Tips For NICU Parents: Everything You Wish They'd Tell You

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The Best Tips For NICU Parents

As a mom who had her first baby in the NICU for a short while. I can tell you how emotional, scary and insert all. the.emotions you will go through as you navigate parenthood from the NICU. These tips for NICU parents will help you so much.

I truly believe you can have a good experience and heal (from birth) and emotionally and mentally even if your baby is in the NICU.

Ready let’s dive right in.

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Visiting Your Baby In The NICU

1. Always Wash Your Hands

Before entering the NICU, learn the etiquette from your nurses and doctors. Most hospitals will have a place for you to wash up before even entering the NICU.

My favorite is this hand sanitizer that I used each and every time after washing my hands for added protection.

2. Be Part Of Baby’s Routine

When you are in the NICU it may feel intimidating and scary but you can always lose that fear by knowing one thing. Your child needs you.

Ask your nurse if you can do some of the following things (if the baby can handle them of course):

  • Feeding baby
  • Burping
  • Changing diaper
  • Taking temperature
  • Holding baby
  • Swaddling
  • Placing in incubator

The more you start doing, (the more the nurses will love you -for helping them out), and the more experience you will gain as a parent.

3. Ask Questions Everyday

Yes, be that parent who is super involved. No, the nurses and staff will not be annoyed. They want to inform you and keep you in the loop of your child’s care. All they want is for your baby to be able to go home and thrive.

You can ask things like:

  • Any new developments
  • What can you do today to help your baby
  • Ask questions that pertain to your child’s care and health

4. Learn Visitation Rules

Some hospitals will allow only family or parents into the NICU while others will have a 2 or 4 person at a time rule. Depending on your hospital – make sure you know the visitation rules and that baby is healthy enough to receive any extra visitors.

Make sure each visitor is healthy and does not have the flu or cough. All babies in the NICU will thank you for going in healthy.

5. Learn The Sleep Accomodations

Whether your hospital’s NICU is big enough to house lots of children or small and only a handful of people can be in it. You should ask if you can stay overnight and sleep close to your baby.

Some will have chair-beds that you can stay on. While others are so tight for space that they may allow you to be in a chair most of the night.

If that is the case, bring a pillow and a small blanket to help you cozy up.

6. Keep Record Of Baby’s Growth

Get a pencil out and celebrate every little win that your baby passes. This way you can look back and see the growth they are making when you feel like nothing new or good has been happening.

Even if it’s gaining an ounce or having one less wire on them. Write it down.

Helping Your Mental Health While In The NICU

Being in the NICU creates anxiety, fear, and sometimes starts a downward spiral into postpartum depression. You should take a few minutes to go over each of these tips to make sure your mental health is also taking its time to recover.

7. Take Breaks

Don’t feel like a shitty parent when you need to stay longer at home to shower and eat a full meal. It is okay to miss a feeding if you need to relax and help yourself gain some strength to go back into the NICU.

Your nursing staff at the NICU is there for a reason, they will watch, care for, and help your baby when and if you cannot make it in.

Take breaks as needed, especially if you are at the hospital for long hauls. Make sure you go out and grab some fresh air.

8. Have One Contact Person

Your family and friends want to know what is happening with your baby. In order to keep yourself sane, you’ll want to have one contact person in the outside world that can update the rest of your friends and family.

This way you can focus on what’s truly important – helping yourself recover from childbirth and your baby.

9. Learn To Recover From Childbirth

Recovering from childbirth is a process that takes time and depending on how you birthed your baby you may need more time than others to heal.

I highly suggest you take this course taught by two RN nurses on how to recover and heal after childbirth. It is informative, easy to understand, and can help increase the speed of your recovery because of the help they give.

It is also under $18 making it one of the most valuable postpartum resources you’ll ever buy.

10. Use The Hospital’s Services

Most hospitals will have services that are free for parents who have children in the NICU.

  • Lactation Specialist
  • Social Worker
  • Family Therapist
  • Church / Priest
  • Meditation Room

Using the services from the place you are going to be spending a lot of time in will help you so much.

If you find that you are having trouble with your milk supply because you are pumping you can see the lactation specialist.

If you and your partner are not seeing eye to eye because of your child’s condition in the NICU talk to the family therapist.

If you need help finding how you are going to afford this NICU stay, talk to the social worker.

These things are so crucial and if they are offered for free – take advantage and take 10 minutes to reach out to the proper people and discuss your situation.

Not sure how to get in touch with any of these services? Ask the front desk, a nurse, or a volunteer from the hospital.

11. Join A Parent Support Group

You can easily find a support group in your hospital or online for parents who are also NICU moms and dads. This will help you feel less isolated from what is going on in your situation.

Being able to relate to someone who has gone through a similar experience can make a BIG difference.

12. Write It Down

When you have a question, need to jot down your fears and your hopes write it down. Letting it out may be hard for you right now. In order to keep your sanity, write it down.

This will also help when you want to ask your doctor something and you go deer-in-the-headlights. (because this is a stressful time) you can look back into your journal (or notes section on your phone) and ask the questions.

13. Know That This Is Going To End

Soon your child will be able to come home, they will leave the NICU and be in your arms. All this pain and fear and anxiety will end. It doesn’t have to be this scary remember. Be in charge of that fear and turn it into hope.

How To Deal With A Stressful NICU Stay

14. Ask Questions

I think this was also a tip-up above but I have to tell you again. Asking questions and being informed on what is going on with your child can help you ease your thoughts.

Always ask questions, do research, and be involved with what is going on with your baby.

15. Try To Get Some Sleep

When you are away from the hospital, try to get some sleep. You are going to be going back and forth to the hospital until your baby gets out. Use this time (remember to let your nurse know if you will not be visiting for a few hours) to catch up on sleep.

16. Tell Your Nurse When You Will Arrive

In order for your nurse to make sure you are more hands-on with your baby – let them know when you will be back to visit the baby.

This way when you arrive you can feed, change and burp the baby. If you don’t tell your nurse they may not know and they may do these things for you.

Just keep that line of communication open with them. They are going to be your number one support system while the baby is in the NICU. (*shout out to all the great NICU nurses, you guys rock and you don’t know me but I love you lol)

17. Start Breast Pumping

Did you get your free breast pump from your insurance carrier – you can do that right here. You should start pumping now to help your milk supply establish and increase while the baby is not able to breastfeed.

If your baby is able to breastfeed make sure you do it as much as you can in order to help your breast milk get established.

Here is a sample pumping schedule perfect for NICU moms

Make The NICU Space Your Own

18. Decorate Your Child’s Space

The NICU is full of machines and wires and incubators it is hard to make it feel cozy and warm.

In order for you to feel more comfortable – try to decorate your baby’s incubator and surrounding area with items from your home.

Think things like:

  • Baby blanket
  • Picture of your and your partner
  • A stuffed animal

You don’t want to do anything too crazy because the staff still needs to be able to perform their job while caring for your child.

19. Have A Personal Photographer Come In

Ask if you can have a personal photographer come in and photograph your baby. I know you want those cute newborn pictures and it may not be the way you wanted them to come out but it is still your newborn and capturing this time and moment will make you so happy to look back on.

Make sure that the staff knows they are coming in, to help them do anything before or after the shoot.

Common FAQ’s About The NICU

What Is The NICU?

It stands for the neonatal intensive care unit. It is for children in intensive care that are going to be looked after by hospital staff.

How Long Will My Baby Be In The NICU?

This depends on why your baby is in the NICU in the first place. While some newborns are born early and stay depending on how much help they need. Others are there for a short while they adjust to life outside the womb.

Always ask your doctor – how long they expect your child to be in the NICU and remember this can change from day to day as your baby improves.

Why Do Babies Go To The NICU?

Many reasons affect children going into the NICU. It could be because they are premature (were born early), they have a birth defect, they need surgery, are low on blood sugar, they have jaundice, etc…

Anything that results in needing medical attention can result in having a child go into the NICU.

What To Expect When You Go Into The NICU For The First Time?

When you first go into the NICU you are going to see a lot of machines, wires, monitors, a nurses station, incubators. You can see babies who are very very tiny who cannot get out of their incubators, babies who are a little bigger with more wires or IV’s on them. It is very hard at first to see such little humans in this state and can be a very emotional visit the first time you go.

In conclusion, these tips for NICU parents are perfect to adapt and help you get through this stage of life. It is hard and scary but it doesn’t have to be. Remember to take some time to relax, breathe and always talk to your nurses (they are straight-up angels) to help as you navigate life with a NICU newborn.

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the best nicu tips for parents. 19 tips to survive the nicu for parents

19 Best NICU Tips For Parents

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Rosaura is the mom blogger who helps first time pregnant and postpartum moms find the solutions to their everyday problems. From first finding out you're pregnant to giving birth and baby care, she has you covered.