Chances are that you may not really have a chance to prepare for the NICU. Most of the time, it’s an unexpected issue or concern that causes your baby to be whisked away, however, some parents know going into delivery that a NICU stay is in their future.
If you are one of those parents that know in advance for whatever reason that your baby or babies will be calling the NICU home for even a few days, here are a few things you can do to prepare.
Preparing for Life in the NICU
Visit the NICU
I remember sitting in an office, in the NICU, with super sweaty palms, feeling really silly for even scheduling the meeting with the doctor that day. The saint of a doctor sitting across the desk from my husband and I looked at me and said, “Why did you wait so long to come see us?”
The truth was I was doubting that specific hospital and wondering if I shouldn’t try to deliver at the bigger hospital further away from us, ya know that one hospital with the really good reputation and the huge NICU. Everyone has one of “those” hospitals.
I also didn’t want to be a pest. I knew the doctors and nurses would be busy and I didn’t want to take time away from their patients or be a burden. But, I was also secretly freaking out about what the NICU would be like, how it was set up, when I would be able to see my babies, etc.
After talking with the doctor and taking a quick walk through the real unit, I was at least at ease in some aspects of our future NICU stay. If you know that a NICU stay is inevitable, I highly encourage you to call the NICU where you will be delivering and make an appointment to stop in.
The doctor answered all of our questions including procedures, visiting hours, who can visit and when, the types of devices we may see, and some possible scenarios we may run into. She was very honest with us about how a couple of things may play out knowing our situation and how small the twins were.
Make a list of questions ahead of time or use this list to get you started thinking about what to ask when you do visit. Gathering as much information before you deliver is never a bad thing. You can even start relaying that information to family and friends so that it makes everything a bit less chaotic once your baby or babies actually arrive.
Stock up on snacks
Depending on your length of stay in the NICU, you may end up spending a lot of time there. As a new mom, especially if you are attempting to breastfeed you will need to make sure that you stay hydrated and nourished. Your health is very crucial.
Our NICU had an ice/water machine so I could get away without having to leave and scrub back in again but I know of others that do not. I don’t know what it is about the NICU but it just seems to zap all the water right out of you. My eyes were always so dry and I was constantly having to put on lotion. So in situations like that, again especially if you are breastfeeding/pumping it’s vital that you drink as much water as you can.
Stock up on water bottles, granola bars, nuts, and crackers. Little snacks that you can throw in your purse or a bag and keep with you while you are tending to, cuddling with, or pumping away at the NICU. Some Neonatal units have rules about food and drinks, and some have small kitchenette with a microwave for families. Those are all little things that you can ask at your visit or just learn along the way.
I personally never wanted to leave my babies; I cried the day they discharged me from the hospital and told me that I was free to go home. I cried every day when I left the NICU and drove home, and sometimes on my drive back to the NICU in the morning. If I had everything covered at home I would literally sit there in the NICU with my girls all day long and never leave.
On those days I always packed a granola bar, some type of caffeinated beverage, peanut butter crackers, and some chocolate. It’s so easy to get caught up in keeping with your pumping schedule, helping with diaper changes or baths when possible, talking with doctors, and being a part of rounds that you completely lose track of time and go hours and hours without eating or drinking anything.
One thing I did that helped with this was having a snack when I pumped. This way I forced myself to eat and I was guaranteed to eat a little something at least every few hours.
Make and freeze meals
If you already have little ones at home this will help immensely with keeping life as normal for them as possible. This will also make your life a little less stressful, if that is possible.
Simply pull one out of the freezer in the AM when you head to the hospital, then come home and pop it in the oven. Being able to leave the hospital and not have to rush home and worry about dinner will truly be a blessing.
Books, phone charger, and comfy clothes
Whether you will be staying at a Ronald McDonald house nearby or driving back and forth these items are my must haves.
You will have time to read, as you are watching your little one(s) sleep, waiting to talk to doctors, or sitting in a waiting room. I always kept a fun fictional book, a devotional, and some parenting or how to juggle twins type book in my bag for those occasions.
Your phone charger is also a must-have. You will use up so much battery life taking pictures of your sweet babies, communicating updates with family members, using a breastfeeding tracker, or just playing that you will need to charge your phone often.
Comfy clothes for me was like comfort food. I wore a lot of yoga pants, sweatshirts, and flip-flops during our NICU journey but that is what I was comfortable in. A C-section, babies in the NICU, another baby at home,, and postpartum emotions for me equaled wanting to at least “feel” comfy.
Comfy clothes for you may not be yoga pants, it may be jeans and a nice shirt. You may need to be put together and dressed dressed to feel comfy. Whatever your style may be, plan to pack to wear clothes that will not cause you any discomfort. Your babies aren’t going to know what you are wearing and the nurses/doctors sure won’t remember.
Also, if you plan to do skin to skin you may want to have large/stretchy shirts or button downs. They are not necessities but it will make snuggling with your little one a little easier.
Shrimp was born 2 lbs 10 oz and within the first week they realized she had a few holes in her heart but they couldn’t do anything about it until she was bigger. In those first weeks we very rarely got to hold her and if we did it was not for long. The times when we did get to hold her, no matter how brief, were so special.
As with any of my posts if you find yourself in this situation and just aren’t sure how to * cope or what to do, please feel free to email or connect with me on social media. And check back in soon for more posts on our journey in the NICU, snippets from a NICU journal, preemies, twins, and so much more.
Wishing you comfort and joy,
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