Fathers with babies admitted to the NICU generally have unique needs that are different from those of the baby’s mother.
- Dads are sometimes the first parent to see their newborn in the NICU because mom may be too sick to come to the NICU or may still be admitted to the birth hospital. This can be a scary and overwhelming situation to walk into as a new parent.
- Dads may be on their own when first arriving and may have to speak with the medical team and relay important news about the infant to their partner. Many times this can be the start of a stressful and terrifying journey where dads may feel like they have to hold back their own fears so they can support mom and the rest of the family.
The environment of the NICU can be intimidating with the sight of infants connected to equipment by tubes and wires surrounded by medical staff.
- It is perfectly normal and fine to feel scared, sad, anxious and confused.
- It is okay to feel helpless, angry, and sad when having a child admitted to the NICU.
As men (and as dads), we often feel we have to be “big and strong” and hide our negative emotions. We feel we have to support our partner and child, often at the cost of our own health. This is understandable, but in order to best help our family, we must also put some effort into taking care of ourselves. It can also be common to feel helpless in the NICU, like things are not under our control. This can be tough for dads who are used to being the “fix it” guy.
- Building trust with your baby’s care team and finding ways you can help your baby can be valuable.
- Asking others for support or help is one of the most important ways to practice self-care but can often be the hardest for men. It can be hard to admit that we are scared or confused or that we feel angry and do not know what to do about it.
- Taking a chance and finding someone in your life, whether it be a partner, family member or friend that you can confide in, makes a big difference. There are also special supports for parents in our NICU, including social workers, chaplains, parent advisors, and psychologists. Do not hesitate to ask when you need help or want someone to talk to!
You Are An Important Part of Your Baby's Team!
While the bond between mom and baby is special and important, the bond between dad and baby is just as important. We want you to be involved with the care of your child at the same level as mom, when possible.
- Feeding, bathing, and kangaroo care are important parts of bonding for dads and their babies.
- Some men report feeling scared about holding such a tiny, fragile baby. Remember that these are normal feelings and it will get easier with practice.
- When you are able to be here, try to be as involved as you can be and take small steps towards getting more comfortable.
- Again, do not be afraid to ask for help or reach out when you have questions.
Some fathers have reported feeling “left out” or “invisible” during the admission, as much of the attention of the medical team can be focused on mom. Please know that you are just as important as your partner when it comes to the care of your child. You and mom may be balancing jobs and childcare for siblings at home. Due to this, we know it may be harder to visit and understand that covering these other responsibilities is a really important part of supporting your baby and family.