"I would advise parents to be honest with their friends and relatives," said Holzman. "It is OK to show both love and concern. Parents must accept, to some degree, the inability of others to understand the situation. The same communication issues that arise when someone tells you they have cancer-- especially, if it is incurable -- apply in the setting of a preemie."
Some NICUs have already recognized and attempted to curb the problems that arise from insensitivity and inappropriateness by creating literature and counseling for the parents of preemies, along with their family and friends.
"Over the last few years, the health care providers are understanding that these parents are going through post traumatic stress disorder and should be treated as such, with lots of counseling through their baby's NICU course, as well as after discharge," said Dr. Siva Subramanian, a professor of pediatrics and an ob-gyn at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C.
Subramanian said one of the first points of discussion is the guilt that often comes along with giving birth to a preemie, and it's important to make sure mothers and fathers realized that the baby was not born early because of something they did wrong.
"We also provide psychological counseling, especially for those whose babies will be staying for a longer time or are sicker, even though all parents whose baby is in the NICU, regardless how sick or not ,will feel a tremendous pain and suffering and grieving.
"After taking care of details about the course of their baby, we talk about how others-- relatives, friends or strangers-- will not understand what just happened to them and help them plan the coming days as to how to handle those issues with other," he said.
"Because we are all complex," said Holzman, "it is especially hard for friends and relatives to know how they should approach families of a premature."