7 Ways to Stay Positive After a Setback in the NICU

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Some days in the NICU are wonderful- your baby makes progress, has a special first, or meets an amazing new milestone.

Those days are easy to celebrate, but what about the days that aren’t so great?

The days when your baby takes a step back or faces an unforeseen challenge can be devastating for NICU parents even though setbacks are COMPLETELY normal.

Preemies and full-term NICU babies alike rarely follow a straight course in the NICU. 2 steps forward can be followed by a big step back, and that’s so hard for parents who just want to bring their precious little one home.

It’s important to remember that very few families make it through their NICU journey without experiencing some setbacks. When your child encounters a stumbling block, here are some things that can help you stay positive and focused on the incredible progress your baby is making:

Setbacks happen to almost everyone in the NICU

I know, I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating! I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a NICU family that didn’t experience a single setback. They call it a roller coaster ride for a reason!!

Things change CONSTANTLY

Your baby’s day can start off strong, only to hit a rough patch just a few hours later. But by bedtime, things might be looking up again! When you’re in the midst of a hard time, remember that it’s not permanent.

Your NICU baby is in GREAT hands

Neonatologists and NICU nurses are some of the most compassionate, dedicated people in the world. They truly care about your baby and want to see your child grow and thrive as much as you do. They are giving their all to your child’s care, and you can rest easy knowing that your baby is in wonderful hands.

You’ve got lots of support

Hopefully you’re surrounded by loving family and friends that lend an ear and a shoulder to cry on whenever you need it, but even if that’s not the case, you are NEVER alone. There are wonderful support groups for NICU families where you can ask questions, share triumphs, and even vent to people that truly understand your journey. If you don’t have access to a great local support group, I recommend Hand to Hold - Support Groups or Project NICU - Support Groups for wonderful virtual support. 

Knowledge is power in the NICU

The more you know about your baby’s medications, equipment, and routine the better prepared you’ll be to face challenges with a positive outlook. There’s a lot to keep up with in the NICU, so I recommend being present as often as possible for rounds so you can ask questions and take notes.

Your nurses are here for YOU too

The NICU journey involves the entire family, and your baby’s nurse wants you to feel like an active part of your baby’s care team. Never hesitate to ask questions, call for updates, or ask to participate in baths, feedings, or diaper changes.

One day soon the NICU experience will all be a memory

Setbacks have a way of making you feel like you’ll NEVER leave the NICU, but better days are coming! Your baby is making amazing progress- even when they take a step back. Be patient and keep moving forward. Before you know it, you’ll be home with your little one and this will all be a distant memory.  

Setbacks aren’t fun, but they are simply a part of life in the NICU. When your sweet little one has a rough day, try to take it in stride (which is DEFINITELY easier said than done!). 

Focus on how far your baby has come, and remember that there are wonderful days ahead!