12 NICU tips for the family

Having a baby born requiring specialised care can be an emotional experience that affects the entire family. Miracle Babies Foundation provides vital emotional support to families with a premature or sick newborn, connecting you with others who are going through or have been through a similar experience.

Please remember that you are not alone, and there is support available.

Here are 12 tips for parents:

  1. Try to learn all you can about the medical equipment, medical conditions and staff who are helping to care for your baby. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; the NICU and SCN staff have a wealth of knowledge and are there to help you.
  2. Ask to spend time having cuddles with your baby, don’t wait for it to be offered. Kangaroo care can help your baby maintain a stable heart and breathing rate and develop better both physically and mentally.
  3. Keep a journal of your baby’s progress and your feelings while you are in the NICU. Journals become a great keepsake, and you will be able to look at it and see how far your child has come. You can include information such as;
    • Weights and measurements
    • Vital signs such as heart rate and oxygen saturation
    • Feeds
    • Medications
    • Graduations such as moving from Level 3 to Level 2 or coming off a ventilator to CPAP
    • Try to write down all your baby’s ‘firsts’, such as:
      • First cuddle
      • First time you could breastfeed or bottle feed
      • First real bath
  4. Say ‘hello’ to other parents in the NICU or SCN and make time to chat with each other. The friendships and support networks formed in the hospital will be a great comfort in the hospital as well as once you’re out. 
  5. Ask if you can keep mementos such as your baby’s first hospital bracelet, a (clean!) tiny sized nappy, phototherapy mask, old leads and blood pressure cuff – in time, you will look back and wonder how it was ever too big for them.
  6. Take lots of photographs and video footage of your baby. Some parents take pictures of their baby next to an item – such as mum or dad’s wedding band on the baby’s wrist or arm. This will give people an idea of your baby’s size later on.
  7. Celebrate every step and milestone, however big or small. Your baby may have finally reached 1kg, come off CPAP or been in hospital 100 days. Photos, video footage, balloons or even a cake for those extra big events make these milestones special.
  8. Leaving your baby in the hospital can be a very emotional time. Do whatever it takes to help you feel okay, even if that means calling the hospital numerous times a night to check how your baby is doing. Be open to telling people you aren’t coping or how you are really feeling – you need support through this time.
  9. If your unit has a parent’s room, make use of it to read, watch television and chat with other parents.
  10. While your baby is sleeping, spend time just watching them. Observing their facial expressions and activities will help you to get to know your baby and their little personality.
  11. Understand that your friends and family are there to support you. If you can, tell them what they can do to help. Sometimes it might just be listening, they could pick up some extra groceries, help out if you have other children or drop off a cooked meal at the end of the day. They’re there to help.   
  12. Above all, try to stay positive and be kind to yourself.

Advice for Grandparents:

Be the rock your child needs you to be. This journey is enormous – they need you. Don’t take offence at anything. They are doing the best they can in dire circumstances. Love those babies. Don’t be afraid to touch them when their health allows – it’s a vital form of communication, as is the sound of your voice: sing, read and chat. Go with an appreciative mindset. If your child hasn’t eaten, feed them; move their cars and love them unconditionally and bestow that same gift on your grandchildren. It’s an amazing investment, as the love you put in now is returned 10-fold later. Enjoy.

Dale, grandmother of Sasha and Ivy born at 34 weeks

Visit www.miraclebabies.org.au to read other family stories, access helpful information to help you navigate through your hospital stay and beyond, and to find out more about the Miracle Babies NurtureProgram support services. 

NurtureLine 1300 622 243 (1300 MBABIES) 24hr family support helpline

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