Babies go to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for various reasons, some for mild conditions, and others more severe or even life-threatening. This can be a very uncertain and emotional time for parent(s). If you have a friend or a family member whose baby is in the NICU, you may be looking for ways to help. If so, THANK YOU!
We thought the best way to gain ideas about how you can help parent(s) of NICU babies was to reach out to families who have gone through it themselves. We asked them what made them feel supported during this tough time, and this is what they had to say…
- Purchase a hospital parking pass and gas cards. Parking and gas costs add up quickly when you are traveling to and from the hospital several times a day.
- Offer to watch the older children so that the parent(s) can spend as much time with their newborn as possible. Take it a step further by taking the siblings to the zoo, a trampoline park, the movies, the local playground, etc.
- Offer to drive the mother/partner to the hospital (especially if mom has had a cesarean and cannot drive yet, or her partner has to be back to work).
- Be quick to respond to calls and texts. Be there for them emotionally. This is an incredibly stressful time, and parent(s) may just need someone to vent to.
- Take care of house and yard work. Having to clean the house and mow the grass are the last things your friends/family want to be dealing with.
- Cook meals that can be stored in the freezer and reheated later.
- Do the weekly grocery shopping for the parent(s).
- Prepare a gift baskets with items like water bottles, pens and a journal, snacks for the hospital, nursing tank and lactation cookies (if mom is breastfeeding), bottles with preemie nipples, and a preemie outfit or two.
- Send encouraging text messages! You may not get a reply right away, but they are so appreciated.
- Walk, feed, and spend time with their pets. Fur babies need our love too.
- Be patient with the parent(s). Give them space, and don’t push for information. Be grateful for the time that they allow you into their space.
- Make comments about how frail or tiny the baby is (if you are allowed to visit.) Instead offer encouragement and comment on the baby’s precious features.
- Get frustrated if you are not on the list to visit the baby. Hospital policies are strict with visitors to the NICU, and the parent(s) may not want visitors.
- Expect to come visit within the first few weeks the baby gets home. These are special times and the family may want/need time alone to settle into being home with their new baby.
- Come visit if you have been exposed to someone who has been sick. The family understands!
- Feel hurt if your friend/family doesn’t update you with everything that is going on with their new baby. This is a very personal time and they may need space and time to process.
And DO give the gift of a Postpartum Doula! Foothills Family Postpartum Doulas are specifically trained to help parents transition to life with a new baby. They can be incredibly helpful while the baby is still in NICU and when the whole family unit is home. Even if it is just one overnight shift, the parents will be so incredibly thankful.
Remember, parent(s) of a NICU baby can be very worn out physically and emotionally. Be patient. Give grace. And offer only encouraging and uplifting words. Don’t expect anything in return, not because they won’t return the favor, but because their only focus is on their little one.
If you had a baby who stayed in the NICU, please tell us in the comments below what made you feel supported during this time. We would love to hear from you!
Foothills Family Doulas would like to thank all those who offered support and advice for the writing of this blog! You are strong for all that you have endured, but also for passing along this incredibly helpful and important information.
Special thanks to: Christina O., Candice W.A., Casey R., April C., Khrista C., Misty B., Jenna A.S., Meaghan G., Angela O., Jennifer F., Margaret M.T.M, Katie A., and Amber D.