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Premature baby: the primary role of parents: The advice of the pediatrician

The advice of Dr. Georges Picherot, head of the pediatric department of the University Hospital of Nantes.

What advice could you give parents of a premature baby?

They need to know the importance of their role. Parents are the first caregivers of a premature baby. They are his first support. In particular, the mother. It is essential that she be able to establish immediately, from birth, a special bond with her child.
In the past, parents were considered to be a source of infection for the premature baby. Parents do not infect their babies, on the contrary, they are indispensable to the good life of their child. The attachment, the bond of the mother and the child are essential for the child. And when parents are tired, stressed, worried, disrupted by a distressing hospitalization, they must be helped, supported.

But when a child is in an incubator for weeks, contact is not easy.

That is true. A premature baby is fragile. Never, the contact will be the same as with a child born at term. Some parents feel helpless in front of a tiny baby, oxygenated by pipes, fed by probes, in an incubator. It's normal. It's up to the health care team to get them involved, to reassure them. These parents must be taught the simple actions that will enable them to relate to their child. And we must focus on the emotional relationship. It is essential for the child. This can reduce the sequelae. Neonatology services are trained for this. The staff is very available. We now know the importance of the emotional in the newborn. The links must be able to be built, despite the essential medical environment.

And for the return home, what advice?

Parents need to feel as reassured as possible. For this, help networks are there for the long term. When the child comes home, his life must be as normal as possible. If the parents are anxious, they must be able to call on the network's health care team at any time, under any circumstances. The relay is through the pediatrician or GP who has been made aware of the particular case by the hospital care team. Regular meetings are also organized for parents who wish to attend. In France, things move a lot in the field of prematurity. First the technique saves very small children. But also, precisely, we now know the importance of parental involvement from birth.

Sources and notes
- The great book of my pregnancy, French National College of Gynecologists Obstetricians, Eyrolles, 2014.
- Beyssac-Fargues C., The Premature Baby, Albin Michel, 2000.

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