You may not think much about preemie babies until you have one. Many people are not aware of what really happens when a baby is born early, and what that can mean for that baby and for that baby’s family. Prematurity is more common than ever, which is a problem in our country. There are always going to be premature babies, but there are things we can do to help. You can try to help with research, and you can also help those families that are currently struggling with the reality of a baby that is born much too early. Every little thing you can do helps.
You may never see the inside of a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) unless you or someone close to you has a premature baby. Walking through a NICU can be a painful experience, but is also an uplifting and inspiring experience. You may love one baby in there, but once you see them all, you will love all of them. Perhaps the biggest feeling in any NICU is the love, but also the helplessness felt by the parents sitting beside their tiny children hoping and praying that everything will be okay. The stark medical environment is not the best place to start life, but for these preemie babies, it is all that they know.
If you want to help preemie babies, there are many things that you can do. For one, you can donate your time and energy. Though not all hospitals allow volunteers into the NICU, some have programs where volunteers who have been properly screened and that are illness free can come in and hold some of the babies. Unfortunately, some families with a preemie in the NICU live so far away that they can not be there as much as they would like. Preemie babies need touch and love to survive, so these volunteers are often welcome. Check with your local hospital to see if they have a program.
You can volunteer your time in other ways. NICUs are often short on clothing items to fit these tiny babies. Preemie babies lose a lot of body heat through their heads, and they all need hats. These hats are tiny and are not always easy to find. Some people knit or sew tiny hats and donate them to NICUs in their community. Some also scour stores waiting for clothing that fits preemie babies to go on sale or even on clearance and they buy them up to donate to the hospital. Blankets and booties or sock are always welcome as well.
You do not have to step foot anywhere near a hospital to help preemie babies. Many NICU programs are supported by the Children’s Miracle Network. They can help families with no insurance, and they also do things like donate gas and babysitting (for older siblings) so that parents can spend time with their babies. The CMN and other organizations have fund raising events to help care for preemie babies, and to also fund research to help prevent prematurity in the future. You don’t have to give money, you can always just donate some time.