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Know someone who has had a preemie? What can you do?

It is hard to know what you can do for someone who has just had a preemie baby due to the wide variety of situations, complications, weight ranges and other special considerations, but here are a few thoughts...

Congratulate the parents/grandparents/family: even though their bundle of joy may have not entered the world as planned, it is still a very special occasion, one that warrants celebration. Flowers and latex balloons are not allowed in the NICU. Check with the hospital to determine what is allowed, but thoughts might be Preemie clothing, small stuffed animals, Mylar balloons, and cards.

Offer love, support and prayers: this time is a very challenging/confusing time and it is important for the family to know that they have support and that you are concerned about them.

Make a meal or give gift certificate for meals/coffee: with a child in the NICU, often times cooking or shopping for groceries is the last thing on your mind. There is so much to learn and do, alleviating the hassle of shopping and preparing a meal, is so appreciated. Or invite them for supper, it allows parents to have a night out of the house, and allows you to have some time talking about the achievements of the day.

Babysitting: While you can rest assured that the new arrival is being well taken care of, if the family has older children, you can always offer to take them for the day or a few hours. This gives them a little time to be at the hospital or just alone together, while making the sibling feel special as well. Preemies tend to be attention stealers, so making sure that older children feel special is important too.

Lotion: I know this seems minor, but upon entering the NICU, you are required to wash your hands for two minutes. While killing germs and helping to protect the preemies, it can do a number on your hands.

Journal: This is more of a personal gift, if the parents are likely to want to journal their feelings/experiences having a beautiful journal may be appreciated. Personally, I didn't journal, sometimes living through something can be difficult enough, without living through each and every detail over again.

Preemie Clothing: It is always fun to see babies in the NICU all dressed up. Babies under three pounds are not likely to wear clothing regularly depending on their particular situation, but older babies can sport their own clothing. Even if they can't wear clothes in their isolette, hanging a preemie outfit in their room is a sign of hope for the day that they will grow into it.

Cash/Gift Cards: While it isn't as novel as other gifts, cold hard cash or gift cards are always appreciated. Not having to worry about some of the expenses of having a baby in the NICU or extending time off of work, can be a major relief.