You’ve just had your baby. You’ve been through months of pregnancy and the buckets of anticipation that go with it. You expect the nurse to hand you your little one and leave you two to bond. Instead, something else happens; they take your baby away to a place called the NICU.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is an intensive care unit specializing in the care of premature newborn infants. The term neonatal come from neo, "new", and natal, "pertaining to birth or origin". A NICU is typically directed by one or more neonatologists and staffed by nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, resident physicians and respiratory therapists.
No matter how dire the situation, having your baby go to the NICU is always unexpected. As anyone who has been through the NICU knows, the time spent there is hard, tiring and lets be honest, an absolute pain in the butt!
Here are some tips to surviving the NICU.
Rest. You may feel the need to be at your child’s side 24-hours a day while in the NICU, but you need your rest. Your mind and body have been through a roller coaster the past several months. Take the time while your baby is in good hands at the hospital and let yourself rest and recuperate. You need and deserve it.
Step up. Not all NICU employees make an effort to get parents involved when it comes to taking care of their child while in the NICU. Step up and intervene! Inform the nurse on duty that you want to be able to change your baby and feed them when needed, as well as hold them. Don't shy away from those first bonding experiences with your newborn and don't forget it is your child!
Sleep. As everyone who has had a baby loves to say, "Once you have a baby you’ll never sleep again!" While in the NICU, your baby will sleep more hours than they are awake. Follow their lead and nap when needed. (For a more comforting sleep, bring a onesie home from the hospital that your baby has worn. The smell will bring you comfort and ease you to sleep. If your tiny one can't wear clothes yet, due to incubators, etc., no worries. Try sleeping next to a (clean) Pamper's diaper. That's what your baby will typically smell like when they are oh-so-little.)
Speak up. If you do not agree with the care that is being given to your child, speak up! Talk to a nurse, doctor or even a hospital administrator. Don’t bite your tongue when it comes to the care of your child.
Stay strong. It may feel as though your baby will never be allowed to come home. But know that while the NICU can be scary and exhausting, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Baby will come home and your lives together will finally begin!