10 Tips for surviving through the NICU journey
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My Twin boys were born at 28 weeks and 3 days. We spent 7 weeks and 5 days in the neonatal unit (NICU) with one twin and were in 9 weeks and 4 days with the other. It was a rollercoaster journey. I was totally oblivious as to what the (NICU) did or that it even existed.
I have spoken with other preemie mamas about the things that they found most helpful and have added them to my own list of things and I am hoping someone out there will feel encouraged and helped by these tips and know that they are NOT alone.
Before I get into this post, make sure to check out my 7 TIPS FOR EXPRESSING WHEN YOUR BABY IS IN THE NICU! Click on the image below to get your free download.
1. Take it one day at a time!
The NICU journey is a rollercoaster and there is no 1 right way to think or feel. This journey that you are on is one that will make you stronger than you ever thought possible. It is a marathon not a sprint and our babies will do things when they are ready, let them take as long as they need.
It could be a few lines each day. The NICU is going to be your 2nd home for however long. Take lots of pictures. Take a teddy with you and use it in your pictures to see how much your baby/babies grow. Try making foot imprints. It’s all about the memories. Focus on every milestone (being tube free, moving to heated cot, 1st bottle/breastfeed.
2. Write a diary!
It could be a few lines each day. The NICU is going to be your 2nd home for however long. Take lots of pictures. Take a teddy with you and use it in your pictures to see how much your baby/babies grow. Try making foot imprints. It’s all about the memories. Focus on every milestone (being tube free, moving to a heated cot, 1st bottle/breastfeed.
These premature milestone cards are great to keep track of every milestone on your babies journey and we also used this No Ink print set to capture our babies feet and hand prints. ( As soon as they were out of the incubator)
3. Ask questions, learn NICU terms!
Like NG tube, C-PAP, B-PAP, opti-flow etc and get to know the equipment so you are not panicking every time an alarm goes off. Try and be there for the ward rounds and you can ask the doctors anything that you can think of and write questions down so you remember them.
4. Get to know other NICU Mamas and families!
I have made friends for life. You give each other so much support that you couldn’t get from anyone else. I certainly would have struggled so much more without a friend who is on their own similar journey and understands.
5. Get to know the nurses looking after your gorgeous miracles!
It makes the journey more pleasurable and it helps to know exactly who is looking after your babies when you leave at night. Plus these nurses are SUPERSTARS and deserve our respect and gratitude. Let them know that you appreciate them.
6. Kangaroo care!
This is so important. Having your baby/babies lying against your bare chest snuggled up in a blanket was EVERYTHING to us. It helps them to bond with you, they calm down just hearing your heartbeat and feeling your body warmth. It makes the NICU not seem so scary.
7. Get involved as much as you can!
i.e. changing miniature nappies and doing their cares, go to the classes that the NICU run. I found learning about their stress cues was the most beneficial.
Many micro nappies are needed on this journey. these will come straight to your door. saves you the hassle of going in store.
8. It’s okay to “mourn” not making it to the end of your pregnancy!
But do NOT blame yourself. You couldn’t have done any more than you did. The ideal place for them was to still be inside of you, however, when that is no longer possible, the NICU is the next best place. They do incredible work there.
9. Advocate for yours…!
By that, I don’t mean that we profess to know everything. But we do know our babies; often the doctors and nurses ask if we have noticed anything unusual like “is his stomach usually this big?” Challenge them (respectfully) if you need to, sometimes they will listen and other times they need to explain a bit more in depth about the situation to help you understand.
I remember the time when my micro preemie was a week old and his infection markers weren’t coming down. They told me that they needed to do a lumbar puncture. As a woman with MS, I have been through this procedure, it was in 2011 but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was so painful and I didn’t want my son to have to experience the same thing. I did a lot of crying, explaining to the doctors why I didn’t want him to have to experience that pain. The doctors and nurses calmed me down and explained in detail what they were going to do and why they needed to do it. I really needed that and appreciated the time they took to deal with my broken self. The procedure went well.
10. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF!
Lastly, this is something that I never did but should have. Don’t feel guilty not spending every waking hour there with them. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to cry. Drink plenty of water and eat well, you need your strength. Go for a walk, shopping anything that you need to do for you. Remember that your miracles need a strong mama, so it is imperative that you look after yourself. BE KIND TO YOURSELF!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE 7 TIPS FOR EXPRESSING WHEN YOUR BABY IS IN THE NICU!
Click on the image below to get your free download.