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

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


Having a little brother or a little sister in the life of a child is a big upheaval. "Gently", "be careful", "let him rest a bit", you have to take precautions. But, what to do when, at home, this big change happens differently? Why doesn't the baby come in? 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 tour de force. How can we talk about prematurity, a baby born too early, his hospital treatments? After several months of pregnancy, how can we help toddlers understand and accept the long time of neonatology?

At 5 years old, what is prematurity?

In France, each year, 7% of babies are born prematurely, i.e. before 37 SA (weeks of amenorrhea). However, finding the words to speak to the youngest about this disrupted 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, most the new baby has not come home. He must stay in the neonatal unit.

If the medical team who took care of your newborn has explained to you his state of health and the course of the next few weeks, simply talking about care, development, complications, sequelae 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's beefy enough like his siblings, you can bring him back.

The neonatal unit: an impressive meeting for all

You are not used to it yourself. The neonatal unit, its calm and cozy atmosphere, the noise of the machines, the tiny babies settled in their incubator, the gloved and masked medical staff, the other parents they are 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 your child's prematurity made you anxious after you gave birth. How many wires and sensors connected to the machines that help it breathe or eat have upset you.

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

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

Bonding with this little baby growing up a bit far

You live far from the specialized neonatal intensive care unit where your premature baby is kept, his stage of prematurity does not allow visits, your children have a cold and babies born too early must be protected from germs... there are many reasons that complicate and prevent sibling visits to premature infants.

Also, when physical contact and staring are not possible, use technology and creativity to convey emotion and messages. Take pictures of your child (in silent mode and without flash) or make videos when you can hold it in your arms, at the time of the change, or with each new step taken by your newborn. 

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

Imagine together a diary of prematurity. Just as useful for your baby once grown up as for your first child, it allows you to collect and preserve the emotions of the family, to transcribe them into images.

Regulated temperature, independent breathing, first hug, first bottle... Everything can be imagined for your premature baby. Add to that a drawing of the house, the room that awaits it, the whole family with why not, the goldfish on the chest of drawers and the dog in the garden. You gradually get a diary that your child can use to tell about the first weeks of his little brother or his little sister, to the amazed and also impatient grandparents. 

Speak, explain, read, show, to appease

Deposited 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 can feel forgotten or a little jealous of this new baby that they don't see and who takes all the attention.

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

Think about the books! Their authors, sensitized or concerned by the subject of prematurity, thanks to sweet words and simple drawings, accompany the reflection of parents and children. For a little reading break or for a cuddly moment, we have selected for you some works around premature births, neonatality and the many questions that children can ask themselves. Let us know if you've 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 School of Recreation
      • Lola's little brother arrived early, Charlotte Bouvard, Alexandra Brijatoff, par l'association SOS Préma
      • A tale for Eva-Luna or the story of a little sister in a little too much of a hurry 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 brave little sister, Deborah Le Meur, Sylvain Depitout, ed. The Presses du Mid
      • Too early, Celia Chauffrey, ed. Pastel
      • Little but strong, Virginie Le Pape, Maud Legrand, ed. babies early
      • born too early, Anne Pardou, Christian Merveille, Josse Goffin, ed. mijade

        Back to blog
        1 of 3