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Shopping for a premature baby: The do’s and don’ts

It’s no one’s dream to have a preemie baby. It’s a scary and frightening thing to have your baby come early or be a lot smaller than a full-term baby. If someone you know has had a premature baby, it could be tricky to know what to buy them.

If you have a friend who will have a preemie baby, there are certain protocols for buying presents. You may think you mean well, and you do, but it’s different when you are on the receiving end. Let’s look at some of the things you should (and shouldn’t) get for a premature baby.

Baby storybooks

This is a great gift for mom and baby. If the baby is a preemie, there is a chance that a hospital stay will be in their future, even if it’s for a short while. Some adorable baby books for mom to read to the baby can be soothing to mom and little one.

Go for the classics. You can’t go wrong with nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss, or Disney goodies. It will give mom something to do with her hands, and the benefits of being read to while young are well-known. You’ll be helping everyone.

Mom reading a book to her toddler daughter
Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

A baby bath

With being so small, parents might not feel comfortable with normal bath time right away. A great gift is a smaller bath that would work for a little one. It’s also better to bathe a premature baby in a baby bath rather than in a tub or sink so you are limiting how many germs are coming into contact with the baby.

Preemie bottles

There is a world of every kind of bottle and nipple out there for a baby. If your friend is having a premature baby, there are special bottles for that stage. They will help reduce the amount of air the baby takes in so they won’t be as gassy.

Even if mom is breastfeeding, this is still a good gift so that once she has some expressed milk, she can take a break (or most likely a nap), and her baby can still get their feed.

Baby self-care products

If you don’t want to worry about picking out any of the above items, then a great gift would be a care package for the baby containing things like lotions, bath soap, baby oil, creams, and ointments. Sometimes mom overlooks some of these things, and even if she didn’t, you can never have too many baby creams and gels.

This is not to be confused with a first aid or grooming kit. Parents really only need one of those. Getting multiple personal care gift sets is never a bad thing. Everything in it will be used.

zach lucero

Care package for mom

You guys. Mom is going to be feeling rough. Maybe the nursery isn’t done yet. Maybe she hasn’t had time to tell all of the family everything with what’s been going on. She’s going to be sleep-deprived and not thinking straight. She’s going to be out of it. Help her out. What would you want?

A care package filled with her favorites is a sweet gesture to let her know you are thinking of her. Her favorite candy, snacks, books, socks, and other goodies would be nice. If you have any inside jokes or items, throw them in there too.

Mom is not going to be thinking about herself right now. Let her know she’s being looked after too. If you know her partner, get them a little something too.

Some things to avoid

It may be hard but stay away from clothing unless asked. If the parents weren’t expecting to have the baby early, they might not have preemie clothing. It might be hard for the mom to buy the clothing; it might not. Ask if they have any baby preemie clothes and if they say no, volunteer to get some.

Please don’t get clothing that is 3-6 months or a “regular size” and tell the parents the baby will grow into it. It could be a situation where they don’t know if that’s certain.

Keep your feelings in check

Don’t get offended. You may want to hold the baby. You can’t. You may want to tell the parents that at least the baby was born. Don’t. There are more things you shouldn’t say than there are things you shouldn’t get. If the baby is still in the hospital, it’s best just to tell the parents you are there for them.

If the baby is home, you still need to give them the space they need to adjust to their new normal. Saying that at least everyone is home or asking to visit the baby now that they are home are still no-nos. A preemie baby’s journey isn’t over because they are at home.

Some alternatives

If you can’t think of anything to get, you can think of things to do. Ask for the house keys and go tidy up. Check that the dishes are done, the laundry is under control, and the heat or air is comfortable. Check on plants, animals, and yard work that could be attended to.

You could get them gift cards, good coffee, and comfortable blankets and pillows from home. It doesn’t all have to be a present for the baby. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about them. They’ll remember how you were there for them once things have settled down.

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