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NICU Support

How You Can Help Your Baby in NICU
by Jennifer Thompson
Talk to your baby; sing to your baby; hold your baby, especially kangaroo style, which gives skin-to-sin contact; touch your baby, even if you can't pick him or her up by stroking her arm her back, resting a hand on his leg.

"I think the biggest thing you could do for your baby is to touch them and talk to them. Sam had so many wires and tubes in her that I couldn't hold her at first, but I would touch her cheek or forearm and talk to her. I slept with a teddy bear the first night in the hospital and put it in her crib with her the next day. I think that's comforting for them and helps them in recovery."

Read baby's chart, and ask questions. The nurses and doctors are there to care for your baby, but that doesn't mean that you give up the role of parent. The more you know about how your baby is doing, the better you will feel.

Get involved in baby's care

  • Take temperature - the nurses will show you how.
  • Change diaper - it's amazing how much this can make you feel connected to your little baby
  • Bathe baby - when it's time, help out with baby's bath.
  • Weigh baby - help undress your baby to be weighed, gently lay him or her on the scale, and be the one to pick him or her up to get diapered and swaddled again.
  • Hold the syringe during gavage feedings - not being able to nurse or bottle feed your baby can be very difficult to handle, but holding the syringe for gavage feedings will let you take on an active role in your baby's feedings.
Pump breast milk - breast milk is the best choice for your baby's first food, so if nursing is not an option, pump and store milk for him or her.

"I pumped breast milk every 3 or 4 hours; then I would take it to the NICU and put it in the fridge, labeled with my name and the time it was expressed. I would occasionally be able to nurse, as long as it didn't stress him. Oh, one thing they did with Noah: they weighed him, then gave him to me and I nursed him; then they weighed him again to see how much he actually drank during his feeding. I had two lactation consultants who worked with us and helped us to learn how to see if he was feeding well, suggested how to keep him nursing, etc. They were life savers!"

Work with a Lactation Consultant - Most hospitals have Lactation Consultants that can help you learn to use a pump, and they can help you teach baby to latch on when the time comes for nursing.

Make baby's world cozier. With the permission of the NICU nurses, you can

  • Bring in photos for baby's isolette
  • Bring in a small stuffed animal or Beanie baby and put it in the isolette
  • Bring in a blanket or quilt from home to drape over the top of the isolette and help block out lights at night
"To help a baby in the hospital, I would recommend being at the hospital as much as possible. At the time, I was a college student, so when I wasn't in class or wasn't working (I went back to work PT right away so I could take time off when she came home from the hospital) I would be at the hospital and then I took care of all her basic needs that you would do at home. I read books to her . . . usually whatever class I had to study for at the time (I was still doing that when she was 2:) and her dad and I made sure we were there every night when it was her bath time . . . also, the skin to skin contact at first. Although I couldn't hold her until she was 4 days old, I used to sit by her bed with my hand on her back or tummy and just sing or talk to her . . ."

"I personally tell any woman whose child is in the NICU that they are still the parent. Ask ALL the questions they can. Never feel stupid because they have never been through this before. PARTICIPATE in the care of their kids - it was vital for my sanity. And spend as much time as possible with the child. After child birth you are already on a leave of absence from work or child care so take the time and learn to know your new baby--he may be small he may have a lot of tubes but he/she is still yours . . ."

"We put pictures in Gage's isolette and little stuffed animals. One more thing that he seemed to really love was bright colors. If my husband would wear a bright baseball cap or we would wear a bright shirt he would just stare and stare. Although they are attached to a million wires and gadgets (Gage even had an IV in his head for most of his stay), when you can, hold them and love them just like they are normal babies. I remember at first I was so afraid to even touch him. Then when I got used to the whole situation, I learned that I could hold him and hug him and let him be physically close to me. I could rock him and smile at him and even cry with him sometimes."

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