Let's be honest, when it comes to doctors visits almost everyone leaves something out they probably should have said, or decides to tell a tiny little fib instead of the whole truth. But when the visit is for a baby—and mom and dad learning that the apple of their eye has to be escorted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for babies—it can be a pretty unsettling situation, and that's an understatement! But it's best to err on the side of caution and make sure that that little bundle of joy gets the best treatment he or she needs.
For parents though, any time their child has to stay in the hospital can be really tough, it can even make them feel like things are totally out of their control. But in order to ensure the best care, parents and the healthcare staff need to work together to provide the best possible outcome for the babies. And the best way to do this is to have open and honest communication.
So, we asked neonatal practitioners about the best advice they can give parents placed in this situation to help calm their worried eyes and help them open up. We also asked what were some of the situations when parents should have spoken up, but didn't. These are actually more common than one may think. So to avoid making it on this list, read on for 20 things parents choose not to tell neonatal nurses, but should.
20 When The Milk Doesn't Flow
One of the biggest challenges for new mothers who choose to breastfeed is being patient while the milk comes in; but for mothers whose little ones are in the NICU, waiting for milk to come in is only half the battle.
Once mom's milk finally comes in, establishing a supply can be tough since mothers who aren't with their kids all the time often have an issue with milk flow, according to La Leche League. There are solutions, but mom should speak up and let neonatal nurses know of their intentions to breastfeed and if there are any issues pumping or getting a good flow going.
19 When It Is All Too Unexpected
Sometimes the things you see in the NICU can be unexpected and starling for parents. "At first it may be difficult to see beyond the incubators, ventilators, monitors, and tubes, but you will, says Rosanna M, who has worked for more than two decades as a neonatal nurse.
“A NICU is a (surprising) place, but it is also a place of great hope, miracles and love,” Rosanna says. “Focus on that when things seem [stressing].” If you start to feel swamped or are uncomfortable seeing your tiny baby being cared for, consider asking nurses what each machine is for or having them explain how long your little one is projected to stay in the NICU.
18 Trouble Remembering Why This Is Happening
One of the most valuable pieces of advice for parents from Laura Dryjanski, neonatal nurse, is to take notes. There can be a lot of information it can be hard to remember everything. Why do you think doctors have their charts and interns to help remind them of everything. Since things change so quickly taking notes can really help parents remember what to do in case their little one's condition gets drastically better or worse. There are procedures put in place for a reason, you don't want to be left feeling confused as to why certain things are happening. Talk to the doctors or nurses on your baby's case to find out more.
17 Be An Advocate, Mom
You know your child best of all. Even though doctors know the medical side of things, every child is different so speak up and say something if you don't agree with how things are going for your little one during his or her NICU stay. If you don't want your little one bathed yet or want his or her diaper changed more frequently or want music playing in his or her room, speak up. Don't feel that formula feeding is best? Speak up. Only you as the parent have partial control over how your baby is treated during his or her stay in the NICU.
16 If You Want Kangaroo Care, You Need To Ask For It
Ever hear of Kangaroo Care? Not interested? Want to learn more? Does the hospital not offer it? Like it? Don't? Tell the nurses!
Kangaroo Care, also known as skin-to-skin holding, is undeniably beneficial, for both babies and parents. It can improve your little one's advancement through temperature stability breathing and body mass development. Sometimes nurses are busy, so if parents don’t ask specifically to do skin-to-skin holding, they’ll skip it. And once your little one gets older and he or she is bathed and dressed, the option to do skin to skin gets forgotten. In any case, if you have an interest, speak up and tell the nurses.
15 Is Baby Retrogressing?
When it comes to the care of babies, sometimes things don't always go as planned. There are always good days and bad days. But if you happen to notice that your child's progress is actually retrogressing, you need to tell doctors and nurses. Sometimes parents will notice that their baby isn't doing as great as they were last week, but instead of saying anything they will just hope their little one comes around. Don't! Say something. If your baby opened his eyes twice last week but not at all this week, that isn't necessarily something nurses will know since it's not something they can find in tests, but if you tell them it could help change treatments.
14 When In Need Of A Different Nurse
Sometimes people are not so great. There are times nurses care more about finishing their shift than their patients; it happens, people are human. So, if you feel your child would be better off in the care of a different nurse, don't be afraid to request one. "I would prefer a different nurse to care for my child." Is actually a more common request than you may think. Don't be shy of being one of those parents, nor should you be worried that the other nurses will view you differently. You are the best person to speak on behalf of your child.
13 NICUs Can Affect Relationships
Having a little one in the NICU can have some strange effects on your couple, parents. If you notice that your relationship is sinking faster than the Titanic tell ur doctors or nurses. They could refer you to counselors that can help parents cope with having a baby in the NICU. Some hospitals have these services available in the same building, so speak up, let someone know if your couple is in trouble and you are having issues being by your little one's side. It can be a lot to have a new baby, but having a new baby that also needs health attention is hard.
12 Treatment Doesn't Always Go As Planned
Treatment plans change, and quickly, too, when it comes to babies. But as a parent, if you don't want a certain course of treatment for your little one you should tell your baby's doctor or nurse. Even if you are having some hesitations, tell the nurses. Nurses know health care and doctors know the procedure, but parents know their children, so if you have a gut feeling about a course of treatment that is not going the way you feel comfortable with, you should speak up and tell the doctors or nurses who handle your little one's care. It's better to speak up than to regret not saying anything at all.
11 Some Parents Will Feel Like They're Always On Call
You've probably heard of doctors and nurses doing all night shifts or constantly being on call. The thing is, when parents have a baby in the NICU, many feel they need to be on call too. It's natural to want to be by your baby's bedside all the time, but you also need to take care of yourself so you have enough energy to care for your baby. If you haven't had a break, you need to tell a nurse. Depending on the hospital, nurses can provide you with an overview that could help set you at ease, at least enough to take a nap or go home for a few hours.
10 NICU Makes 'Normal' Baby Stuff That Much Harder
Things, like changing a diaper or clothing and feeding your baby, can come really hard to parents with babies in the NICU. Whether it's their tiny frame or all of the machines that help them breathe and grow, parents should tell a nurse if they are having trouble. Don't worry, no one will judge your parenting style. Remember there really is no "right" or "wrong" when you are a parent and showing up to be with your baby when he or she needs you most. Verywell Family suggests that parents always speak up and be very clear with nurses about their parenting goals.
9 Nurses Can Forget The Human Side of Treatment
The distress a parent can feel over their little one's condition can be pretty unsettling, sometimes parents need to feel a bit of compassion, they need to let nurses know that. In a National Institutes of Health study, parents who have children in the neonatal intensive care unit can often feel left out, lonely, and overrun with worry; this is where nurses can help. Aside from just communicating with parents, they can take care of their patients' parents emotional needs. As a parent, it can be difficult to identify one's emotional needs when there is such a fury of things happening at once but talking to your nurses is essential in helping you cope.
8 Remember That Parents Matter, Too
When parents are included in treatment plans for their kids, studies show it makes having a baby in the NICU that much more manageable. According to the National Institutes of Health, when parents are given attentive communication and the chance to be a part of their child's treatment plans, gives the parents relief in their difficult circumstances. On the other hand, "lack of communication contributes to feelings of loneliness, abandonment and unwanted responsibility, which adds to the burden of an already difficult situation. The level of communication in meetings with staff can have a decisive influence on parents’ experiences of the NICU."
7 Repeat After Birth
Most of the time moms will find out that their little ones need to be transported to the NICU shortly after they've given birth. Those prime moments just after the most memorable moment of one's life can make it quite hard to process any new information. Don't be shy about needing the nurses to replay what happened or to ask nurses why your little one is being transported to the NICU, even though they may have already told you why. Asking for a repeat or review does not make you an inattentive mom, and not to worry, they won't judge you. So speak up.
6 Want To Know More About The Transfer Home?
When it's finally time to go home, parents may be so overjoyed that they may choose not to ask about follow up visits, transfers to standard pediatricians, and what home care will be like. Ask those questions, kidshealth.org insists. Asking about the care demands of your infant once you all are able to go home is essential to making sure that your little one stays on track with his or her development. Also, asking what sort of outpatient support will set mom and dads minds at ease. Don't worry about how it sounds, just ask nurses. You'll be glad you did.
5 Family Photo In The NICU?
Parents may be hesitant to ask nurses to take family photos since the NICU is traditionally pretty dark, but try to remember. You just had a new baby! It's cause for celebration, no matter the circumstance. If you are shy or ashamed about enjoying a family moment, don't be, ask nurses to take a picture of you and your little one, with a lot of time outside of the home, it will make a great family photo and a wonderful story to tell them years later about how far they've come. Besides, the nurses will be happy to see parents who remain optimistic during such a trying time.
4 What's New, Doc?
Neonatology is a super new practice that's constantly changing and new forms of treatments are constantly available. Want to ask your doctor what's new without sounding like one of "those" parents? Just ask. Meg Fulmer, a neonatal nurse in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania says that parents should embrace all of the scientific literature available, but not shy away from the fact that practices change very quickly, and so can treatment plans. Speak up and ask if the hospital where your little one is getting treatment stays up to date on the newest forms of treatment, research, and discoveries.
3 Complaints About The NICU Environment
One thing parents often keep to themselves is about the NICU environment. But remember this is your child, so yes, your opinion matters. Many of us know that certain stimulation can really help with baby's advancement. Asking if it's possible to change the NICU environment to something happier or more lively is a valid question, according to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. So if there is too much noise or too much light, maybe not enough light, or maybe you feel like the environment should closely resemble the womb or have pictures of the family, speak up and tell your neonatal nurse.
2 In Layman's Terms, Please
What is it with doctors and nurses that just LOVE to throw around medical jargon? We get it you went to med school... We get it you're a nurse... So now for those of us in the back that are worried sick about our kids what exactly is a whositwhatsitamnioblah? Jargon in the health care sector can be confusing, and for parents, it can be daunting to even ask. According to a National Institutes of Health study, parents who didn't understand certain procedures felt worse than parents who felt they had a good understanding of everything that was going on. Don't be afraid to ask for an explainer.
1 Get Real, Pregnancy Talk
If you did any ill-advised things during your pregnancy, it may be great to tell your neonatal nurse now. Certain things that your obstetrician may have told you to stay away from or do more of, like no eating tuna fish or taking your prenatal vitamins, could be helpful information to neonatal nurses. One thing neonatal nurse, Laura Dryjanski, wants to really make sure parents know is that the time their child is spending in the NICU is not their fault. Speaking up can just help nurses know what to look for or allow them to rule a few things out.
References: Neonatal Nurse Blogs, University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, Kids Health, National Institutes of Health, Life, Very Well Family, La Leche League