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The Premature Baby Book

By Helen Harrison and Ann Kositsky

The Premature Baby Book by Helen Harrison
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Reviewed by : Allison Martin

Since 1983, Helen Harrisonís The Premature Baby Book has been the premier guide for parents as they cope with their premature baby's birth and subsequent stay in the hospitalís Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This book infuses parents' emotions into a complete discussion of decisions and events that they must face as their babies struggle for life and growth. What makes this book unique is the number of personal stories in which parents share their NICU experiences - joys, sorrows, fears and final outcomes.

"The Premature Baby Book" set the standard of scientific information and family friendly design that all subsequent books for parents of premature babies must meet or exceed. Helenís book still stands out for its tone of sympathy for parents and for its frank discussion of parentís emotional feelings through all stages of the process. This is partly due to the experience that Helen brings to the book as a parent of a premature baby boy herself and in part due to the Helen enthusiasm for parents right to be involved, informed and included in decisions that may have life long consequences for their child.

The book serves as a companion to parents in their dealings with the high tech and volatile world they share with their premature baby, with helpful information on early medical problems associated with prematurity as well as developmental issues such as attachment, feeding, and nursery parenting. While the primary focus of the book is on life in the NICU, the second half of the book also addresses the transition from the hospital and the first year home. Issues such as feeding, swaddling, and long term impacts are discussed in detail.

Photographs of young babies and "former premies", illustrations of medical concepts and special parenting techniques, and riveting stories written by parents provide a context for the detailed information and add a human dimension to each topic. It is impossible to read this book without being touched by the stories and photographs of the families caught in the intensity of the journey following a premature birth.

Helen Harrisonís plans to update this book will prove beneficial in certain discussions of medical procedures and long term impacts. However, much of this book is still quite practical for today's hospitals and may come as a revelation to parents as they cope with the NICU experience. The emotional impact and the parenting techniques have not changed. Even as hospitals are more ready to involve parents in decisions and care of their young and tiny babies, the need for parents to be empowered and informed about events and techniques in medicine and special needs parenting is still crucial. "The Premature Baby Book" can be an important part of a preemie parentís repertoire.

Quotes from a parents:

"First I'd like to say that my admiration for Helen Harrison is boundless. When my kids were first born and in the hospital, her book was our anchor in an insane and frightening world. I don't think we could have survived without it." Sue Somit

"This is a book that my husband and I found very helpful during our stay in the NICU and after we got home. It was recommended to us by our Clincian and I highly recommend to parents of new preemies.." Amber Francis

As for the Helen Harrison book, I know it well!  My own copy is quite worn and was my "other Bible" during those darkest of days.  While it is now a little bit "dated" it still  was/is outstanding and there was, at the time (1995), nothing like it "out there". (I don't know if she has done a revised edition or not considering the latest medical advances.)  In fact, I have
given it as a present to a couple friends who have had preemies and they too were exceedingly grateful for the honest words she shares. Marian Vlasak

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