So you have a friend or a loved one with a baby in the NICU? And you're wondering what you really can do to help?
You've come to the right place! Read on!
The truth is - NICU moms are struggling.
They have had their babies too early, or too sick, and they are very scared about having to be separated from their babies.
NICU moms - like all moms - dreamed of blissful times snuggling their babies, but instead they have to ask permission to touch their own baby. They are worried every time the phone rings, in case it's the hospital calling with bad news. The experience they are going through is hard, and they will very much appreciate your care and love.
Do you know what tons of NICU moms tell me again and again?
That their friends don't know WHAT to do, so they don't do anything.
NICU moms often get no baby gifts because people don't know what to get, and they don't get phone calls because nobody knows what to say.
OK, how much does that suck?
So, to make an awful situation worse, NICU moms feel isolated and not-understood and they would really love their friends to help them out during this heart-wrenching experience.
What to do First
The first thing I recommend you do is read this article I wrote about basic Preemie Etiquette, if your friend had a preemie.
If your friend has a baby in the NICU for something other than being born early, you still might want to read it just to get an understanding of some basic do's and dont's.
After you've done that, check out his huge list of great ways to help you can give your friend.
The Things Money Can't Buy
Run Errands for her
Offer to buy the groceries.
Don't ask if you can do it, just offer.
Tell her to write her grocery list down and you'll deliver them to her fridge. Or take the dry cleaning in, pick up mail, fill the car up with gas, etc.
Any errands you can do while she's at the NICU being with her baby will be ultra-appreciated. Help a NICU mom by babysitting her older kids
One of the #1 pains that NICU moms have is the struggle of trying to spend time with her baby in the NICU and the rest of her family. It usually feels like there's no good answer for how to meet everyone's needs. Tell your NICU mom that you want to babysit. Give her some clear dates and times that you're free, or ask her to write down the days and times that would really help.
Drive Her to the Hospital
Any mom who has had a c-section has to wait weeks before she can drive, so she may be desperate for a ride to visit her baby in the NICU. If you can offer it, give her a lift to the hospital. She may invite you to join her inside, but most likely she will not for one reason or another. You'll do her a favor just by understanding either way.
Go For a Walk
Offer to go for a walk with your friend. Fresh air, along with someone who cares and who will listen, are incredible gifts. You might even offer to meet her at the hospital and walk nearby, if there are places to walk and if it helps your friend not have to go too far away from her baby.
Set Up a Caring Bridge
This service is incredible for NICU families, as a way to keep everyone in the loop. As they explain it:
"free CaringBridge website has all the tools you need to keep your family and friends updated during a difficult time. Because we’re a nonprofit, we put your needs first.
-Share news and updates with everyone at the same time
-Communicate in a private, ad-free place Activate your community and coordinate help
-Receive emotional strength and support NICU Support Groups
Suggest NICU Support Groups
Your NICU mom friend may have had no time to think about anything more than just getting through one day after another.And what she might be missing is the vast community of support that exists for NICU moms. Help her out by giving her this list of websites to check out.They have so much to offer, including peer mentoring:
Deliver an Appropriate and thoughtful gift
If you want to do more, or if you simply don't have time to offer, a gift is the way to go.
Did you know? A large majority of NICU moms say they received no gifts whatsoever after the birth of their baby, so you can do something incredible by remembering and showing you care.
But I offer a kind word of caution - not every gift is good when a baby is in the NICU.
So check out the list of great gifts to buy for a NICU mom: What's the Best Gift to Buy a NICU Mom?
Trish Ringley is the founder and CEO of Every Tiny Thing. She has been a NICU nurse since 1997, and she's been creating the products and accessories that NICU parents love since 2014. When she's not at work caring for NICU families, she's raising her two teenage kids, gardening, and raising service dog puppies for Canine Companions for Independence.