NICU Survival Guide

This section is all about time in the NICU. I’ll be adding sections about questions to ask, touring the NICU, what to expect, what to bring with you, and other things to help make things a little easier on iso moms.


Time in the NICU is stressful. There’s a lot of information being thrown at you, fear and worry about what will happen to your baby, and you’re just trying to make it through. Things can seem like a blur. Thankfully we have a few things that can make life easier for you.

Grab the checklist here.

Things To Bring

For Mom

Food/Drink

High protein snacks - you’ve got to keep your nutrition up so your body can keep running (not to mention recover from birth). Choose mostly healthy snack options. Fruit or fruit cups, granola bars, nuts, jerky, and veggies in a bag are all great options that don’t require refrigeration.

A refillable water bottle - You’ll be drinking lots of water, so you might as well make it taste like something other than styrofoam and plastic straws.

Insulated cup with lid - some NICUs don’t like open drinks, and want lids. An insulated cup will hold water, coffee, or even protein shakes at a great temperature.


Entertainment/Records
Disposable camera - Put this inside the drawer or next to baby. This way the nurses can capture moments they think you’d like to see.

Phone charger - Just spend the extra $5 and get one to leave there.

Activities - You’ll want to bring something to pass the time with. Books, word finds, sudoku, all these can be found at the Dollar Store if you’re on a budget.

Notebook - don’t forget the pens and mechanical pencils (there’s no pencil sharpeners) too.

Non-toxic ink pad - hand prints and footprints, what more can I say? You can take them every month or more if you’d like.


Clothing/Home Comforts

Change of clothes - you’ll need them.

Stain remover - you’ll spill, leak, get spit up on, etc. It’s necessary and Tide pens are small.\

Nursing cover

Robe - robes are bigger for kangaroo care and can keep you modestly covered, keep baby warm, and are super soft for baby’s skin (unlike button up shirts which can be scratchy or too small). Add in some slippers too if you like them and they’re more comfortable than your shoes. 

Laundry bag

Pillow and blanket - you just gave birth; remember to focus on your recovery too. Bring a pillow and blanket so you can rest and nap when you can.


Toiletries

Toiletries - keep a small bag with a toothbrush/paste, soap, and a hairbrush in case baby has a rough night and you need to stay overnight.

Breast pads
Lanolin

For Baby

Food/Drink

Bottles - if baby will take a bottle at home, it’s a good idea to bring your kind of bottle to the NICU to try ahead of time. If baby doesn’t like them or doesn’t do well, you still have time to get a different kind before discharge.

Bottle brush and travel soap - you’ll have to clean those bottles after all.


Entertainment/Records

Children’s Books - bonding can be hard, especially if you can’t hold baby yet. Read to them to help bond.

Music - your little one can hear. Go ahead and play soft music for them, or even heartbeat noises.


Home Comforts
Baby blanket and clothes - you can bring your own blanket and baby clothes if you’d like. Sometimes it’s even preferred if baby has sensitive skin (we had to bring our own clothes to make the rashes go away).
Boppy pillow and spare cover - helps with nursing or holding baby

A baby wrap (Moby style)


Toiletries

Baby lotion - you can massage babies after baths or anytime. This really helps with their sensitive, dry skin.

Nail clippers - nails are sometimes considered cosmetic so the nurses might not tend to them. Bring a little pair of clippers to take care of the fast growing, super sharp baby nails.

Things To Do

Take photos. Your baby is beautiful. Even though you may have no desire at the moment to remember this time, take the photos. It may seem hard to take photos, but your baby’s time in the NICU is still where memories happen. Later you’ll cherish all of the keepsakes from baby’s first few weeks. Just because baby’s first bath, or the first smile happens in the NICU doesn’t make it any less valuable than if it had happened at home. Your baby could be there for weeks. You don’t want to look back on the first month or two of his/her life and have no photos. It’s also common for children to want to know about their time in the hospital when they are older. One day baby will grow up and might want to know the details. Sometimes you can even tape pictures to the incubator.


Journal. So much can happen from day to day. Did baby finally get off the ventilator? Did baby suck his thumb for the first time? Did baby get to nurse for the first time? All these are things you’ll want to remember later. You can also use the notebook for practical things like: how much did baby eat, what were the lab results, what are the requirements to go home, and more. It’s also helpful to jot down notes about what happened and what the doctors said so you can share with your spouse later. You can also write down if you’ve had a wonderful nurse or doctor that you’d like to send a thank you card to later. If you’re one of the women who saves the umbilical cord, or the hospital bracelet, you can tuck it safely away in the pages. You can also take baby’s handprints or footprints on the pages too.


Wear your baby. Babies benefit from kangaroo care, plus it helps bonding. If the NICU allows it, you can use a Moby wrap (or similar style) to wrap your baby to you. You can have your hands free, the little one gets the snuggles, all while still being hooked up to the monitors.


Read to your baby or play music. Baby loves to hear your voice, after all he’s heard it for the past several months. Reading can help you to bond.


Take part in her care. Don’t be afraid to do things for your baby. You can ask the nurses to teach you how to do things so that you can be an active part of her care. You can do things for your baby like diapers and feeding, but you can also do baths, and some physical therapy if needed.


Bond with your nurses. They’re there all the time when you’re not. They know lots of little things about your baby and cheer him on daily. It’s vital that you feel connected with them and know that your baby is safe and well cared for when you’re not there.

Take time for your spouse. Chances are your spouse is just as confused, worried, and scared as you are. Don’t forget that you are a team first. Take care to spend time together. Play a game (cards and small board games are super portable), plan a date, talk about non baby/NICU things. Make sure you reconnect as a couple.


Take time for your other children. I once heard the saying, “your baby in the NICU can’t tell time, but your older children can.” Older ones have had their world turned upside down. Mommy left for the hospital (which can be a scary place), and is now home less than before. They can be worried about their new sibling, and many other things. Take care to spend time daily with them. Your little one is in capable hands at the NICU and your older babies need you now too.