Having a baby can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience, especially when the baby is admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) department of a hospital. Many times, the reason for a baby being admitted into the NICU is due to low birth weight and/or premature delivery; however, there are other reasons as to why a baby may have to stay in the NICU. When a child has been placed in the NICU, most times, he or she will be in an incubator; this means that parents of the child will sometimes not be able to hold the baby. It is not uncommon for parents to become very stressed while their child is being take care of in the NICU. From lack of sleep to emotional roller coasters, the health of a parent can deteriorate if parents do not learn how to cope with their newborn being in the NICU.
Become Familiar with the NICU Unit
Becoming familiar with the unit in which a baby is sleeping, eating, and being taken care of will extremely help parents cope with a child being in the NICU. In fact, before a child is born, if it is likely the child may end up in the NICU, it is best to become familiar with the facility before the birthing of the baby takes place. Since not just anybody is allowed in the NICU department of a hospital, it is best to contact the NICU supervisor to set up a tour of the sector. The supervisor can even assist those parents who were unable to familiarize their selves with the NICU prior to their child being born. A supervisor, or nurse, can help parents learn about all the machines used in a NICU department including incubators, ventilators, and more.
Become Acquainted with the Hospital
Proper consumption of food and water is essential to moms who are breastfeeding, and it is also important because it helps ensure the emotional well-being of the parents. By becoming acquainted with the hospital as well as the team of members who are helping to take care of NICU babies, parents are able to assist in the well-being of their children. Great ways to become acquainted with the hospital is to know where food and water can be purchased. In addition, it is important to know about the availability of support groups, where the parents can sleep at, and also about any locations of phones and computers to keep in touch with other family members who may not be present.
Spend time with the Baby
Many parents think that just because their child is in the NICU that they will not be able to hold or feed their baby; this is not necessarily true. In some instances, it may take some time before a baby can be held; however, in many instances, moms and dads can both hold their children as well as feed them. Mothers will find it very helpful in coping with their child being in the NICU by taking part in breastfeeding. Not only does this help moms bond with their children, it is also great for a child’s health.
Keep a Journal
Both the fathers and mothers of children in the NICU can better cope with the situation by keeping a journal about the experience. Not only will the journal be beneficial to the parents, but later down the road, the children can read it and learn about their parents’ experience. Great things to journal about include recording different milestones such as when the child could first breathe on his or her own and regulate his or her own body temperature.
Nurse Paula Whitaker has spent the past 5 years of her career working to keep babies healthy in the NICU so that they can be reunited full time with their parents. She often writes on healthcare, nursing, and advice for new parents taking their babies home. Paula also contributed to the Neonatal Nurse Career Guide.