helps to know that it doesn’t have to harm the relationship between you and your baby. NICUs today pay special attention to supporting this relationship.

Tips for Parents

Many preemie parents feel helpless during this process, but there are things you can do to help during this difficult time:

  • Learn about premature babies: In addition to communicating with your baby’s doctor, ask for recommendations on books, pamphlets and websites that will be reliable sources on caring for preemies and what lies ahead. Ask your physicians and the neonatal staff any and all questions or concerns you have throughout this process
  • Stay Healthy: It’s important that you take care of yourself as well as your baby. Get as much rest as possible and be sure you are eating a healthy diet that will give your body the strength and nutrients it needs.
  • Establish your milk supply: Even if your baby is unable to breast-feed right away, you can begin using a breast pump to establish your supply. Lactation nurses can assist you in beginning this process and preparing you and your body for when your baby is ready to breast-feed.
  • Allowing Helping Hands: It’s important to accept help from friends and family during this time. Allow them to cook you a meal, clean your house, or help care for your other children. This allows you to not have to worry about day to day tasks, and save your energy for your baby.
  • Record the progress: Keep a journal or log of your baby’s progress as well as your own thoughts and feelings. Include pictures and recording milestones, helps you see how much your baby changes week to week.
  • Talk to someone: Find someone you can talk to about what you are going through. Reach out to your partner, spouse, friends, family or hospital staff. The NICU staff can be very helpful and encouraging and recommend resources that would be helpful.

Caring for a premature baby is a great challenge and it’s important to remember you are not alone. Lean on your support system and talk to your doctor about what you are feeling and any concerns you have. Although this is a stressful process, try and cherish the time you spend getting to know your baby.

Dr. Jennifer Mills-Messina is an OB/GYN with Crescent City Physicians, a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary. She received her medical degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and completed post graduate training at University of Alabama in Birmingham. Dr. Mills-Messina is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and treats patients at both the Uptown and Old Metairie locations.

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