It can be hard to feel like a parent in the NICU, but it’s important to remember your baby needs you more than anyone or anything else. All families will find their own rhythms and routines eventually, taking into account other responsibilities and the changing needs of their NICU baby. If you’re wondering what you as a parent can do for your baby in the NICU, here are some suggestions.
Kangaroo Care and hand hugging. Your touch is magic for your baby. So magic that we’ve developed a whole article about it!
Record Keeping. Many parents find journalling and scrapbooking to be both therapeutic and practically helpful. You can celebrate your baby’s many milestones and also keep track of important information.
Making milk. Whatever your long-term plans are for feeding your baby, the evidence on the importance of breast milk for NICU babies is very clear. While many parents have a love-hate relationship with breast-pumps, it’s also true that breast-milk is a wonderful gift for your baby, and you should congratulate yourself every time you pump or you help your partner pump.
Singing and reading to your baby. Studies show how important parent voices are for babies. Singing helps calm babies, and both reading and singing promote bonding and long-term language development.
Baby care. At first, many parents feel too intimidated by the medical environment or by the size of their baby to try to provide baby care. Ask your baby’s nurse for guidance; she/he will be able to show you what you can do, and as your baby grows, so will your confidence (and your task list!)
Connecting with other parents. Peer support is so important for NICU parents. Many units offer family activities where you can connect with other parents in the unit. You can also connect online in our Canadian Preemie Parent Support Group.
Protecting your baby from infection. In addition to being your baby’s parent, you are also a Chief Safety Officer! The most important thing you can do to protect your baby from infection is to clean your hands and follow your hospital’s infection control policies … and encourage EVERYONE around to do the same. Never be afraid to ask, “Have you cleaned your hands?”
Comfort your baby. Many conditions and procedures in the NICU may cause pain to your baby. Talk to your baby's nurse about how you can help to keep your baby comfortable. Click here for some resources for breastfeeding and sugar water which are commonly used in the NICU. There are many other hints for parents to use through their child's life. It doesn't have to hurt!"