is not that uncommon for newborns, even at full term,
to spend a day in the NICU. A common reason would
be close monitoring of jaundice or respiratory (breathing)
children who spend a great deal of time in the NICU
are babies born too early. A full term pregnancy is
considered a pregnancy lasting 37-40+ weeks. Many
babies, for a variety of reasons, are born much sooner
then this. Birth defects; such as intrauterine growth
retardation, congenital malformations, sepsis (infection
in the blood stream) and birth asphyxia are also some
reasons infants are observed in NICU’s.
that we know some of the reason’s babies can
end up in the NICU, let’s discuss some of the
ways parents can cope.
if child birth itself is not emotionally draining,
having a child in the NICU is extra challenging, mentally
most important thing new parents can do to benefit
their child is to take care of themselves. The stress
and emotions will leave everyone less likely to eat,
drinking and rest. Take turns or ‘shifts’
at the hospital. Make a ‘to-do’ list and
be sure to include: eating, drinking and bathing.
Depending on your child’s condition, your child
could be in the NICU for months. You need to keep
up your strength.
atmosphere in the NICU can be scary. Strange noises,
odd looking equipment and infants so tiny they don’t
even seem real. Get to know the staff/parents around
you. Ask what the different devices are and what they
do. When you familiarize yourself with your surroundings,
the NICU won’t seem so intimidating.
advantage of the support groups offered at the hospital.
Getting together with people who understand what you’re
going through can help with the NICU experi9cne. Other
parents can also be a source of great information.
Making new friends is also another added bonus.
a journal of your child’s progress and happenings.
It’s going to be very hard not to obsess over
every little detail, but it will give you something
to do when time just seems to stand still. It’s
also a great avenue to express your feelings.
to know your child’s nurses and caretakers.
Generally, the same nurses take care of the same children
everyday. Develop a rapport with them. Since nurses
don’t work seven days a week, there will be
days when new caretakers are there. The more you get
to know the staff, the more at ease you will feel.
some books to read about preemie/NICU experiences.
Many parents, after having survived preemies, have
gone on to write books about their experiences.
yourself the opportunity to cry. Many parents of NICU
kids feel a wide variety of emotions. Some feel guilty,
as if something they’ve done caused this to
happen. Others feel angry or ‘cheated’
out of a normal newborn experience. All of these emotions
are normal. Allow yourself time to grieve.
emotions, especially bottled up ones, do no one any
good-especially your new baby.
balance between the NICU world and the outside world
can be difficult. Seek out the help of staff when
needed. You’re encouraged to spend as much time
as you can with your newborn but that shouldn’t
mean you’re neglecting your family or their
peace of mind in the process.
you’re interested in breastfeeding, even if
your child is not able to nurse yet, you can still
pump your breast milk and save it for later. The hospital
may have a pump you can use or rent. Take advantage
of the lactation consultant too. They are a great
resource for breastfeeding questions and advice.
going to have good days and you’re going to
have bad days. It’s not uncommon for a child
to be making a lot of progress and then have a relapse.
It’s also not uncommon for a child who appears
to not be doing well, to suddenly start doing well.
Although you’re probably not going to be able
to help much with the “medical” aspects
of your child’s care, there are probably things
that you can help with. Ask the staff what you can
do to help. Get to know your child. Learn their cues
when they need to sleep, when they need to eat, when
they’ve had enough and need a break. Most importantly,
enjoy your baby.
Rebecca Pillar 2007