Congratulations on your new little one! While this may not be the start to parenthood you had imagined, know that you're not alone.
As a NICU nurse, I know that the idea of your baby spending time in the NICU can be overwhelming and scary. But I want to reassure you that you and your baby are in good hands, and there's a lot you can do to make the experience a little easier.
First things first: what can you expect during your baby's NICU stay? Well, every baby and every NICU experience is different, but here are some things that are common:
- Your baby will be monitored very closely. This might mean lots of wires and machines, but it's all to make sure that your baby is stable and getting the care they need.
- Your baby will likely receive a lot of medical care, from IVs and feeding tubes to medications and possibly even surgery. It can be hard to watch your little one go through all of this, but remember that it's all to help them get better.
- You will be involved in your baby's care as much as possible. This might mean learning how to change their diaper while they're connected to a bunch of machines, or helping to give them a bath. It can be intimidating at first, but I promise that you'll get the hang of it.
- You'll be surrounded by amazing medical professionals. Expect to meet skilled, compassionate doctors and nurses who are dedicated to your baby's care.
- The NICU experience can be an emotional rollercoaster. Expect to feel a wide range of emotions, from fear and worry to joy and hope.
- You will likely have a lot of questions, and that's okay! Don't be afraid to ask your baby's care team anything you're wondering about. We're here to help.
- You'll likely spend a lot of time at the hospital. Expect to be there as much as possible to be with your baby and participate in their care.
- You'll learn a lot about your baby's medical condition. Expect the NICU team to provide you with information and support to help you understand your baby's diagnosis and treatment plan.
- You'll become an expert in caring for your baby's needs. When the time is right, you'll learn how to change diapers, check temperatures, and provide other forms of care for your baby.
- You'll receive an outpouring of love and support from family and friends. Expect others to want to help in any way they can, and don't be afraid to ask for help or accept support.
- You may connect with other NICU parents who have babies in the NICU now or who have experienced the NICU in the past. It's great to bond with others who are going through similar experiences, and find comfort in sharing your stories.
- You'll form a special bond with your baby. It may not happen as easily as you hoped, because the NICU is such a stressful place & experience, but trust that it will happen and be patient as your bond grows.
- You'll need to be your baby's advocate. Expect to speak up and ask questions if you have concerns or feel like something isn't right.
- Your baby will make progress and setbacks, which can be frustrating, but if you look at the long term progress you'll see how far you and your baby have come.
- Your baby is strong and resilient. Expect to be amazed by your baby's ability to overcome challenges and persevere.
So, with all of that said, how can you make the most of your baby's NICU stay? Here are some tips:
- Take care of yourself. It's easy to forget about your own needs when you're so focused on your baby, but it's important to eat well, sleep as much as possible, and take breaks when you need them.
- Get to know your baby's care team. We're here to help and support you as well as your baby, so don't hesitate to ask us questions or talk to us if you need anything.
- Keep a journal or take photos to document your baby's progress. This can help you see how far they've come and give you hope for the future.
- Celebrate milestones, no matter how small. Every little victory is worth celebrating, whether it's your baby gaining weight or breathing on their own for a little while.
Remember, your baby's NICU stay is just a small part of their journey, and it will get easier with time. Hang in there, lean on your support system, and trust that your baby is in good hands. We're here to help you every step of the way.