A Guide to Milestones for Parents of Premature Babies

18 April 2018

A Guide to Milestones for Parents of Premature Babies

The uncertainty associated with having a baby prematurely can be emotional and traumatic for parents, because preemies face greater health risks; those first few months and years can be a time of worrying, watching and waiting. So, when preemie babies do reach these magical milestones, the desire to capture them can be even greater.

In this blog piece, we’ll share guidance on celebrating milestones for parents of babies receiving special care; as well as creative ways that you can ensure that your baby’s first precious moments are kept safe for you to reflect on whenever your memory triggers them.

Be patient, your child will get there at their own pace

As a parent of a baby that is born prematurely, it is important to remember that some of your baby’s first milestone moments, like rolling over, or sucking a dummy for the first time, may come a little later than for a term baby.
Most preemies do catch up to their peers born at full term, but it’s crucial to be patient. A baby faced with medical issues may need a little more time to reach these magical milestones.

The most important tip for capturing milestones is to have fun! Each moment and month that pass are monumental accomplishments in your journey as a new parent, and when you are a parent of a baby born too soon, these accomplishments have even more meaning.

Capturing your baby’s milestones in the NICU

Between the crying and chaos, find the time to capture your newborn’s milestones. As you see your baby’s first smile, hear their first laugh, and even witness their first frown when tasting something new, you’ll want to treasure those moments forever. There are plenty of clever, cool and creative ideas already out there, with some developed exclusively for parents of preemies and poorly babies. We’ve narrowed the list here so that you can choose what you think will work best for you.

Bliss or Miracle Mumma premature baby milestone cards

When you first share the exciting news of your pregnancy with friends and family, you could become the lucky recipient of a set of baby milestone cards to capture all the sweet moments from your baby’s first year. Bliss, the UK’s premature baby charity, has developed a set of baby milestone cards with input from parents of babies receiving neonatal care. Head to the Bliss shop to see available designs. Alternatively, you could consider these premature baby cards created by Amy Purling, Founder of Miracle Mumma in Australia. Amy’s son, James, was born at just 30 weeks. She couldn’t find any milestone cards that covered NICU babies progress so she created her own; they are now available to buy through Miracle Mumma. Some hospitals provide their own NICU milestone cards - here’s a great example from HUGG.

Join an arts session in the NICU

Many neonatal units have a programme of arts that includes making mementos using baby’s hand and foot prints. On our visits to neonatal units, we’ve seen units that encompass hand painting into seasonal events such Valentine's, Mother’s Day and Christmas. Why not consider getting these NICU crafts framed along with a photo of your child? Something you’ll treasure for years to come!

Record and share beautiful moments with photo and video

Taking photos can sometimes be the last thing on your mind when your baby is surrounded by tubes; however, charting your baby’s progress, now, will not only help you to come to terms with the experience, you’ll also have them to show to your child to explain their initial struggles and celebrate how far they have come.

Video diaries have also become popular with NHS Neonatal Units, so that preemie parents no longer miss out on special moments. Bringing video technology to neonatal units means that parents, siblings, and wider family and friends will get to witness all their little one’s precious milestone moments. A good video diary will chronologically document these moments and give you the option to download videos when your child is discharged.

Ask your local Neonatal Unit today whether they are considering introducing video updates to record milestone moments.