Infant, Parenting

6 Ways to Help a Family in the NICU

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This photo of the pumpkins was my pregnancy announcement on Facebook. Cute, right? I was feeling pretty proud of myself for finally making things, “Facebook Official.” And it’s a darn good thing I did because about a week later, I spontaneously went into labor at 30 weeks 6 days and delivered our second baby.

Ironically enough, I was born at 33 weeks. When I was born, I was 4lbs 9oz. I nursed well and went home with my mother when she left the hospital 5 days later. Unfortunately, that was not the case for our sweet little pumpkin.

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Weighing just 3lbs 15oz she needed to spend some time in the NICU, gaining weight and being monitored. We are grateful that she didn’t need any other special interventions, just love, care and time.

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Our sweet baby girl was supposed to be a Christmas baby, and instead decided to be an autumn baby. Here she is in her first Halloween Costume, “Super J!”

She arrived smack dab in the middle of our busiest season of the year, corn harvest.

We are so grateful for all of the love and support we received as we tried to juggle life with our other child, farming and commuting to the NICU 45 minutes away.

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As I talked with other NICU parents, what I heard over and over is that a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on was one of the most valued things they received while their baby was in the NICU. Time in the NICU is overwhelming and scary.

For me, balancing time between both of my babies, one in the NICU and one at home, was one of the most agonizing feelings I’ve ever had. Love in the form of support and understanding is one of the best gifts you can give.

I know a lot of people want to DO something tangible, in addition to the emotional support that they give. There were definitely some things that made life easier and more enjoyable for us as we navigated our time in the NICU. Here are 6 ways to help a family in the NICU.

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1. Food

  • Ask whether or not there is a fridge available for the parents. We had two, one in the NICU lounge and one at the Ronald McDonald House inside the hospital. Some of the mamas I’ve spoken with online did not have a fridge available to them
  • We enjoyed home cooked meals from friends, who brought food labeled with our name, and placed it in the fridge for us. Try to keep the footprint of the meal small, as the fridge space is shared
  • Make sure it is able to be reheated easily
  • Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Hotdishes– Healthy, quick & easy to eat
  • Healthy Snacks to eat in the car on the way to and from the hospital
  • Snacks that aren’t very messy to eat in the actual hospital room
  • Gift cards for restaurants close by or for the hospital cafeteria
  • Meals for the family members at home
  • Freezer meals for when the family is reunited again after baby comes home
  • Lactation cookies for nursing mamas or homemade cookies for Dad

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2. Cozy Items

  • Slippers, Slip-On Shoes, Warm Socks were so helpful on the many trips through the halls and around our room
  • A Soft Real Robe made our Kangaroo Care (skin to skin time) so much more enjoyable.
  • A Cozy Blanket & Pillow makes things feel so much more like home
  • A Wrap/Cardigan from the brand Barefoot Dreams, it’s a little piece of heaven. It’s expensive, but it is so worth it. When you wrap it around yourself it feels like a warm hug, and it’s one of the softest things I’ve ever felt. I’ve seen it locally at Nordstrom, or buy it online here.

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3. Inspirational Items

  • Journal or Notebook and Pens encourage parents to document their thoughts and feelings each day. It’s amazing how quickly the experiences fade away. It’s also a good place to jot down questions for the doctors and nurses. I had a notebook with a pocket and it was very useful for holding loose papers that I needed to keep track of.
  • Seasonal Decorations- A thoughtful friend brought a very tiny Christmas tree and tiny ornaments to brighten our private hospital room. It would be harder to do this if the room is shared.
  • Inspirational Signs (See Photo Below)- A family friend who is a 40 year veteran NICU nurse was the inspiration behind these signs. She visited us in the first few days of our stay and encouraged me to keep a positive outlook. These signs were a reminder to myself and others to be aware of our thoughts and words.

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4. Entertainment

  • Books– Something light and upbeat
  • Magazines
  • Coloring book for adults with colored pencils

5. Personal Items

  • Shampoo/Conditioner in small bottles
  • Unscented lotion- Washing your hands frequently can really dry out your hands and having a high quality unscented lotion is essential
  • Chap Stick– The air in the hospital is so dry that a chap stick is a necessity
  • Reusable Water Bottle for refilling at the water fountain
  • Purell-A small bottle for when hands get too dried out and sore from hospital soap
  • Phone Charger with a long cord always comes in handy

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6. Preemie Clothing Brands We Love

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We are forever grateful for all of those people who rallied around us during our NICU stay and offered their love and support as well as their generous gifts. Our time in the NICU was made infinitely better because of the skilled care our daughter received from the doctors and nurses as well as the many resources the hospital offered. There was a resource room for parents as well as rooms to stay in overnight at the Ronald McDonald Family Room, right in the hospital.

My wish for you is that you and your loved ones never find yourselves in the NICU, but if you do, I hope these suggestions are helpful.

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PS- Just in case you’re wondering this sweet girl is doing GREAT today. She’s as sweet as pie, and you can’t help but join her, as she belly laughs with joy.

(Professional Photos in the NICU by Laura Kleffman Photography)

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Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. I hope it has been helpful!

Have you ever had a stay in the NICU? What would you add to this list?

 

 

 

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