Published April 2012, next review April 2015

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Looking after yourself

It's natural to be devoted to your premature baby, but to do this effectively you need to be emotionally well enough to deal with your situation.

When your baby is born prematurely, you will be plunged into a situation of uncertainty as her condition fluctuates. You may need to take in a huge amount of medical and technical detail in a very short space of time.

As well as feeling joy, love and happiness at the birth of your baby, this period can also be extremely stressful and overwhelming. It is not unusual to feel quite exhausted and unhappy or tearful for several months after having your baby.

Many parents find it difficult to focus on their own needs after having a new baby - especially if she is unwell. This is understandable, but using some of your energy to take care of yourself will help your baby in the long run because it means you'll be in a better position to take care of her.

If your baby was born unexpectedly before 30 weeks you may not have attended antenatal classes and may be both psychologically and practically unprepared. Many parents of premature babies will not have bought prams, baby clothing or other baby equipment.

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'The most important thing I have learnt is that everything takes time. Every moment is a moment forward. And if you had a crystal ball looking forward to see what your 7 year old is like, it would be easier to believe. But you need to go with the flow, and just appreciate every moment of your baby getting stronger and stronger.'