Adjusting to a Different Reality: When your baby is born prematurely

Adjusting to a new reality

Adjusting to a different reality as a new parent starts during pregnancy. This is when you begin the process of bonding with your little one. You envisage your baby, who they will be and what they will look like. You see yourself as a mum or dad and begin the process of becoming a parent. In addition, you have an image of the birth and the way in which you will meet this precious person.

Underlying these emotions – possibly on a subconscious level – are the fears that go along with becoming a mum or dad. Will the birth be safe? Will my baby be healthy? Will I love them, the instant I meet them?

But when your pregnancy ends prematurely (before 37 weeks) and your baby is born under conditions of trauma, all your worst fears are realised. Over the next few weeks you will begin a healing process that at times may be frightening as you lose control and experience strong emotions.

Adjusting to your reality 

Everyone is different and the birth of a premature baby will elicit different reactions in you and your partner. Some parents feel anger or sadness. While another might experience denial or feel emotionally removed from the situation. Whatever your response, you will have a period of adjustment ahead of you.

When you lose a loved one, you go through the period  of grief. In the same way, when your baby is born prematurely, you are grieving on two levels. Firstly, you grieve the loss of your dream birth and perfectly healthy newborn. Your dream is replaced with fear, worry and disappointment that you didn’t get to do the things you dreamed about doing like taking your baby home, showing them to your friends and family.  shattered. Which leads me to my second point, if your baby is in a precarious medical state you may fear the worst. You may feel so helpless in this scenario and in many cases, every day is a rollercoaster of changes, emotions and plans. 

Grief is an overwhelming emotion at this time but another strong emotion is guilt – especially for you as the mum.

You may find yourself feeling that you have not been an adequate incubator for your baby. That you have not met your own expectations of delivering a healthy baby. Of course, added to these feelings are the complete confusion and lack of control that being a parent in a neonatal unit evokes. 

Tips to help you adjust to your new reality

  1. By understanding your prem baby’s basic needs you will start to know how you and the medical team are catering to these basic needs; medically, emotionally and developmentally. This will help you resume your relationship with your baby as you would with a healthy, full term baby.
  2. Engage with the doctors and nursing staff. They can help to alleviate the stress of the unknown. You will also be better equipped to give them the best start possible, for the particular circumstances you find yourselves in.
  3. It’s never too early to learn your baby’s state and signals. Getting to know your baby this way can ease some of your anxiety and help you bond with your little one. 


Did you know that Parent Sense app can be used to help you care for your premature baby? The all-in-one baby development app tracks your babies weight, feeds, sleep and more and suggested a flexible routine to take the guesswork out of caring for your premie. Download the app and start parenting with sense.  

Meg faure

Meg Faure

Hi, I’m Meg Faure. I am an Occupational Therapist and the founder of Parent Sense. My ‘why’ is to support parents like you and help you to make the most of your parenting journey. Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of babies, and I’ve come to understand that what works for fussy babies works just as well for all babies, worldwide.