Prématurité des bébés : comment l’expliquer en douceur, avec des mots d’enfants - Élhée

Prematurity of babies: how to explain it gently, in children's words

Having a little brother or sister is a big upheaval in a child's life. “Gently”, “be careful”, “let him rest a little”, precautions must be taken. But what to do when, at home, this big change happens differently? Why isn't the baby coming back? Why isn't he breathing on his own? When will he get better? Welcoming a baby born prematurely is never easy, but taking up the challenge and explaining it to your other children born before him is sometimes a feat. How can we talk about prematurity, a baby born too early, and hospital treatments? After several months of pregnancy, how can we help little ones understand and accept the long time of neonatology?

What is prematurity at 5 years old?

In France, each year, 7% of babies are born prematurely, i.e. before 37 weeks (weeks of amenorrhea). However, finding the words to talk to the youngest about this rushed arrival remains complicated. Throughout your pregnancy, the baby was part of everyday life, you announced his date of birth filled with impatience. Then, you left for the maternity ward , but the new baby didn't come home. He must remain in the neonatal department .


If the medical team who took care of your newborn has explained to you his state of health and the course of the coming weeks, simply talking about care, development, complications, after-effects and sometimes prognosis with your other children can be difficult, both technically and emotionally.

For example, you can say that the new baby is early. And because he didn't have all the time he needed, simple things like breathing are complicated for him. He must gain strength in the maternity ward, sleep well and eat well. Once he is strong enough like his brothers and sisters, you can bring him back.

The neonatal service: an impressive encounter for all

You yourself are not used to it. The neonatal department, its calm and cozy atmosphere, the noise of the machines, the tiny babies installed in their incubator, the medical staff gloved and masked, the other parents also equipped, with sometimes worried faces... The first meeting between your children – when possible – can be impressive and even worrying if it is not anticipated.


Remember how much the prematurity of your child caused you anxiety after giving birth. How much the wires and sensors connected to the machines that help him breathe or eat have upset you.


For the first wash and the first skin-to-skin hug, you didn't know where to place your hands, how to hold your baby in your arms, or even how to approach him. You were afraid of hurting him, mishandling him, and unplugging something important. It's the same and much more for your child.


Start by playing down the presence of all this equipment. The little tubes in the nose – the nasal oxygen tube – are like two little snorkels. They allow baby to breathe well, like at sea. The little flower-shaped stickers on his chest? These are electrodes, they are useful because they replace our ears to listen to your heart.

Bonding with this little baby growing up a little far away

You live far from the specialized neonatal intensive care unit where your premature baby is kept, his stage of prematurity does not authorize visits, your children have colds and babies born too early must be protected from germs... The reasons which complicate and prevent Sibling visits to premature infants are numerous .


Also, when physical contact and glances are not possible, use technology and creativity to convey emotion and messages. Take photos of your child (in silent mode and without flash) or make videos when you can hold him, at changing time, or at each new milestone your newborn reaches.


On the other hand, ask your eldest child to draw, record a lullaby or make small decorations to brighten up the incubator and the neonatal department room.


Imagine together a prematurity logbook. Just as useful to your baby once it grows up as to your first child, it allows you to collect and preserve the family's emotions and transcribe them into images.


Regulated temperature, independent breathing, first cuddle, first bottle... Everything can be imaged for your premature infant. Add to that a drawing of the house, the bedroom that awaits it, the entire family, and why not, the goldfish on the dresser and the dog in the garden. Little by little, you obtain a diary that your child can use to tell the story of his little brother or sister's first weeks to their amazed and equally impatient grandparents.

Speak, explain, read, show, to appease

Left with their nanny, looked after by friends or by grandpa and grandma so that you can go to the maternity ward every day, the older ones may feel forgotten or a little jealous of this new baby that they don't see and who monopolizes all the attention.


For your part, despite the advice from motherhood and the love you have for your children, you will appreciate the help of support, of a framework to know where to start with them, the story of your premature baby .


Think about books! Their authors, aware or concerned by the subject of prematurity, thanks to gentle words and simple drawings, accompany the reflections of parents and children. For a little reading break or for a cuddly moment, we have selected for you some books about premature births, neonatality and the many questions that children may ask. Let us know if you read them and if they helped you.


      • Such a little brother , Marie-Sophie Vermot, Florence Silloray, ed. Milan
      • It's never too early to say I love you , Angela Portella, Marie Bretin, ed. Larousse Youth
      • My little sister is called Premature , Sabine Panet, Pauline Penot, ed. The Leisure School
      • Lola's little brother arrived early , Charlotte Bouvard, Alexandra Brijatoff, by the SOS Préma association
      • A tale for Eva-Luna or the story of a little sister a little too eager to come into the world , Martel Guevara Violaine, ed. The Harmattan
      • Lily's little brother is born , but he is not at home, guide published by the Sparadrap association
      • My courageous little sister , Deborah Le Meur, Sylvain Depitout, ed. Les Presses du Mid
      • Too early , Célia Chauffrey, ed. Pastel
      • Small but strong , Virginie Le Pape, Maud Legrand, ed. Babies early
      • Born too early , Anne Pardou, Christian Merveille, Josse Goffin, ed. Mijade



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