Life in the NICU is terrifying for any parent. Typically, many parents go into pregnancy excited (and hopeful) for a safe pregnancy; however, the human body has its own plans sometimes. For many reasons, some babies may decide to come early or are born with complications. When times like this occur, they're sent to the hospital's NICU (or their own version of an intensive care unit). Here, the baby will be monitored and treated until they are healthy enough to live outside the NICU doors.
Considering not too many moms have the time to prepare for these dangerous NICU situations, these 10 points are a quick way for preemie moms to gain a little more knowledge on what to expect inside the NICU walls. Just remember, every hospital's NICU is different and above all else, consult a medical professional with any questions or concerns you may have.
10 BECOME PREPARED
Saying to be prepared for the NICU isn't something many parents would appreciate. However, parents should feel well knowing their baby is in the best care possible.
Since parents are going to be meeting a ton of nurses, doctors, specialists, therapists, and beyond, it's important to stay organized. Whether you have an extra notebook in the car or you run to the store to grab one while on a coffee break, bring a notebook to the NICU to take notes. Keep track of your baby's milestones, the doctors/nurses you meet, and the names and numbers you're bound to get from specialists. This notebook can come in handy when so much information is given to you at once.
9 NOT EVERY NICU IS THE SAME
While the NICU stands for newborn intensive care unit, not all are the same. One premie mom told Scary Mommy that NICUs vary on the hospital. Visiting rules will be different, some hospitals have a separate room for parents to nap in, and others even have a dress code.
If your child is admitted to the NICU, you'll get a rundown on how they do things, but don't be afraid to ask questions.
8 YOU'RE GOING TO MEET A LOT OF DIFFERENT FACES...
The amazing thing about NICUs is that there are so many health professionals who want to see your baby thrive and graduate from the NICU. There will typically be a head honcho you can talk to about your baby's case but typically, nurses and doctors are on rotation; meaning you're going to see more than the same nurse every day.
7 ...AND YOU DON'T NEED TO HAVE THEM AROUND IF YOU DON'T LIKE THEM
Following on the point above, sometimes parents don't necessarily vibe with a particular nurse or doctor. Maybe they're too cold or their views on treatment are opposite of the parents' views. When things like this happen, parents have a voice. They have the ability to ask for a new nurse to treat their child if views conflict.
6 YOU'LL ALSO BE IN PAIN
Hi, you just had a baby! Most mamas are so selfless that they're only thinking about the health and wellness of their baby. However, most moms forget that they just gave birth!
They're tired, they're sore, they're hormonal — there are a ton of things going through a mama's head after birth! Their child being taken from them to get treatment in the NICU can be a harrowing experience on top of healing from pregnancy and labor. As a mom, you have to give yourself some credit, a little bit of freedom to go easy on yourself.
5 YOU'RE GOING TO FEEL GUILTY LEAVING
You're not going to like it, but the health professionals are going to encourage parents to take breaks. Whether they both leave the NICU for a well-deserved lunch break or one of them goes home to shower, nurses encourage moms and dads to take little breaks from time to time.
Being in the NICU can be overwhelming and tiring — it's easy to lose a sense of self while in there. Taking a break from the hospital walls and give mom and dad a refreshing outlook.
4 YOU'RE ALLOWED TO PERSONALIZE YOUR SPACE
Surprise! In the midst of all this NICU chaos, with different sounds and cold breezes, parents are typically allowed to personalize their space. Bring a few baby blankets for your baby to snuggle up to; pack a baby bag to with clothes you want your baby to wear when they're ready to leave the NICU; put some photos around their incubator so they can look at familiar faces. It's these small things that can make all the difference when in a rather sad environment.
3 KANGAROO CARE IS ENCOURAGED!
Parents are told time and time again how important skin-to-skin contact and kangaroo care is. And although most NICU babies aren't ready to be held by their parents, when they're cleared from the NICU staff — all systems go!
Doing skin-to-skin can promote a closer bond between parent and baby. Verywell Family also notes that it can help regulate the baby's temperature. Kangaroo care is also very similar to skin-to-skin and can allow baby to get comfortable and pick up on their parents' scent.
2 YOU CAN TOUR THE NICU BEFOREHAND
One mom told Parenting that when she went into labor early, she walked around the halls until she was ready. Since it was preterm labor, she was able to visit the NICU and see what the environment was like. This helped her mindset tremendously because it allowed her to be prepared for what was to come once her baby was born.
1 BREASTFEEDING MAY NOT BE AN OPTION
While many moms would love to try breastfeeding, it's not always possible for mamas who have a baby in the NICU. But just because your baby is in the NICU, doesn't mean your breasts stop making milk. On the contrary, your body runs as scheduled and starts producing milk.
The problem is some babies in the NICU aren't strong enough to breastfeed or never developed physically to be able to do so. Instead, the NICU staff will ask for you to pump your milk to nourish your baby.