Coping With a Newborn in NICU

By Kate Macdonald

September 25, 2020

Having your precious baby in NICU is not something you pictured as part of your story. As a mom, getting discharged from postpartum can be so stressful because you are now going home and your baby isn’t.  It is so hard!  Finding a routine that works for you is key when your little babe is in the NICU.  You need to balance taking care of yourself, recovering from birth, and being at the hospital with your baby. Here are a few ways to help you cope during your NICU journey.

Routine

Finding a routine that works for you isn’t easy at first but be gentle with yourself, it will come. Having a schedule when you visit the hospital and when you will have time at home is so important.  It will give you some balance to your day.  Some parents go to spend time in the morning at the hospital, usually to be there for rounds with the doctors. They usually spend a couple of hours in NICU then go home for a bit of time and then come back in the evening.  Other parents come and spend a large chunk of the day and then go home. And others come in the evenings.  Whatever you do is PERFECT!!! Do what works for you, do what feels right, and listen to your body!!! You just gave birth- you need some rest, water, and nutrition as well. Having a baby in NICU is a marathon, not a race.  

Click here to find out more info on NICU and what to expect when your baby is there. 

Pumping

Pumping will be a huge part of your journey in the NICU until your baby is ready to breastfeed.  Be kind to yourself and remember it takes some time for your milk to come in.  Often mamas that have a baby in NICU get less skin to skin time at the beginning which can affect your milk supply.  The cuddles will come when your baby is showing signs that they are ready and these moments are AMAZING!!!  Take advantage of these snuggle times and after make sure to pump.  You will often find after snuggling your baby you get more milk when you pump.  

Your nurse will help you with pumping but make sure to ask for a lactation consultation when you are visiting the hospital as well.  It is important to understand how to properly pump, store your milk, and transport it every day. Click here to get more info about power pumping.

Journal

This is an amazing tool and keepsake as well. This NICU journey is all so new! You are learning how NICU works, learning about premature babies or your baby’s condition and there is just so much new terminology that you have never heard of. Mom brain is a real thing. If you don’t write it down you likely will forget. The days will start to meld into one, so keeping track of your baby’s day will help you. As a NICU nurse, I encourage parents to write everything down. Here are a few ideas to include in your journal:

1) Write down your questions for the doctors and nurses.

2) Document your journey, your feelings, and thoughts. 

3) Write a letter to your baby.

4) Often your primary nurse may write a note in there from your baby to you.

5) Put their first lock of hair in there-often babies have to get an IV in their scalp, so a tiny portion of hair may need to be shaved.

6) This is a great place to write down your baby’s milestones – the day they had their first feed, first snuggle, extubation day- this list is a precious one so make sure to write these down when you are in NICU spending time with your baby.

7) Keep the journal at the NICU- that way you don’t have to carry it home and back every day.

One last thing, please take care of yourself!!!  This isn’t always first on mama’s mind when they have a baby in NICU.  You spend most of your day pumping, spending time at the hospital, and making trips back and forth.  But this is important! It is so hard that your baby is not at home with you but this is an opportunity to get the rest you NEED when you are at home.  The more rest you get the quicker you will heal and the more milk you will produce.

Bringing your baby home is the goal that keeps you going. Often if you have had a premature baby you likely never made it to your prenatal classes. You also may feel like those classes just don’t apply to you anymore now that your baby is here. 

Here at the Mama Coach we offer support packages that we can tailor to your needs before and after your baby transitions home. We are here for you Mama! You got this!

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