Must-Haves for Parents With Babies in NICU or Level 2 Nursery
Having a premature baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a difficult and very emotional experience. With all the worries we have for our babies and having to be with them in the hospital all day, it can get a little stressful and overwhelming at times.
It’s hard to have to see your child go through all that they are going through in their early days in this world. IVs, spinal taps/lumbar punctures, x-rays, blood tests, eye exams…All things one would cringe at when seeing it happen to a tiny baby. It is not easy when you have to watch as your infant goes through this.
Here are a few things I’ve found particularly helpful in helping me get through those long days in that room with alarms, flashing lights, and ringers that never seem to stop:
1. The support of family members and the other parents who are going through the same thing as you are. I have made a few really great friends during Little One’s stay at Mt. Sinai. It helps to be able to unload, vent, and share feelings of worry, frustration, sadness, anxiety…to people who understand because they know what you are experiencing.
2. The help of the support staff, doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. Use the resources you have at the hospital. That’s what they are there for. Mt. Sinai has an EXCELLENT support system for parents of infants in the NICU and Level 2 Nursery.
3. The Internet. Of course, not for Googling all the medical terms, procedures and illnesses/conditions you hear the doctors talking about with regard to your baby! I don’t advise anyone to Google anything like that. It will just overwhelm you and make you worry more! Use the Internet to divert your attention sometimes. E-mail, search for baby products, shop…whatever. Just try to get a couple minutes a day to yourself and just distract yourself for a bit. I found that getting out of the nursery for a few minutes was helpful. I’m there all day, so it is a bit wearing on a person to be by the baby’s bedside all day without a break.
4. Baby books. I read to Little One as often as I can. It’s a good idea to have your baby hear your voice. They know your voice since they’ve heard it in utero. Plus, I’m a bit biased. Being an ESL teacher, I think it’s important to introduce children to the wonderful world of books and reading right from the start
I bought this book for Little One because they illustrate perfectly just how much I love my little girlie.
How Do I Love You?
5. A BPA-free water bottle. Being at the hospital all day can get a bit dry. It’s important to keep hydrated anyway. I also find that when I’m nursing or pumping, I get really thirsty all the time.
6. A good pump! Of course, this is for you moms out there and not you dads! Mt. Sinai Hospital uses the Medela “Symphony” pump and Sick Kids Hospital uses Ameda’s “Purely Yours”. Both are very good pumps. I was given the Purely Yours as a baby shower gift and it works very well. I do find that in my case, the Symphony yields more milk though. (Sorry for the breast pump talk! Probably TMI for some, eh?) The Symphony is also designed to simulate a baby’s sucking patterns. It helps for build up and let down periods. “This breastpump for hospitals and home rental gives the mother the most natural of feelings along with unique technical refinement. Ideal for long-term and frequent pumping needs.”
The reason I mention breast pumps being a must have for NICU/Level 2 moms is because if you want to give your baby breast milk, it’s a good idea to pump while you are at the hospital if you’re there all day. Since most of us with babies in the NICU cannot breastfeed right away because our babies are too small or not ready to breastfeed, the lactation consultants/nurses try to get moms to start pumping right away to get their milk flowing. I pump because I want to make sure to keep my quantity up, but am wondering how I’m going to pump when Little One is now breastfeeding ad-lib while I’m at the hospital during the day! Again, sorry for all the boob talk, guys!
The Symphony is not for sale to the public. The hospital rents out the machines for a small fee per week. I think the machines cost $3000 a piece (or so I’ve been told)!
7. A camera. You won’t want to miss out on any of those precious early moments! I know I’ve taken a zillion photos of Little One already!
8. A backpack. A convenient, roomy, yet not bulky bag is perfect for hauling all your items in when you’re at the hospital all day and night with your preemie or sick child. I used mine to lug around my breast pump, bottles and other things like my notebook, pen, cell phone, etc. Make sure to pack your water bottle and refill it throughout the day to avoid dehydration. I also packed a few healthy snacks and lunch and supper to keep myself energized throughout the day.
9. A notebook and a pen. You might want to do some journal writing while you’re there. I’ve been keeping a journal to keep Little One’s story for posterity. It’s an amazing keepsake for her to look back on when she is older. Though I have the blog and have chronicled her story here, there’s nothing like the tangible properties books have and the written word (and I mean handwritten) is so special too.
If you’re not a journal writing kind of person, it’s also handy to keep a notebook and pen anyway in case you need to jot down any questions or concerns you may have. I’ve done this many times in Little One’s early weeks. I took notes for Hubby since I had to sift through all the medical jargon myself and speak with doctors about things like Bilirubin levels, repeat levels, phototherapy, Trivisol, RSV, apnea of prematurity, spells, retinopathy of prematurity, bradycardia, desats, etc.
There are so many things I never thought I’d ever need to know until I gave birth to my preemie. I hope this post helps other parents out there who have infants in the NICU/Level 2 Nursery.