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Advice for surviving the NICU?

My baby’s in the NICU. Any advice for getting through this tough time?


My baby’s in the NICU. Any advice for getting through this tough time?

The Bump Expert

Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is exhausting, heart-wrenching and just plain scary. So we took this question to the best experts on the subject, moms on The Bump Preemies board, who’ve lived through having babies in the NICU.

“Take lots of pictures and videos. You may not think you’ll want to remember these tough days/weeks/months, but being able to look back and see how far your baby has come is amazing.” -- jacque_z

“Write in a journal your feelings and baby’s milestones.” -- jcsntms06

“Celebrate all of the good, one ounce gained is amazing.” -- appylovee

“Advocate for your child. The doctors and nurses may know medicine, but you know your baby better than anyone else.” -- JoJoGee

“Cry. It’s not just okay. It’s good for you to cry.” -- AlwaysSunny

“None of the nurses told me that I could bring in and wash our own linens, decorate his incubator, give him his baths or take his temperature. These are all things I learned online -- some of them too late. The NICU feels overwhelming and is a very controlled atmosphere, so you might not think of these tasks as yours to do whenever you want.” -- urbanflower

“Kangaroo care is a must! Ask when your baby is stable enough to hold her skin-to-skin. It is a tremendous bonding experience for the two of you, and it is proven to help babies in many, many ways. Plus, it feels fantastic to hold your baby so close.” -- MommynTeach

“Chat with other parents! It’s nice to hear what others are going through. To this day, I am still friends with another mom and a nurse my son had. Also, take time to recover, especially if you had a c-section. After being discharged I wanted to spend every waking moment back at the hospital and therefore wouldn’t take my meds or rest as I was supposed to. This resulted in a longer healing time. If you are not well, you won't be the best your baby needs you to be!” -- JeepersWife

“Don’t feel guilty if you're not spending every waking minute in the NICU. You need time for you (and your spouse!) too!” -- pinotgirl

“Don't be afraid to voice your opinion or ask your doctor questions. It’s easy to feel as though your role as a parent has been taken from you when you’re in the NICU, with nurses tending to your baby round the clock and doctors calling all the shots. It’s also easy to feel intimidated. Many NICU moms feel as though if they question something, it might prevent their baby from getting the best care. The truth is, NICU doctors and nurses are happy to see parents be very involved in their children’s care. Once I let it be known that I wanted to know everything I could and be as involved as possible, our doctors were wonderfully accommodating -- even showing me how to read my daughter's chart and daily X-rays so that I could watch her progress.” -- kaylaaimee

“Invest in a good-quality double electric breast pump, especially if you have a very premature baby or a micropreemie -- you’re going to be spending a lot of time with it! Also talk to your lactation consultant as much as you need to if you’re stuck or need some help.” -- BostonKiss

“Buy a pumping bra immediately. Do not wait. It will be so liberating to be able to breast pump and also send emails, read a book or research online while pumping -- or actually catch up on a phone call!” -- iristony

“Don’t feel guilty asking visitors to stay away from the hospital.” -- kes3237

Plus, more from The Bump:

The Ultimate NICU Cheat Sheet

Will I be able to breastfeed my preemie?

Worst Things to Say to Moms of Preemies

The Bump Editors

Advice for surviving the NICU?

my daughter was in the NICU for a couple of days. I stayed with her from morning til night. At night I went home and was back early in the morning. I hated to leave her but I needed my rest for her. It wasn't easy to sit there all day after giving a vaginal delivery but I did it for my little girl. I nurse her so while she was there I got to feed her and hold her for small amounts of time. She had to be under the lights because she was jaundice. My advice to you would be to get plenty of rest or as much as you can. Take photos of your baby and you together if possible too. If you dont understand what the nurses or dr.'s are doing do not hesitate to ask them. If you have a request then let it be known to all the staff not just one nurse. My baby had to have formula for the first 24 hours she was in there so I had to pump out my milk and put in fridge so when she could have it, it would be there at night when I wasn't. I explained this to the nurse that night when I left and she still gave my baby 1 bottle of formula and I was furious the next morning when I noticed there shouldn't have been as much breastmilk in fridge as there was. Good luck to you and your baby...enjoy every moment with your baby ,,,,they are so precious..

tatortottatortot |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

My son was born at 25 weeks, 1lb 10 oz. He was in the hospital for 4 months. Whatever religion you are or what ever your beliefs are, hold them close they help you through a lot. Also watch every little change in baby. You will see how strong their will to survive is and how hard they will fight. Seeing them be as strong as they are is what will help you through everything the most. I spent as much time as I could with my baby, talk to them read to them, sing to them. Be there for them like you would if they were home. Depending on why they're in the NICU there are some things the mother can still do. I was able to change his diaper, take his temp, when he was a little bigger I was able to feed him, and bathe him. That helped a lot. No matter what don't give up hope and don't give up fighting,because that baby never will.

nikitajane25 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

My daughter was born on time and 6lbs 14 oz but during the natural vaginal birth she swallowed some of the meconium (baby poop) in the birth canal and from what they explained its like tar in the lungs... She was breathing very shallow and they couldn't suck it all out when she came out, so to NICU she went for a guaranteed minimum of 3 days. Blood work, cultures, monitors everywhere, IVs, everything. she didn't have ANY food for many many hours, just a nutrition liquid they put in her IV. I wasn't allowed to breastfeed or give her any breast milk for the first day and a half. To make a long story short, it was AWEFUL. To experience the separation the second you give birth and not be allowed to coddle, touch, hold, kiss your baby is one of the hardest things Ive ever gone though and it will always be a painful memory to me. HOWEVER, I prayed a lot, my family prayed a lot, and my husband and I were there for as many feedings, diaper changes, and temperature takings as possible, and when the day came, day #3, there was a VERY joyous and super EMOTIONAL reunion & welcoming home! Hang in there, cry, do whatever you have to do to make yourself feel better because once your LO is home youll need all your emotions & strength for him/her!

jackiemc13 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

When I had a c-section with my son my blood pressure dropped extremely low and my whole body froze, I couldn;t even breathe. My body was basically working on keeping me alive and my son was starved of oxygen. When He was born I never even got to see him or hear him cry. I went to the recovery room and my son was rushed to another hospital. I never got to see him for 3 days because the hospital would not discharge me because of my c-section. My son was put into a hypothermic state for 3 days to reduce swelling of the brain. so when I finally did get to see him I wasnt really aloud to lift the cooling blanket of of him or get a good look at him. He was doped up on morphine and the doctors also thought he has meningitis. He had 9 spinal taps and they still couldnt draw enough fluid to tell so they had to keep him in the nicu to give him antibiotics. He was in the nicu for 10 days and it was by far the longest 10 days of my life. As a mother you expect to go to the hospital and come home the next day with a healthy and happy baby and i felt that I was robbed of that. But now my son is 6 months old and completely healthy. Going through the experience definitely made my husbands and my relationship a thousand times stronger..if we can get through this we can get through anything and I am so thankful for the doctors and nurses that saved my baby boys life <3

EastonsMom13 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

^ the best advice I can give is take care of yourself. You can't take care of your baby if you can't take care of yourself and cry. It feels good to release your anger and sadness

EastonsMom13 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

Yes just pray. I've went threw that with my son. He was in there for a month.

Tlthomp |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

My daughter was a planned premie at 34 weeks, as I had severe pre-eclampsia and had been hospitalized since 31 weeks. Even with medication, IVs, etc... my BP still wasn't really controlled. She was a natural birth, came out healthy and perfect - except for the fact that she was 34 weeks. They immediately whisked her off to the NICU for monitoring, to make sure that she could keep her own temperature and would feed and grow. I know my story isn't nearly as drastic as many others, however it was traumatic for me. We live an hour and 15 minutes from the hospital, and my nearest relative outside of DH and his family is 3k miles away. Thankfully, my mother was able to fly out for the birth. We were allowed to board at the hospital, which was amazing... except it meant dealing with the nurses. Healthcare providers know medicine, and they've a job to do - however, it's just a job. Some are awesome - but in my experience the ward nurses treated you like you were a criminal needing to be watched if you weren't a patient tied to a bed, and I unfortunately had the experience of dealing with a NICU nurse who actually told me "well, we have pumped breastmilk from you, so you don't need to be here." Let's just say I lost it. First time mom, completely alone (DH had to work, bills don't stop just because your world has) with a horrific 3 week hospitalization behind her (It took them 13 tries to get an IV, one try badly botched and dumping saline into my arm - and refusing to check it immediately - then told me it would have to be changed every 3 days!)... Bump that. Don't be intimidated by their nonsense, and remember that regardless of what pleases them - it's *your baby* and *you* that need to be acommodated. If you do have the misfortune to have nurses like I did... don't be afraid to ask for a more professional health professional.

susiefrigginhomemaker |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

Kangaroo care helped me a lot!! We also tried to be there during most of the feedings and during her bath and always made it a point to be there during the doctor's rounds. And I agree with the other comments ... Take pictures ... And it's okay to cry! I'm happy I have the pictures now ... Makes me happy to see how much she was loved and cared for during that scary time. And I always felt a little better after crying. You feel so helpless as a mother (especially if baby is tube feeding) and crying released so much of that anxiety and stress. It's a very difficult time but the nurses and doctors of the NICU are amazing people!!

jeslyn810 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

My son was born a week early after my water broke at 5:30 am. He didn't take his first breath until 2:09 am the next day. It was a very long labor and he was in my stomach with no water. He was born with an infection, both of our temps were very high and our white blood cell count was very high. Mine eventually came down but his continued to stay high, they took him to the NICU and I thought the worst. They ran antibotics on him and told us they didnt know when we would be able to take him home. Luckily they provided a family inn on the bottom floor for parents with a child in the NICU so I was able to see him anytime I wanted to. I went and breastfed him every 2 hrs and the nurses were very helpful and didn't mind if I just hung out holding his hand or just letting him know I was there. Just remember to breathe and stay stress-free around the baby. They can definitely feel your tension.

stivers2288 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

Our sweet little Sophia decided she wanted to join us at 25weeks. We are currently still in the nicu, but so far the best advice I can tell you is pictures, pictures, pictures, LOTS of kangaroo care, finding good support to love you when your crying and love you when your happy, and most importantly remember its okay to leave and get a little sleep. Leaving our little girl is something I still struggle with, we live almost 2 hours from the nicu she is in, however i know that if i dont get any sleep i'm of no good to her because im more emotional and tired when i'm in the nursery. Also it may not seem like it now, but eventually time does past, and its going to be time to go home. We haven't went home yet, but hopefully getting SUPER close! Also, one of the biggest things I struggled with, is remembering it's okay to cry, and its okay to be down sometimes. I do my fair share of crying and we've almost been there 3 months. Also, I take TONS of pictures but still don't feel like i took enough of her in her earlier stages. I also can't stress enough the importance of kangaroo care, nothing melts a mommas heart like your sweet little baby being laid on your chest and knowing that you're helping provide heat, and support to your baby. Don't forget that even if the nurse doesn't mention it, ask about changing your babies diaper and taking the temperature at least. It never gets easier, it just gets more manageable. you WILL survive. (:

ccates27 |


Assign a friend or family member to provide group updates. One of the hardest things was answering all the well-meaning texts, calls, FB messages etc., especially when everyone's first question is "when is the baby coming home?" As any NICU veterans know, you really don't know more than a day in advance of when they are coming home and saying "I don't know when she's coming home" really wears on you. If your NICU visit is more likely months not weeks, consider starting a blog and send friends/family the link.

kathymacg |


The finish line can seem so far away so celebrate the small victories along the way. Each time a tube came out was a great day for us!

kathymacg |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

Our hospital had a lounge where parents of the NICU babies could stay when they needed a break or when they had to change shifts. We became friendly with 2 other sets of parents while our babies were in the NICU and it helped so much. We would always stop and ask how their baby was doing and have a chance to vent with each other".

JustcallmeGG2 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

Get comfortable, you're going to be spending a lot of time at the NICU. If possible keep some snacks and comfort items for yourself there. Also if you are pumping see if the hospital will provide you with a pump to use while at the hospital so you don't have to bring yours back & forth. If you are able to use a hospital provided pump in the NICU invest in 2 sets (or more) of accessories so that you have a complete set at home and at the hospital. Even if your baby is still too young to nurse start holding your baby during feeding times. Take advantage of any offers of help (or food!) even if you normally are not the type of person to accept help. Don't hesitate to post on Facebook that you need a friend to run out to buy you a cup of coffee! If somebody offers to bring you lunch take them up on it!

MKemm |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

Thankfully my son was only in at the NICU for 5 days (major props to you ladies) however it was an unexpected trip so I was not prepared whatsoever. Pictures are a must, honestly I hated looking at them when he was in the NICU because I felt so helpless and seeing my son hooked up with an iv in his head and a tube down his throat made me want to cry my eyes out. Cry its okay! Ask questions, we always asked to feed our son and help with him any way we could. Stay for rounds, we were there for rounds every day and the drs were great and explained everything we asked them. Rest, I did not rest while my son was at the NICU, My legs were double in size and i had no ankles and stumps for toes, even swollen eyelids. I walked to and from the hospital several times a day. It wasnt till my husband made me stay home and take a shower and nap while he went to the hospital that i even felt somewhat normal. Take advantage of food offers, my in laws cooked enough food for a week for us and i'm so thankful they did as we both would forget to eat. One other thing is if you have someone with you, ask them to take over the paperwork. My son was born at a different hospital to the NICU so once we had gotten there I was bombarded with paperwork and even though they were trying to explain everything to me it went in one ear and out the other, thankfully my husband was there to take over for me.

lauracoo88 |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

I was in the NICU for a couple weeks and I've never really talked to my mom about how she dealt with it. Now that I'm due with my first child in a couple months I want to have that conversation with her because it must have been such a tough time for her and my dad and I feel like asking her more about it will prepare me for any issues I may have in my pregnancy. I've been doing more and more research on pregnancy over the past few months (almost to the point where I'm scaring myself) and I came across an article that I felt was very helpful. Be sure to check it out regardless of whether or not you're a high risk pregnancy or not. The woman in the article had a low risk pregnancy up until her 33 week mark and then all of a sudden had to rush to the hospital to deliver her baby early and then sit back while her baby was in the NICU for 4 weeks. This article does a very good job of discussing the important things to help get you through this difficult time. Enjoy!

Navix |

Advice for surviving the NICU?

These articles are ones I wrote to help answer this question. I would say surviving the first few days is different from survivng the long haul. But hopefully the advce here will help: Surviving the first few days ( ) How to ask questions in the NICU ( ) How to have some fun in the NICU ( )

NICUCentral |