- Be FLEXIBLE
While we typically expect a baby’s NICU stay to last until sometime around their due date, the reality is that it’s not always that straightforward. Some babies will go home weeks before their due date, and some babies will stay weeks past their due date. Truth is, none of us are steering the ship! Baby is the one in charge, and they usually do a pretty good job of letting us know where they’re at developmentally. It can be frustrating as a parent (and a nurse, too!) when baby seems to be doing so well and then hits a roadblock. Be flexible with your expectations, and work together with your baby’s medical team to adapt to their journey of growth and development. Being flexible will not only help your sanity, but it will also be a huge help to your baby.
2. Be INVOLVED
One of the greatest ways you can find joy in your NICU journey is to be involved! Be involved with your baby’s care. Things like changing diapers or taking a temperature might seem trivial, but they are a great way to bond with your baby. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a million times—babies KNOW their parent’s voices. They respond to your presence, and your relationship with your baby will only grow as you are involved with their care.
Look for other ways to be involved as well! Get to know the other parents around you. It helps to have support in others who know intimately what you are going through. Many NICU’s have a parent support group—get involved and lean on those who have gone before you for support.
3. Be ASSERTIVE
One of the greatest things you can do for your baby is to be assertive. Ask questions. Try to understand what is medically going on with your baby. It can be confusing at times, no doubt. If you don’t understand what a doctor or nurse are explaining, be assertive and ask them to clarify. If you feel like your baby’s medical team is missing something, or needs additional information, say something. If family members don’t understand why they can’t come hold baby all day, every day (Ahem, I may have been that family member at one time…), explain to them the importance of not overstimulating baby. Being assertive doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive; just taking the time to educate both yourself and those around you will benefit baby in numerous ways. You are your baby’s voice and advocate—be assertive, ask questions, and do your best to understand each part of your baby’s NICU journey.
4. Be EXCITED
Every step of progression in your baby’s journey is something to celebrate! Obviously, it is easy to get excited about big steps like coming off of oxygen, first bath, or first bottle. But in the NICU, every little bit of progress is something to celebrate. Your baby took 5mL more than her last feeding?? HOORAY! Baby did a great job sucking on their pacifier today? INCREDIBLE! Baby only spit up once today? There never was a better, smarter, more advanced baby in this world! Even the smallest of victories are still a victory—don’t forget to be excited about it. Find joy and excitement wherever you can. Your baby deserves to be applauded for all their hard work! No doubt your nurses will celebrate with you—we are so invested in your sweet baby, and we are always excited to see them progress towards their final destination—home!
5. Be MINDFUL
Often, mothers are so focused on what is happening with their baby that they forget to take care of themselves as well. Mama, you just had a BABY! That is a huge deal! Amid this crazy, hard, beautiful NICU journey—don’t forget to be mindful of yourself. Having a tough day? Let yourself be sad. Exhausted, but feeling like you can’t leave the NICU? Go home and get some rest. Don’t forget to eat. Don’t forget to sleep. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! It’s like the flight attendants always reiterate on every single flight- put your own mask on before your put someone else’s on. You can’t fully show up for your baby if you aren’t doing some form of self-care. Be mindful of how you feel, both physically and emotionally. There are plenty of ups and downs to having a baby in the NICU—be mindful of your needs, so that you can do your best to make it through this intense, tough, beautiful journey.
Article by Carrie Fox, RN
Carrie Fox, RN works in the NICU at Utah Valley Hospital. Carrie enjoys using her unique perspective to strengthen and empower those around her and is truly honored by the trust placed in her to take care of these tiny, warrior souls. In her spare time, she is also a professional photographer and proud aunt of 7. Carrie enjoys books, babies, and traveling around the world.
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