A Letter to Parents from a NICU Nurse

nurse holding baby next to mother in hospital

Dear NICU Families,

As a proud NICU nurse for over 20 years, I have bonded with so many wonderful families just like yours.

There’s nothing quite like it.

I come into your life at a tough time, as you face one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced. I see your fear, hope, worry, joy, and tireless devotion to your child. I’m there to hold your hand on the hard days when your baby takes a step backwards, and I’ll be by your side to cheer and celebrate every new milestone.

It’s a gift to be a part of your incredible NICU journey, and I am always honored and humbled by the trust you place in me to care for your little one (and you!).

Since I have been doing this for so long, I’ve learned some helpful, reassuring things along the way that I’d like to share with you:

There’s no “right way” to do this

Every case is different. Every NICU family has different circumstances. But you’re all doing the best you can for your baby, and that’s all that matters.

Please don’t beat yourself up for the things you can’t control. If you have to go to work and can’t be at your baby’s bedside all day every day, it’s okay! Go to work and leave your guilt behind- I’m looking out for your little one!

If you don’t have every detail of your baby’s care painstakingly organized in your NICU journal (or if you don’t even have a NICU journal!) that’s completely fine!! This is YOUR family’s journey, and you have to do it in a way that works for you.

It’s okay to feel ALL the feels

The NICU experience is not easy. You will feel a whole spectrum of emotions before your baby goes home- and every single one of them is perfectly normal.

It’s okay to be sad, worried, and even angry. This is not the beginning you’d imagined for your family, and you are allowed to be disappointed that you didn’t get the picture-perfect birth story you’d hoped for.

It’s scary to have a sick little one, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. You’ll have days where you feel excited, overjoyed, and buoyant with hope, and you’d never stifle those feelings, right? It’s good to be open and honest about the not-so-great days as well.

You can ALWAYS speak up

You are the best advocate for yourself and your baby. If you have questions, please ask! This is truly a situation where there are no stupid questions.

And if you’re not happy with something, speak up! Let your nurse know when there’s a problem, and she will do her best to fix it. And if your nurse IS the problem (it happens!), talk to another member of your baby’s care team to discuss solutions, or a possible switch.

You NEED to take breaks

You love your baby so much, and I know you want to be with them as much as you possibly can. That’s wonderful, and I encourage it- but not at the expense of your own health.

NICU parents HAVE to take time for self-care. This is a stressful time, and you need moments to take a break, take a nap, or just take a shower!

You can (and should) take time to grab coffee with a friend, take a walk with your spouse, or enjoy a long conversation with a supportive friend or family member. You need a support system, and it’s good to let your people look after you!

You CAN bond with your baby

There is nothing that makes a parent feel more helpless than looking at their tiny baby in an isolette covered in tape, tubes, and wires. You may wonder how you can possibly bond with your baby when you can’t even pick them up…

I know it’s intimidating, but I promise, you can bond with your baby and be an integral part of their care- it just takes some creativity!

If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your nurse. He or she will be happy to let you help with baths, diaper changes, feedings and more. Before you know it, you’ll feel confident caring for your baby despite the extra “accessories.”

And if your little one isn’t ready for lots of hands-on care, just sitting beside them and talking, reading books, or singing to them is enough to let them know that they are so very loved and cherished by their family.

Your NICU experience is unique, wonderful, and sometimes a bit terrifying, but you are doing a FANTASTIC job NICU parents. Keep it up, and be kind to yourself- you’re doing great!

If you’d like more advice on bonding with your baby and navigating your NICU journey, I’d love to send you my FREE eBook, How to Bond with Your Baby. Click the link to download it instantly!