By: Dezerrae Sanchez (Oh Darling Birth)
Joining the NICU club is something no one really sets out to do. It'll be a journey like no other. Whether your baby was a short timer or spent a lot of their new life in the NICU, the roller coaster of emotions can be intense. I have two amazing NICU graduates, and I'd love to share a few things I know about the NICU.
1. Your voice is just as calming to that fragile newborn as it was when they were inside of you.
Talk to your baby. Tell your baby what an awesome nursery awaits them at home. Tell your baby stories and sing songs. Hearing your sweet voice will help you two bond, even if you aren't able to hold your baby yet.
2. NICU babies can breastfeed.
Were you excited about breastfeeding before going down the NICU path? That's ok! Most hospitals have excellent pumps that NICU moms are able to use to pump that liquid gold for your new baby. Whether it's through nasal lavage, bottle, or just a small taste on the tongue, your baby can still receive the benefits from breastmilk while staying in the NICU.
3. You can still care for your baby while they are in the NICU.
I know some parents feel badly that they may have to take a hands off role while their baby is receiving medical care in the NICU. You can actually help quite a bit, too! Ask your nurse about how you can help hold the tube if your baby is being fed through one. Ask how you can help with baths, diapering, or bedding changes. Who would've thought that wiping baby poo would be so exciting?
4. Decorate your baby's space.
A little bit of decor will hopefully calm your nerves while spending time with your baby. Tape some photos to the isolette. Bring a special blanket or swaddler to add to their bed (Don't forget to add their name, so it isn't lost in hospital laundry). Bring your ipod for you two to enjoy. Hang a photo of their nursery at home, show them what a sweet set up they have waiting! Sometimes nurses or volunteers even scrapbook for you or hang a name banner to brighten up your space.
5. Don't forget about you.
Traveling to and from the hospital and spending hours in that room can take a toll on you, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Give yourself permission to do something for just you. Go out to eat, splurge on a new outfit, take that long nap that is way over do. Anything to recharge your batteries. Remember the ol', "Can't pour from an empty cup."
There's nothing quite like bring your baby home from the NICU. I dare say it feels almost as good as their birthday. You'll always be proud of your amazing NICU graduate. Pat yourself on the back too. You survived the NICU.
Dezerrae Sanchez owns Oh, Darling Birth Services (www.ohdarlingbirth.com), and provides birth, postpartum, and placenta services throughout the East Valley, Arizona. She has one 10 year old daughter and a 7 year old son who keep her busy and on her toes. She enjoys a good Netflix binge, photography, and hanging out with her family.