Having a newborn in the NICU is scary and stressful. My daughter was only in the NICU for two weeks before learning how to breast and bottle feed (she was premature), but the toll it takes on parents is a lot. While we were only NICU parents for a short time (and our daughter didn’t have any major health issues other than gaining weight), there are many babies who stay months after they’re born.
Here are some of the things that helped our family get through the unknown—NICU tips from one mom to another.
Set a schedule
Depending on your situation and your proximity to the hospital, this may or may not be possible, but we found that if we planned out when we were going to visit, things went more smoothly. Our daughter was on a set eating schedule every three hours, so we often planned our visits around those times, or times we knew she was going to have a doctor’s visit, bath or other big milestone. If you’re not sure of your newborn’s schedule, the NICU nurses are more than happy to share it with you so you can plan out your days.
Rest when you’re at home
On the resting note, if you’re discharged from the hospital and staying at home, it’s important that you set aside time to rest as well. Recovering from any type of labor, c-section or vaginal, takes time, so while your baby is being cared for, try to take it easy when you’re not at the hospital.
Lean on your nurses
While you’d prefer that your baby was healthy and home with you, the nurses who care for your baby are full of knowledge. If you’re unsure of how to change diapers, apply diaper cream, or give your baby a bath, ask questions and let them walk your through the steps. We found the hands-on instruction so beneficial and we’re so grateful we had some extra time to learn and observe.
Ask for help
The biggest piece of advice I can give to any new mom, but especially NICU moms, is to ask for help. In our case, we weren’t prepared for our daughter to arrive when she did, so there was a lot to do around the house. It’s okay to ask friends and family for help unloading packages (Amazon to the rescue!), washing clothes, prepping pumping parts or accompanying you to the hospital.
Don’t feel bad calling the nurse’s line
Every NICU nurse wants to make you feel comfortable, so even if it’s in the middle of the night, call them! I once got a call from a sweet NICU nurse at 9pm (and man did I freak out), but she was calling to tell me our daughter drank a full bottle for the first time ever, which was a really big deal for her. Even if you feel like it’s silly question—or even if you just want to check in and see how your baby is doing—trust me, they will be more than happy to put your mind at ease.
Be kind to yourself
The most important thing to remember (and something one of our sweet NICU nurses told us), is that no matter how often you visit your baby, know that your baby knows how much you love him or her. Traveling back and forth can be difficult after labor (or if you live far away) but just remember, your baby knows you love them, no matter what. Try not to feel guilty about not being at the hospital 24/7. You and your significant other need rest too, and if you do take the time for yourself, your time at the hospital will be that much sweeter.
Olivia DeLong is a writer, editor, and content strategist with over a decade of experience crafting health and lifestyle content. Her own fertility experiences, paired with many years of researching and writing about women’s health topics, has led her to believe that now, more than ever, we need to be our own health advocates. She strives to share real, accurate information with the world so that we can all learn more about the health issues that affect us each and every day. She lives with her husband Jeff, daughter Amelia, and dog McCoy in Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not sharing health content online, she enjoys long walks with her family, dancing in the kitchen with her daughter (while drinking a good glass of wine!), at-home workouts and podcasts…lots of podcasts.