Need Extra Emotional support?

If you feel that things are getting too much for you, talk to someone you feel will understand. This may be someone you know or a professional. The hospital may be able to offer you specialist support, such as counselling. Do ask if you feel you cannot cope.

Confide in the healthcare team

While your baby is in the baby unit you will be very dependent on the staff there, but don't be afraid to ask questions and get involved. The staff will be used to supporting families in your situation. If you have any concerns or worries, try talking to a team member who you feel you get on with.

Lean on your partner and family

Take advantage of any help you can get. It is important to talk to your partner and close family about what role they will play during this challenging period in your life. You may have different ideas about how involved they will be at this time. Your decision will depend partly on whether they need to be at work, or looking after your other children if you have any.

Take it easy when you are away from the baby unit if possible. You may need to remind others that even if you don't have a baby in your arms, you have only recently given birth and need a rest from the household chores.

Keeping your friends and family updated

Delegate - Keeping everyone in the loop about your baby's progress can be time-consuming and stressful, especially when he is in a fragile condition. You may find it helpful to delegate this task to one person, whom you can trust to contact others in your circle.

Visiting times - Each unit will have a different policy about visitors. Many encourage partners and siblings to visit regularly, so that the baby gets used to their voices. Other visitors may be allowed, but not too many at a time, and they may be asked not to touch your baby, as at this stage she will be very susceptible to infection.

Put yourself first. You may find visits stressful as you have to think about someone else when all you want to think about is your baby. If this is the case, keep visits to a minimum. Your health and sanity is more important than having your friends visit. On the other hand visits might bring you much-needed respite, an opportunity to talk and think about something other than your sick baby. If this is the case encourage visitors.

Communicate your feelings

If you feel like crying, do; if you feel like shouting, go somewhere where it won't bother people and shout. Letting out your sadness and worry is important. Don't feel guilty if you feel like you're going to pieces. Crying is a coping strategy. The doctors and nurses in the baby unit will be accustomed to all sorts of reactions. Your partner will be going through similar stress and is likely to understand how you feel.

Stressful times can bring people closer together, but also cause disagreements, so it's important to communicate your feelings and needs as clearly as possible, and give everyone a chance to express how they are feeling.

Nurturing your other children

If you have older children, they may react to your premature baby in a number of ways. They may be very worried about the new baby, and need reassurance. They are likely to notice that you are upset and find this very upsetting themselves.

  • Keep your children's lives as normal as possible. If they find it hard to understand what's happening, they may appear uninterested. They may also be jealous, among older and younger siblings alike - a very natural reaction to a new sibling - and they may resent the time that you are spending with the new baby, not to mention the emotional upheaval and the disruption to their normal routine.
  • Encourage them to bond with their new sibling. Try to give your children a sense of ownership of the baby by calling him 'your brother or sister' or 'your baby', and help them to carry out small tasks to look after the baby. Older children might be able to hold or feed him, while you could help younger children to stroke him, draw a picture for him, or tell their friends about him.
  • Be there for them when you can. Make sure you explain what is happening and spend some time alone with your other children - away from your baby - listening to them talk about their needs, fears and achievements. They still need you too.