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People hear the word NICU and immediately, the mind wonders to serious and scary thoughts. For those who don’t know what NICU stands for, it’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s where all the newborns who need special care are sent. This article will cover 10 tips for parents to survive unexpected short-term NICU stays.
Everything was normal in my second pregnancy. My little one was developing just as she was supposed to. There were no signs of stress. All the tests were normal. At 40 weeks, my water broke at home and I went to the hospital within 2 hours of my water breaking. I labored during the day. At about 1 am, the doctor came in and had me put on antibiotics for a potential infection due to my heart rate and baby’s heart rate being elevated.
Long story short, our daughter was born and sent to the NICU to receive an extra round of antibiotics to treat a potential risk of infection since my placenta tested positive for bacteria. Well, what we thought was going to be just one extra round of antibiotics, turned into a week long treatment of antibiotics because the levels they wanted to see drop, didn’t drop to a number they wanted. So as a precaution, our daughter stayed in the NICU.
This was devastating to me as my hormones were already all over the place and I was not expecting this news. So here are 10 tips I wish I knew to survive the short-term NICU stays.
Surviving the short-term NICU stay:
1. Don’t feel guilty for your emotions!
You have every right to have the feelings you have! Your emotions are going to be every where. You just had a baby, making your hormones out of whack! Your body is recovering. You expected your baby to be sleeping in a bassinet next to your bed, and instead your baby is somewhere else away from you!
Then you head to the NICU to see your baby, and then it hits you. You see all these babies born at 25 weeks, barely over a pound when born, and you feel guilty for your feelings because these parents have had their baby in NICU for 100 days…STOP! Don’t feel guilty! You can feel thankful and saddened at the same time! But don’t feel guilty for the emotions you have!
You might also have guilt from thinking, what could I have done differently? I know I felt guilty about the infection that my baby got from my placenta. The questions started racing through my head about what I did wrong for this pregnancy. I was reading on the internet what could have caused bacteria in my placenta, and had this unneeded guilt placed on me, thinking I’m the reason my daughter was in the NICU. This guilt was not needed. I did not need to put this feeling in my head on top of all the other emotions I had been feeling.
2. Buy a parking pass for the hospital (if applicable)
The hospital that I had my son didn’t have paid parking, but where my daughter was born, did. We didn’t buy a parking pass right away, but by the time we were discharged and realized we’d be coming and going at least 2x a day, the parking pass was the best option.
3. Clean your phone before entering the NICU every time!
You’re going to want to take out your phone to take pictures, but your phone is filled with germs. In an area that cares for vulnerable infants, cutting out potential germs from phones is essential! Even if you are only touching your baby, the nurse assigned to your baby is also assigned to other infants. Anything you touch, could be passed around the NICU!
4. It’s helpful to have someone available to watch your other child/ren or arrange a schedule between yourself and your partner.
Many NICUs have strict visitor policies. We were at a NICU that prohibited visitors under the age of 5, so we could not have our son with us when visiting. We had to arrange a schedule between my husband and I to spend time with our daughter.
5. Take advantage of the Ronald McDonald house/room.
The hospital we were in had a room for families to use. I had the thought that we didn’t deserve to use it because our daughter wasn’t going to be there long. The charity is there for all families, no matter the length of stay! Take advantage of the services and support! We used the room when we brought our son with us to the hospital and he couldn’t see our daughter. He stayed in the Ronald McDonald room as my husband and I switched between the two. (Bring entertainment for the sibling…it’s not fun to stay in the hospital for long!) The Ronald McDonald house/room may even have a Thirty One bag available for you as Thirty One teams with Ronald McDonald charities and donates the bags!
6. Pump every 3 hours around the clock!
It’s exhausting! But if you want to build up your supply and your child isn’t there to feed on demand, you need to pump! During both stays from my pregnancies, I was supplied pump parts to use with the hospital pumps. Talk with the lactation consultant about the right fit to ensure the best pumping sessions. The NICU will have hospital pumps available for you to use, and if not, ask the nurse. (You get used to the routine of pumping down there and know where to find the things you need. They leave the things readily available for pumping moms!) Also, after your discharged, bring with your pumping attachments that you were given from the hospital so you can pump after breastfeeding your baby!
7. Bring a bottle for the NICU nurses
This way, your little one can get used to the nipple you want to use! Hospitals usually just use disposable nipples that were provided by formula companies and aren’t necessarily ideal for newborn babies.
8. Ask for an extra pacifier!
The NICU staff, most likely, will give a pacifier to your baby. These pacifiers are not available to purchase in stores like Target, Walmart, Babies-r-us. Your baby will likely get hooked on this specific pacifier. Before being discharged, ask for an extra one! We got an extra one in our discharge bag they provided for us!
9. Trust the doctors, but ask questions!
Write down any questions that you want to ask. Try to make sure someone is there when the doctor is making the rounds. That way you have the list of questions and you won’t forget to ask what you wanted to ask! I had so many questions after the first time talking with the doctors! I got 2 hours of sleep, just had a baby, and was crying because my daughter was not where I thought she would be! Our doctor didn’t explain things in layman’s terms so we had a lot of questions.
10. So many alarms going off, but don’t worry!
All the babies are hooked up to so many different alarms! You get to know how to read your child’s numbers and know what’s good levels and not so great levels! When holding your baby, your bound to set off an alarm (Most likely the pulse monitor). The nurse will untangle the cords, and you’ll be good to go!
Overall, keep in mind that this is a short-term NICU stay, and that soon, your little one will be home with you! My daughter is now a happy, healthy, little 9-month-old! Those days of seeing her poked and prodded with so many many needles and blood tests are behind us! I think she’s a better sleeper because of her short-term NICU stay though! She sleeps like a champ and has since the very beginning! They say that a lot about NICU babies because they get used to all the noises around them and sleep right through it!
Once you are done with the NICU stay, your baby will be home with you and you will be going through a ton of diapers.
Check out these posts for the best pricing of diapers and baby changing products!
For additional advice on what to expect your first week with your little one read Mommy Bloggers give their Advice on What to Expect for your First Week with Baby.