Taking Care of Yourself: A Guide For Parents in the NICU

Dear NICU Parent,

To begin, we would like to say congratulations on the birth of your precious baby! We know that the NICU is not a place you ever thought you would be. We know there are so many emotions that you are having right now, including fear, anger, anxiety, sadness, and, as confusing as it may be, maybe even happiness. We know this because we have been there too. We are NICU parents. We have had to watch our precious little babies go through so much and fight so hard in the NICU. Even though our journeys may be different, we have so many things in common. In time, you will know what it means to you to be a NICU parent, but for now, here is what we can tell you about having a baby in the NICU.

During your time in the NICU, you are going to hear about all the challenges your little one could face. You will experience milestones and setbacks. Celebrate the milestones, no matter how small. Mourn the setbacks. It is okay to feel bad. That is when you rely on your support to help you pick yourself up and move on, no matter how large the mountain ahead. There will likely be many tears and heartbreak, but through it all, you will also have joy. Please do not forget to focus on that joy when you have those moments. Try not to be so worried and stressed about what the future holds that you forget to cherish the moments you have right now. Find ways to live in the moments. Look for love over fear, and let it be your strength. Your baby, so tiny and fragile, will show you just how strong a person can be. The NICU may seem like a rough place at first, full of struggle, but we promise that it is so much more. It can teach you how beautiful and precious life truly is.

The NICU teaches you patience and strength, while showing you just how much people really care about you and your baby. We hope this letter can help ease some of the stress and anxiety you may be feeling and let you know that you are not alone. Finally, please do not be afraid to ask for help. We all need it from time to time.

Sincerely, Former NICU Parents

Neontal Services Family Advisory Council

NICU Emotions

We know life happens outside the NICU and does not slow down just because you have a baby. Experiencing many feelings is common for our NICU parents.

When to Talk to a Healthcare Provider

While negative emotions are common, if they continue and interfere with your daily routines, this may be a sign of a bigger problem. There is no shame in getting help during tough times.

Coping Strategies

We know how hard the NICU can be and that you may not always be at your best, read more for suggestions on how to stay healthy and cope throughout your experience.

How You Can Help Your Baby

Being a parent in the NICU often feels like you are a visitor to your own child. You are not! Talk with your baby’s care team about these opportunities to spend hands-on time with your baby and step into your role as parent.

Working With Your Baby's Care Team

As parents, you are the most important people in your baby’s life. Your baby’s healthcare
team needs your help to give your baby with the best care possible.

How To Use Your Social Support

It is important to reach out to friends and family members you love and trust. This is a time when it may “take a village” to get through your NICU stay.

For Moms

Visit this page to learn about tips for moms, including breastmilk pumping and feeding support suggestions.

For Dads

Fathers with babies admitted to the NICU generally have unique needs that are different from those of the baby’s mother. While the bond between mom and baby is special and important, the bond between dad and baby is just as important.

Spiritual Care

Families in the NICU come from many different faith backgrounds. For some parents, their spiritual beliefs and practices are very important and help them get through difficult times.

Relationship Care

While you may notice differences in the way you and your partner handle the NICU experience and the additional stress, it is important to try to respect and support each other.

Care For Siblings

When a child is diagnosed with an illness or is in the hospital, his or her siblings can react in many different ways. These reactions can change over time and might eventually need to be addressed using extra support.

Community Resources

Connect with the community resources for developmental services, mental health services, and financial assistance.

Hospital Resources

Visit this page for supportive hospital resources available to you during your NICU journey.

Helpful Books and Websites

Check out these helpful print and online resources to learn more while enduring your NICU experience.