Families of premature babies

How does a premature birth affect the baby’s family?

A premature birth may cause emotional, physical, and financial stress for families. Mothers may be prone to depression and poor sleep. Hospitals have different approaches to premature babies and breastfeeding, and their approach can affect breastfeeding success. It is important to have health-care providers who are supportive and knowledgeable about breastfeeding. Many hospitals offer resources for caregivers. Online resources can also be helpful.

A) Challenges of being the caregiver of a premature baby

Families of premature babies may face emotional, physical, and financial stress (Garfield 2017). Mothers of very premature babies are more prone to depression and poor sleep (Baumgartel 2018; Levinson 2020; Wang 2018). There can be stress between mothers and other caregivers (Grunberg 2020).

B) Support for caregiver of premature babies

Some parents feel overwhelmed after the birth of their premature baby. It may help to remember that caring for your baby can be as simple as keeping the baby skin-to-skin, providing breast milk, and offering the breast when the baby is interested. All of these are just as relevant as the technology, doctors, nurses, and so on. It can be useful to keep track of who is caring for your baby, what recommendations they make, and when.

The hospital’s approach can affect breastfeeding success (Rodrigues 2017). Different hospitals have different approaches to the management of premature babies and the type of breastfeeding and other support they provide. Ideally, they offer kangaroo mother care and family-centered care because of the benefits for both caregivers and their babies. 

It is very important that you have support and ensure that your health-care providers are supportive and knowledgeable about breastfeeding. You may also benefit from seeing a breastfeeding specialist. Many hospitals offer resources for caregivers of premature babies. 

The transition to home can be a difficult time for caregivers. They often feel lost without the monitors, routines, and immediate support available in hospitals. Health-care providers should closely monitor premature babies and be able to address caregivers’ concerns.

Caregivers can also see what support is available in their communities and online. Speaking with other families who have gone through the same process is very helpful.


Baumgartel K, Facco F. An Integrative Review of the Sleep Experiences of Mothers of Hospitalized Preterm Infants. Nurs Womens Health. 2018 Aug;22(4):310-326
Garfield CF, Simon CD, Rutsohn J, et al. Stress From the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to Home: Paternal and Maternal Cortisol Rhythms in Parents of Premature Infants. J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Nov 30

Grunberg VA, Geller PA, Patterson CA. Infant illness severity and family adjustment in the aftermath of NICU hospitalization. Infant Ment Health J. 2020 Feb 14  

Levinson M, Parvez B, Aboudi D, et al. Impact of maternal stressors and neonatal clinical factors on post-partum depression screening scores [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 21]. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2020;1‐9. 

Rodrigues C, Severo M, Zeitlin J, et al. The Type of Feeding at Discharge of Very Preterm Infants: Neonatal Intensive Care Units Policies and Practices Make a Difference. Breastfeed Med. 2017 Dec 6
Wang Y, Briere CE, Xu W, et al. Factors Affecting Breastfeeding Outcomes at Six Months in Preterm Infants.. J Hum Lact. 2018 Apr 1:890334418771307