A Mother’s Guide For A Baby In The NICU

NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit and is where premature babies go who require intensive care. Leaving the hospital without your baby is heart-wrenching, but they are in good care with the NICU nurses. Remember, there is no “right” way to go about having a baby in the NICU. Simply choose what’s right for you and your family, and allow time to adjust to this new normal one day at a time.

A Guide To The NICU

As a parent with a baby in the NICU, your baby’s health may not always be in your hands, but the decisions you make are still yours. Do what works best for you, and don’t feel pressured to do anything different than your gut tells you. Here at Kernodle OBGYN, we understand that the NICU can feel like a lonely place. Here are a few tips for surviving your baby’s journey in the NICU. 

Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Baby

Babies who need NICU care are preterm (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), have a low birth weight (under 5.5 pounds), or have a health condition requiring special attention. Some babies admitted to the NICU can weigh as little as one pound. Because preterm babies appear so small, fragile, and often need to be hooked up to several tubes and wires, it may feel like you are incapable of giving them the care they deserve. Remember that no matter how early your baby is born, your love, touch, and care will be essential for their survival. Your NICU parenting skills will develop over time as you learn how to properly care for your baby in the NICU. 

Expect To Feel Many Emotions

Amid the chaos, remember that NICU parenting is something that very rarely comes naturally. Parents often feel lost and unsure of how to comfort their baby in this unfamiliar environment. Feeling scared, sad, overwhelmed, confused, guilty, hopeless, and angry is normal. However, it is also normal to feel love, hope, excitement, and other positive emotions! Try not to put too much pressure on feeling the “right” emotions— because there is no normal way to feel! Additionally, try not to judge your parenting skills or question your love for your infant. Instead, stick to doing what feels right to you. 

Ask Questions And Get Involved

We get it— the NICU can be a confusing and overwhelming place. Luckily, the nurses and doctors are there to help! Don’t be afraid to jump in and ask questions about your baby’s care or any ways you can help. Try getting involved by asking to do kangaroo care, which is the practice of skin-to-skin contact between baby and parent. In a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, kangaroo care for low-birthweight infants was shown to reduce mortality, severe illness, infection, and length of hospital stay. By asking questions and getting involved, you can begin to step into your role as a parent.

Record Your Baby’s Development And Milestones

One of the best ways to feel in control and empowered with a baby in the NICU is to record their developments and milestones. Try tracking things like vitals, weight, visitors, memories, and other day-to-day milestones. This is a great way to look back and recognize how far your baby has come! Additionally, check out this resource for helpful books and websites as you navigate your baby in the NICU: Helpful Books and Websites.

Take Care Of Yourself

While pouring all of your efforts into making sure your baby is healthy, don’t neglect to care for yourself, too. A few ways to care for yourself during this time include:

  • Talking to a professional
  • Having a daily routine
  • Connecting with other NICU families
  • Asking for help from family and friends
  • Taking breaks from the NICU
  • Ensuring proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise 

When your baby in the NICU is ready to go home, it is important for you to be healthy, energized, and prepared to take on this new adventure. 

There is a lot to learn about the NICU, but you never have to go through it alone! And remember, be strong, be brave, and have hope. Your baby is a warrior who has already faced many challenges. Here at Kernodle OB/GYN, we provide full-scope individualized women’s health care, including gynecological care, midwifery services, and low- and high-risk maternity care for women and their families. Check out our website or give us a call for more information.

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