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We all know how long it takes to conceive a baby 9 months, right? This knowledge allows us to plan out that delightfully expectant period to set goals building up to that delivery date. But sometimes baby has his own schedule, sometimes he arrives early - sometimes very early. What can we do if our baby arrives prematurely? The following guidelines will help you to work through the confusion:

(1) Consider the possibility that it could happen. The shock will be lessened if you take prior consideration. Don’t dwell on it but take a little time with your partner doing a bit of research – what is an NICU? What happens immediately after delivery? When do you normally get to see baby?
(2) Know what to expect when you first see baby. He will, naturally, be far smaller than a normal term baby. He will also have thin skin that easily allows the veins to show. The head may appear too large for the body.
(3) Give your new baby an identity. Name him as soon as possible after birth. Even though medical complications may limit your opportunities to interact with baby, endeavour to make physical contact as early as possible. You may find it a good idea to tape the sound of your voice, along with that of your partner, and have it playing when you can’t be there.
(4) Ask plenty of questions of the experts. Clarify any uncertainties and ask them to explain any uncertainties.
(5) Familiarise yourself with the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). It can be a daunting place, what with all the specialised equipment. Be assured though, that it is the very best place for baby to be in the early stages of his life.
(6) Keep an open communication with your partner. This is an emotionally draining time. Look to each other for strength and support.

Follow through on these six suggestions and you will be doing the very best to give your premature baby the opportunity to thrive and develop into a healthy, bubbly new family member.