When you know in advance that you’re going to have a NICU baby, there are a few things you can do to help prepare yourself.
- You may have bad days, but try to have good days too. When I was told 20 weeks into my pregnancy that my son had a massive brain bleed, I was a complete mess. I cried all the time, even in my sleep. I just couldn’t seem to get over how unfair it all was. I wanted answers that I couldn’t get. I must have searched the Internet 100 different ways for answers. As hard as it may seem, try to step back and just surrender. Know it’s out of your control, and the only thing you can do now is to just forge forward. Trust me, I know how hard that is. And I’m not expecting you to be able to do it 24/7…but just try, and keep trying. Because you can make yourself sick with all the worry and anxiety and depression. Try to find some sort of peace knowing that your healthcare providers and your baby’s healthcare providers are going to take excellent care of the both of you.
- Make a list of every question you have, and review this list with your doctor. Take notes on their responses, you will not remember everything they said! But remember, you may not ever be able to get the answers you are searching for.
- Pump as soon as possible after delivery to help establish your milk supply. If you go into the hospital knowing you will have a NICU baby, you can ask your labor and delivery nurse for a breast pump before you even delivery. Even if they don’t have one available to just “hang out” in your room until you have your baby, they’ll understand your intention. If they do have one that they can bring to your room, you can ask how to use it and set it all up even before you deliver, that way it will be all ready to go as soon as your baby is taken to the NICU.
- Tell your nurses, your physician, and anyone else that will listen that you’re pumping to provide breastmilk to your NICU baby. Insurance companies will allow women to stay in the hospital a certain number of days after they deliver, but many hospitals will allow women who are breastfeeding to stay an extra day as a “guest” or a “nester” if they have beds available. Typically, an uncomplicated vaginal delivery can stay in the hospital up to 3 days after delivery, and an uncomplicated cesarean delivery can stay up to 4 days after delivery. Talk to your provider or your insurance company for more information. Even if you did not have intentions to breastfeed, any amount of breastmilk is beneficial for your baby. It’s like medicine, and the composition of your breastmilk changes to meet the demands of your baby.
- When you’re in the NICU, ask your baby’s nurse what machines are and what they do. If an alarm sounds, and they don’t seem to be concerned, ask about it if that will help calm any anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. All of it will seem overwhelming, but NICU nurses love the babies they take care, and they will not mind answering any questions you may have. If you have concerns about the care your baby is receiving, talk to the nurse. You’d be surprised how receptive nurses can be. There’s also a charge nurse, a manager, and unit director you can speak to if you have serious concerns about the care of your baby.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you can touch or hold your baby. You can even ask to hold your baby skin-to-skin. If your baby is not stable enough, you may not be able to, but it never hurts to ask! Skin-to-skin is beneficial for both of you, and a lot of times the wires and the machines and the IVs can be so intimidating. You may be frightened, but just talk to your baby’s nurse. They will guide you and let you know if, when, and how often you can hold and touch your baby. And remember, it’s your baby. The majority of time, it should be okay for you to be able to hold and touch your baby.
- Make yourself as comfortable as possible while you’re in the NICU. Ask for pillows to place in your chair to help you feel more comfortable. If they seem to be short of pillows, bring your own…I always liked one behind my back and I liked to sit on one to help with the stitches. Pack yourself snacks and plenty of water while you’re visiting your baby if you expect to spend any amount of time in the NICU. It’s especially important to stay hydrated. To minimize vaginal bleeding postpartum and uterine cramping, empty your bladder frequently.
- One of the most important things you can for yourself is to get plenty of sleep when you’re not in the NICU! Being a NICU mom can be exhausting. So talk to your family and friends and give them clear directions. Tell people exactly what you need.
Until my next delivery ❤
NICU nurses are fiercely protective of the babies they take care of, so know your baby is in good hands! Good luck ❤ And ask for help if you need it 🙂