You are your NICU baby’s biggest fan, strongest protector, and most important advocate.
The NICU rollercoaster experience is new and often overwhelming. You may not understand all the terms and timelines, and EVERYTHING can feel confusing as you’re learning your way around the NICU. How can you advocate for your baby in the NICU?
You are a vital part of your child’s care team, and you should have all the information you need to make smart, well-informed decisions on behalf of your baby, so we’ve put together a list of 5 tips to help you be the best advocate for your little one.
- Ask ALL the Questions!
Chances are, this is your first rodeo, and you should never hesitate to ask questions. If you’re unsure about a change in your child’s routine, a new medication, a different care provider, an upcoming procedure, or why your little one needs a particular piece of equipment, just ask! Your baby’s nurse or neonatologist will be happy to explain, and before you know it, you’ll be a NICU expert.
- Learn More About Your Baby’s Needs
Some NICU warriors just need a little more time to grow, but many babies come to the NICU with additional health needs. Cardiac problems, respiratory issues, and GI complications are common in preemies. If your child has an ongoing health concern, do your research to learn as much as you can about their condition. This empowers you to know which questions to ask and helps you make well-informed medical decisions for your child.
- Take an Active Role in Your Baby’s Care
Let your baby’s nurses know that you want to be involved in as much hands-on care as possible. This can include feeding, bathing, diaper changes, and more. If your NICU baby has additional “accessories” like feeding tubes or breathing equipment, learn as much as you can about care and maintenance- especially if your child will go home with these devices.
- Find a Supportive Community
Friends and family are wonderful, but it’s also good to have a community of people who have experienced the NICU journey firsthand. Your hospital may have a support group for NICU families, but if not, there are countless online groups that can be valuable sources of information and emotional support. Check out Hand to Hold and Project NICU.
- Make a Post-Hospital Plan
The day that your baby comes home will be one of the best days of your life. It will also be one of the busiest! Newborns require a LOT of care, and NICU graduates often have a whole list of additional appointments with doctors and specialists. Make the transition easier by scheduling appointments before your baby is released from the hospital so you can avoid conflicting appointment times or multiple visits in a single day.
You may be a new NICU mom or NICU dad, but you’re still your baby’s best advocate. When you partner with your child’s care team to ensure your little one has everything they need to thrive, everyone wins!