Thursday, March 31, 2011

For Dads: Forming a Bond with Your Preemie

If your baby was born prematurely, the first weeks and months ahead can be difficult. That is why it is so important that both parents are actively involved in the baby's progress, even if you feel helpless. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for you to be a hands-on dad, taking an active part in your child's life and development. Remember that men and women cope differently, so be sure to be open and honest with your partner during this difficult time.

Accept your emotions. For the first time, you may be experiencing extreme emotions, such as anxiety, grief, resentment and fear. All of these feelings are normal and as your baby progresses, you'll feel less of these emotions. You may also feel hope toward your baby's future, as well as love, pride and amazement at how far your infant has come.

Spend time with your baby. Even though the NICU can seem unsettling at first, it won't be long before you feel comfortable in the environment. Your baby's stay will be made more positive if you form a good rapport with the staff, ask questions and be a part of the decision-making process. Hold and touch your baby as much as possible, and be sure to share news and updates with friends and family, just as you would with a full term infant.

Balance your responsibilities. Although you're probably feeling very overwhelmed, it's important to balance your work and family life. It won't be long before you have to return to the office and you may have other children at home. Ask for help, accept help and try to maintain a good sense of humor.

Support your partner. Mom is scared too, and she may be spending more time at the hospital than you. Be sure to offer a supportive ear and listen when needed. This is also a good opportunity to be open and honest, sharing your own feelings with your partner. You two are the most powerful team for your infant and will continue to be his or her advocates throughout life.

Image c/o Wikimedia Commons

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