A Q&A with the Creators of the MyPreemie app for Preemie Parents

What inspired the creation of the MyPreemie app?

My Preemie App logoThe app was a natural evolution from our book Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies. It doesn’t substitute for the book, but complements and adds to it, putting at parents’ fingertips, right on their mobile devices, key information, tools, and emotional support they need while their baby is in the NICU and afterwards. It is the result of our understanding of these families’ stressful experience and desire to help them with the most up-to-date kind of tool available.

Why is the MyPreemie app’s Diary better than a traditional baby book?

Most baby books are geared to full-term babies and don’t begin to capture the events and emotions that go along with premature birth. Also, when you’re spending hours in the NICU every day, it’s hard to find the time and energy to devote to a paper baby journal – only to find you regret it later, when memories of the first days and weeks have faded. But for those long hours in the NICU, a diary on your phone or tablet works beautifully. You have it with you by your baby’s bedside, when you’d love something baby-oriented and productive to do between feedings or conversations with the staff.

MyPreemie’s Diary is a combined baby journal and adult diary specifically focused on the experience of premature babies. It elicits facts, feelings, and photos with multiple-choice prompts that are meaningful and easy to complete, and as much space as you want to write free form. Because it’s digital, the Diary can adapt itself to each preemie’s path, and can be shared in a snap with relatives and friends, via email or Facebook, right from the NICU. It has the gently whimsical look of a hand-illustrated baby book – calming for parents stranded in a high-tech medical world. You can even choose the color and design of the pages – one of the small delights we aimed for throughout the app. And the app’s Diary can be printed in PDF, so you have a paper book to preserve.

MyPreemie App for Parents

How can the app help parents of preemies stay organized?

MyPreemie is very practical, as an app should be. For example, NICU parents are often overwhelmed with medical information at a time when they typically have trouble focusing and remembering. So the app’s Pocket Guide to Preemies – essentially a mini-book within the app – comes with a list of Suggested Questions after each topic to ask the doctor or nurse about your baby. One tap on a question transfers it to a Remember to Ask list, where it’s easy to find, along with other questions you type in. A parallel Remember to Do list helps keep personal tasks organized. In the app’s Trackers section, parents can record their baby’s weight, length and head circumference measurements and see them plotted on special premature infant growth charts, to check their preemie’s trend over time and whether he is growing as expected.

The Diary gives parents a record of when events occurred. And a section of the app called Treasured Mementos presents a checklist of meaningful items – such as the baby’s hospital bracelet or isolette name card – for parents to gather as keepsakes of their child’s early start in life, to be cherished in the future. In our vision, when families of preemies are better organized, it also means they gain more control of their experience.

Does the app address the emotional needs of preemie parents?

Absolutely; we wanted MyPreemie to be a complete tool kit for self-help. In the NICU, where young preemies are hospitalized at birth, parents watch as their babies struggle through many possible medical complications of prematurity and slowly learn how to breathe, eat, and live outside the womb. Keeping a journal like the app’s Diary has been shown to help decrease depression and anxiety in NICU parents. The Diary helps parents express their complex emotions indirectly, by choosing a weather icon to describe the general mood of the day, and directly, by selecting from a list of positive, negative, and neutral feelings and writing comments. A few prompts encourage a positive focus, such as “Today I’m looking forward to…” or “I’m grateful for…”

Since parents at this time may prefer to avoid emotionally charged conversations with relatives and friends, they can keep them updated by sharing the app’s pages by email or Facebook. Also, parents often feel they’ve handed over the care of their baby to doctors and nurses and feel excluded. To help establish friendly relationships and communication, the Diary asks for the names of the nurses taking care of the baby each day, and the Pocket Guide provides information and suggested questions to ask them, giving parents the tools they need to participate.

Would you say the app empowers moms and dads coping with premature birth?

All sections of MyPreemie are geared toward empowering parents by offering them information and support, and conveying a sense of normalization – acknowledging the obstacles and reassuring parents that they are common and expected. This is crucial when a preemie goes home, too; many families continue to have anxieties and fears because preemies can be more demanding to raise. Most preemies are destined to live a happy and productive life despite their early birth: conveying this realistic hope to families has always been the main inspiration of our work, and technology is offering new opportunities to fulfill it.

What has the reception been like from parents who’ve experienced premature birth?

Incredible! MyPreemie has received unanimously enthusiastic reviews and comments on parents’ blogs. This positive feedback means the world to us and makes all our work on the app worth it!

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