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It’s science: Dads of preemies are more stressed *after* baby comes home

This says a lot about the pressure on all new dads.

It’s science: Dads of preemies are more stressed *after* baby comes home

Life in a neonatal intensive care unit is hard for everyone. Often, it’s anticipation of that joyous discharge day that helps parents get through.


But, according to a new study published in the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing, dads of preemies are more stressed than ever after their baby goes home. Meanwhile, mothers’ stress levels remained consistent.

Scientists determined the stress levels of parents during babies’ transitions from NICU to home by measuring the stress cortisol amounts in their saliva prior to the baby’s hospital discharge and for two weeks afterward. They also had the parents complete paper surveys. They found that moms’ stress levels went back down to their pre-discharge levels pretty quickly while the fathers’ stress levels steadily increased.

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The hypothesis for the reason why dads are more stressed after the hospital stay actually says a lot about the pressure on all newbie fathers.

“Dad goes from a situation where the baby and mom are cared for by experts in the hospital to having to simultaneously care for his baby, partner and work. He is supposed to be the ‘rock’ for his partner but the stress can really set in,” explains lead author Dr. Craig Garfield.

According to Garfield, dads of NICU babies might be better prepared for their child’s arrival at home if they are able to spend more time getting comfortable caring for their child at the hospital. It’s hard enough to be a new parent when the baby is perfectly healthy. So, when the baby is extra vulnerable, dads really need some extra confidence to get through those early weeks.

“While finally bringing a baby home is really wonderful, it can also be stressful because of sleep deprivation, the lack of control and having to respond constantly to the baby’s needs,” Garfield said.

His research shows fathers are likely minimizing how stressed they really are, as the stress levels recorded in the salivary test results were higher than what the dads reported feeling in the survey.

An associate professor of pediatrics and of medical social sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Garfield recommends families remember dads can’t be the rock all the time—which is true for both fathers of preemies and term babies.

“Dads should be telling the mom to go take a walk, take a shower, see a friend,” he explains. “But moms can also say, ‘Why don’t you go to the gym, see your friends, meet someone after work?’ as ways to reduce some of the stress.”

Fathers need to be aware that stress and depression don’t just happen to moms. Family-centered care in the NICU and support for both parents afterward may be the key to keeping dads’ stress levels down after discharge day.

According to Garfield, babies thrive when moms and dads thrive. So taking care of ourselves is an important part of taking care of them.

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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