While Your Baby is in the NICU: Top 5 Helpful Tips

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
08/15/16  10:14 AM PST
in the NICU

Having a baby in the NICU can be overwhelming at best. This mom shares her top 5 tips on coping during this tough time.

Contributed by Melanie McGourty.

I found out our baby girl, Scarlette had a blockage in her bowels before she was born, so I knew ahead of time that she would be taken from me right after birth to our local children’s hospital. She had surgery on day two of her life. I was unable to be there for four days because I was recovering from a C-section. That was very hard.


in the NICU
Scarlette in the NICU


We traveled daily to the hospital so I could see her while I was still recovering. She was in the NICU for a little over a month. During that stay they found she had numerous problems with her heart and lungs and the veins surrounding them, so again I knew in advance she would require more surgeries (she has had two open heart surgeries in the past six months).


It’s a lot to take in, and the unknown of it all is a hard pill to swallow. Having your child in the NICU is a tough and scary time. Here are some of the things that helped me. I hope they help you too!


1. Take care of yourself.

While your child is in the hospital she has the best babysitters you could ever dream of—once she gets discharged it’s all up to you. Be sure to eat well, especially if you are providing breast milk for your baby. Get plenty of rest. This may be the only time you get uninterrupted sleep!


2. Take care of your baby.

Although there are expert caregivers to provide for your baby’s every need, only you can be her mother or father. Talk or sing to your baby. Record your voice so she can hear it even when you’re not there.

At our hospital, you can bring most of your favorite baby things as long as they are clean. This is another great way to connect with your baby in the NICU. The hospital does supply a lot of necessities during your child’s stay, so don’t be afraid to ask.


3. Connect with other parents in the NICU.

Sharing experiences will help you cope with the stress of having a child in the hospital. Ask if your hospital has a NICU Family Support program.


4. Get help from the hospital.

Our children’s hospital has a place that’s open daily where you can get free snacks, coffee, a massage chair, toiletries, etc. That was extremely helpful for me.

You probably have a hospital social worker assigned to your family while your child is in the hospital. They are there to set you up with services, help you make difficult decisions, and assist you in communicating with your doctor or other health care professionals. Our social worker helped us get food from the cafeteria and money for gas to travel back and forth to the hospital.  If you’re like me, you’re unable to work while your child is in the hospital, so getting by is hard.  Having assistance with expenses that arise during this time is a blessing!


5. Get help from family and friends.

Talk to family and friends in advance about helping you once your little one is home. This could be as simple as coming over to watch the baby so you can nap or shower. Bringing dinner over for your family could also be a huge help. Make it easier for them by suggesting an online meal scheduling service.


in the NICU
Scarlette after a surgery


More helpful resources for NICU parents:

The Centering Corporation: Non-profit organization dedicated to providing education and resources for families who are grieving over a child who is ill

Hand to Hold: Non-profit organization that carefully matches seasoned parents of preemies (Helping Hands) with parents in need of support.

For more Helpful Links and Resources for Families of Children with Special Needs, click here.

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1 comment

  1. My daughter wasn’t in the NICU. She was hospitalized new born baby at three weeks with RSV. She was two weeks at the hospital. It was so painful to see my daughter with all the tubes. God blessin, friends, family and all the doctors and nurses I survived. Even though I lost 50 pounds in three weeks. Now, my daughter will be thirteen thanks to God.

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