Baby in NICU -Best Tips to Help with Coping
The NICU is a stressful and anxiety-inducing place.
This is because of the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen to your baby and what the future holds.
Most people do not experience the NICU, so most NICU parents have no idea what to expect
I wanted to provide the best tips and advice that has helped me as a NICU parent.
And what I teach as a NICU nurse.
Hopefully, this list of tips can prepare NICU parents to take on this journey with more confidence.
Just remember that each tip will include a small explanation, but a lot more can be said for each tip.
In the future, I will be creating more blog posts for specific tips to provide more information.
So let’s get started!!
What Has Helped Me?
After I became a NICU mom, that thing that helped me get through the NICU was my knowledge.
I knew what to expect and what will be happening with my 31 weeker.
I knew he will eventually come off CPAP and have some bradycardias.
I knew he would have feeding problems and regurge a lot because he was IUGR.
This knowledge helped me not freak out or cry when I saw him throwing up and losing weight.
For IUGR babies, this was the normal course.
My knowledge of the NICU has helped decrease the anxiety and fear I had.
And that is what I want to share with my readers and fellow NICU parents.
I want give NICU parents essential tips and advice they can implement ASAP to help care for their premature baby.
Below are the best tips I can give to any NICU parent.
Here we go…
Best Tips to Survive the NICU
Tip 1: It’s your baby
- When you first see your baby in the NICU, it’s scary!
- There are soo many wires and tubes on their little body.
- So there can be a disconnection and you feel like it’s not your baby.
- But it is YOUR baby!!
- It’s your baby that grew inside of you and was moving.
- The baby you were singing and talking to
- So try your best to touch your baby ASAP– put your hand in the isolette and gently touch
- This will help build back the connection that you already have.
- And your baby will love the touch of their mother
Tip 2: Do skin to skin as soon as possible
- Once your baby is stable, ask to do skin to skin with them.
- This is also known as kangaroo care.
- There are many benefits to skin to skin and it is essential for a premature baby.
- Kangaroo care helps the baby regulate their temperature, their breathing, and their heart rate.
- It also helps with milk production for mom and strengthens the bond.
- It also helps with brain development and decreases crying.
- If skin to skin is not an option due to the baby being unstable, you can always put your hand in the isolette and do gentle touch and containment of your baby
Tip 3: Pump early
- pumping breastmilk for your premature baby is the best thing you can do when they are born.
- The colostrum (early stages of breast milk) is also known as liquid gold.
- This is because the colostrum is packed with amazing nutrients and antibodies that your baby needs.
- Pumping early and consistently stimulates your breast to produce more milk in the future that your baby needs.
- Check out these amazing pumping tips for new NICU moms to help establish your milk supply.
Tip 4: If you cannot pump anymore, formula is perfectly fine too.
- If you are having mental health concerns, if pumping is getting too stressful or if you just want to stop pumping, that is perfectly fine.
- As a mom, we need to take care of ourselves first, so we can take care of our baby.
- Breastmilk is crucial at the beginning of your baby’s life, especially if they are sick and really premature.
- Breastmilk is easy to digest and it has the perfect nutrition and antibodies that your baby needs when they are sick and small.
- Once your baby is bigger and stronger, formula is totally fine too.
- So don’t feel bad if you want to stop pumping and give formula.
- Many moms do it.
Tip 5: Understand you can’t be there all day everyday
- When your baby is in the NICU and is away from you, you feel like you have to be there all the time.
- This feeling is completely normal as any parent wants to be with their baby, especially when they are sick.
- But understand that being at the hospital all day is stressful and you need your rest too!
- If you are at the hospital all day everyday, you will eventually burn out and get sick.
- And your baby needs you to be healthy.
- So remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Reserve your energy and create a visiting schedule that fits you and your family.
Tip 6: Have a Schedule in Visiting your Baby
- As mentioned above, you cannot be at the hospital all day everyday.
- You are human and you are doing the best you can.
- Some of us have other kids, live far away or don’t have a car.
- Therefore, what has helped me to be present with my baby and also recover is creating a visiting schedule.
- For example, I always visited at 1 pm-6pm everyday.
- This allowed me to sleep in to recover and I was there for 2 feeds.
- Find a schedule that fits you and your family’s life.
Tip 7: Choose primary nurses very early
- Primary nurses are nurses that whenever they work, they will take care of your baby.
- Therefore, your baby will have the same nurses that will get to know them really well.
- Primary nurses are important because the baby will receive consistent care in everything, especially feeding.
- The consistent care helps premature babies learn faster and do better.
- Eventually, these babies go home earlier than other babies.
- Also, having primary nurses help ease the anxiety and guilt that parents feel in not being with their baby because someone you trust is taking care of them
Tip 8: Have family members cook meals for you and your family
- Getting any help from family and friends is amazing, especially with cooking.
- Creating a meal train is great in letting your family and friends know what you need.
- www.mealtrain.com is a website that makes creating a meal train very easy.
- Through the website, it is easy to share the meal train with family and friends through social media.
- And it is free!
Tip 9:If you have other kids, know that it will be harder to balance the hospital and home
- Alot of moms have a hard time balancing spending time at the hospital and spending time at home with the other kids.
- I find that this is one of the hardest problems NICU moms deal with.
- You want to be with your baby when he/she needs you the most, but you have other kids at home waiting for you.
- There is guilt there of leaving your NICU baby early, as you need to get home to your other kids.
- You have to understand you are only human and you can only be at one place at a time.
- So stop being so hard on yourself….You are doing amazing juggling everything.
- Your baby will eventually come home.
- Until then, hold on and keep pushing through!
- All your kids love you for this amazing strength you have.
Tip 10:Understand that mom guilt is soo real!!
- Having to leave your baby is very unnatural.
- But this is the reality of the NICU… our babies have to be in the hospital because they need the NICU care.
- So our motherly instincts kick, in that we have to be with our baby all day to provide care.
- But we cannot be there as often as we like… therefore we start to feel intense guilt.
- This guilt is soo real and often hard to deal with.
- What helps is to understand you are doing everything possible to care for your baby.
- You are pumping milk that will feed your baby, you are doing skin to skin to help regulate the breathing and heart rate, you are advocating and fighting for your baby to get the best care possible.
- You are doing what you can and what is in your control to provide the best care for your baby and be a great mom.
- Check out this blog on other tips on how to conquer NICU mom guilt.
Tip 11:There is a sense of loss all NICU moms experience
- This loss includes loss of a “normal” pregnancy, loss of doing the first diaper change, loss of doing the first feeding for your baby.
- These feelings are never addressed and NICU moms usually suffer on their own.
- What helps is to understand these feelings are normal.
- You had a complicated pregnancy and your baby is safer to be outside the womb than inside.
- Therefore, what can you do now to be the best mom possible?
- Even though there is loss there, there will be many gains and positive outcomes in your life and in your baby’s life.
Tip 12:Take care of your mental health as much as you take care of your physical health
- This is essential!!!
- It is easy to forget your mental health when you are thinking about your c-section pain, your blood pressure and taking care of your baby.
- Just remember to take time to recover properly and self reflect on yourself… ask yourself “how am I doing and coping mentally”.
Tip 13:Ask lots of questions regarding your baby’s care
- You know your baby the best.
- If you don’t understand a procedure or a situation, talk to your nurse or doctor to get an explanation.
- At the end of the day, you want your baby to receive the best care.
Tip 14:Advocate for your baby-You are their voice.
- You are your baby’s protector and fighter.
- If there is a nurse or doctor that you see isn’t providing the best care, speak up!
- Talk to the charge nurse or management about your concern.
Tip 15:Your baby will come home when they are ready and safe
- We all want our baby to come home ASAP.
- But at the same time, we want our baby to be safe and thriving at home.
- We don’t want to be readmitted into the hospital again for poor feeding or breathing concerns because the baby was discharged too early.
- So be patient.
- Work on the essential skills like feeding with your baby.
Tip 16:Have a daily checklist for packing essential items for your baby’s bedside
- Going to the NICU everyday is exhausting.
- You are also stressed out and have alot on your mind because your baby is away from you.
- Therefore, I recommend using a daily checklist when packing your bag for the hospital visit.
- It is easy to forget important items like your fresh breast milk or even your lunch ( I’ve done both!!!)
- So going through a daily checklist will prevent you from forgetting these important items that you need, so you can visit stress-free with your baby.
- Check out this link for a FREE Checklist you can use!
Tip 17:When your baby goes home and is growing, use corrected age instead of actual age for milestones
- Every premature baby will have a corrected age and an actual age.
- The actual age is the exact age the baby is from the moment they are born.
- And the corrected age is the age from the due date.
- Premature babies are born early, so it takes time for them to catch up with weight and milestones.
- To give them a fighting chance, we always use the corrected age, instead of actual age, to see if they are reaching milestones
- Check out this blog post to learn more about Corrected Age for your preemie
- EXAMPLE: My son was born 31 5/7 (almost 32 wk)
- He is 8 wks premature from the due date (40 wks-32 wks=8wks)— Always use 40 wks, which is the due date to calculate this
- He was born in April, his due date was June
- In August, his actual age is 4 months, but the corrected age is 2 months.
- Therefore he should be acting like a 2-month-old and reaching the milestones of a 2-month-old.
Tip 18:If you have any concerns about your child not meeting milestones after discharge, seek help right away
- Early intervention is key for any child
- talk with your pediatrician or family doctor about your concerns
Tip 19: The NICU journey will eventually end and you will take your baby home
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Having a Baby in the NICU
- The NICU journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
- It’s a long and exhausting journey, so reserve your energy.
- Ask for help from family and friends if you need it.
- Don’t shut out your husband/partner. Lean on them for support as this journey is hard for them too!
What other advice/tips do you have that you wish someone told you about the NICU-COMMENT BELOW
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