Congratulations! You have welcomed a beautiful, resilient, amazing, wonderful newborn into this world. You are elated to have finally given birth to your baby, you couldn’t wait to meet her. Yet you have a new set of feelings now that your baby has been admitted into the NICU. The emotions of a NICU Mom are complex.
Despite your best practices for pregnancy care, your baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and you are a wreck with worry. This is not how you imagined this pregnancy journey would end.
Here are 8 things moms can remember to help safeguard her emotional heart during baby’s NICU stay.
1. Remember, none of this is your fault.
How could this happen? You took such wonderful care of yourself and your baby while you were pregnant. Listen, do not beat yourself up. No matter what, none of this was your fault.
There are dozens upon dozens of reasons a baby can end up being admitted into the NICU from serious health problems you may have known about while you were pregnant, to jaundice, to a sudden case of preeclampsia, to failing the car seat test on discharge day, and many more reasons in between.
None of us are in control of how a labor and delivery will turn out. The scenarios are endless. Which is why I personally give so much credit to OB/GYN doctors and nurses. They must be prepared for anything. You and your baby are in good hands.
You did your part well mama. This is just a bump in the road of your baby’s life journey. Keep your head in there and everything will turn out alright.
2. It’s okay to be sad and disappointed.
This is not at all how you expected to welcome your new baby into the family.
It is healthy to grieve the loss of your baby’s delivery and welcome home plans that you so carefully crafted over the last several months. Just not too much.
Grieve it, let it out, and then put it to bed. Your baby needs you to be strong and to have your head in the game. It’s possible that many important decisions will need to be made for baby while in the NICU and you need to be all there to help make them.
3. Dad is probably seriously nervous and worried about his baby love. He needs you too.
You may not realize it or he may not show it, but Dad is also as worried as you are if not more about your newborn baby being sick enough to have to stay behind in the hospital NICU. Next to the possibility of losing you, this is his second worst fear.
Talk it over, help ease his mind and be there for each other. Do not lose your head over something stupid he may have done in the fog of his concerns.
Have grace and be understanding. Most of all ask him to share this journey with you. This may avoid any hurt feelings or any misunderstandings in this emotionally sensitive time.
Being parents of a new baby is always a new journey, even if you have 5 other kids.
A baby in the NICU can bring on a next level stress for some. Respect that and care for each other.
4. Reassure other family members.
Have either yourself or your husband give updates on your baby’s health to his grandparents, aunties, and uncles and if you have other children, his siblings (in an age-appropriate way).
They too will be worried for all of you, and they won’t get to hear the doctor’s reassurance like you do. Help them feel relaxed about baby’s progress too. If they are healthy, let them visit.
See The NICU: 7 Simple Ways to Support the Family, about tips to share with your family and friends on how they can best support all of you during this time. One of the ways is bringing the siblings to visit baby in the NICU (if they are old enough).
If the older siblings are away at school or away at camp and cannot come to visit the baby in the hospital, use technology. FaceTime, Skype, video chat so they can see the baby live or send video clips of the baby and do your best to talk with your kids yourself so you can reassure them on baby’s progress.
You will not be the only emotional or helpless feeling member of the family. Do your best to help make those first connections a strong positive memory. They will be lifelong memories for your family.
5. Take care of yourself. You are healing too.
Your body has been through a serious achievement. It needs certain things to recover. Rest, rest, rest and more rest. You won’t like this advice but it’s for your own good so you can care for baby best.
See our post called The NICU: What Moms Needs to Remember Postpartum for tips on how to care for yourself and your body during your baby’s NICU stay. It includes other tips besides REST. Check it out.
6. Get help from lactation consultants with proper nursing positions with your lovie.
Especially if you are in any sort of pain from improper latch or positioning. This is of paramount importance.
And if you feel agony, please ask the pediatrician on call to check baby’s frenulum. Two of my three children had tight frenulums. When their frenulums were released, their tongues were literally freed to go long enough to properly latch under the areola. It saved our nursing relationship.
This procedure can be completed in the hospital, while your baby is in the NICU. Insist. It takes about 15 seconds start to finish and baby heals immediately. Trust me, they don’t remember it.
If you do plan to nurse and you want to feed your baby breastmilk (or even if you want to give your baby the gift of your nutrient-rich milk for the first few weeks to get his strength up), ask your NICU nurses to help provide a hospital grade pump.
There will be privacy curtains if your baby doesn’t have her own room, and you can pump in privacy behind those.
Not only will this give your baby some extra milk for when you sleep at home at night, but it will boost your milk supply and you will have no problem at all when you bring your sweetie home (at least with your supply).
Plus, taking advantage of the help of the hospital lactation nurse is a BONUS when you are wondering if you are still doing this right. I know for me after 11 years, I did not remember if I was pumping for too long or if I was holding the baby correctly. Turns out I wasn’t, so it helps to ask for expert opinions.
7. Talk to other parents in the NICU.
You will see and meet other parents in the NICU. It can be a sisterhood of warriors caring for and worrying about the health of their children. Pray with and for each other’s families.
If you feel comfortable, exchange contact information and check in with each other. Your babies were born near the same time. You can possibly help create lifelong friends for your children and yourself.
This is important, celebrate heartily when a baby is released to go home before yours. Resist the urge to be jealous. You turn will come soon enough! And don’t forget to encourage that family that is still waiting when it’s your turn to go.
8. Seek wisdom and advice from the nurses there.
Learn all you can to feel equipped when you are released to go home with your sweet little angel.
These ladies (and gentlemen) have cared for thousands if not tens of thousands of babies in their careers. They know a thing or two. Ask them to teach you how best to change your baby, bathe her, comb her hair, dress her, suction her nose, etc.
Just think of the leg up you will have from other parents like your that will have to relearn all this stuff (trust me some things you will forget) all by themselves.
Here is another big tip. Watching the NICU nurses firmly yet gently, handle your baby will PROVE TO YOU that your baby is a hearty little thing. She is not as delicate as she looks. Even if she is 4 lbs 6 oz when she is discharged like mine was. Or like my son at 4lbs 13oz when he was discharged.
You will not break her by changing her diaper or putting her arms into that onesie. She is so much stronger than you can imagine. My favorite onesie (in a size Newborn) that my son wore on the way home from the NICU said “Tiny but Mighty” and he was!
Yes, the Emotions of a NICU Mom can be bumpy, but you got this!
Yes, the Emotions of a NICU Mom can be bumpy, but for the seasoned mom, it’s just like riding a bike. You got this! For the new mom, welcome to a proud sorority of resilient and loving moms who have all been on a miraculous journey.
Now I know this has been an emotional journey for you. Its been hard on your heart. Your heart has just been through a tenderizer. But I also know that you are tough, you are strong, you can and will get through this. And with your help, so will your baby.
This is just the first of many trials that you and your baby will endure in life. You will pass the first test with flying colors. You can do this, mama (and daddy).
Best wishes on welcoming your baby into this world and welcoming her home.
Blessings to you all, it’s an amazing journey!
P.S. Other NICU Posts you may like:
The NICU: 7 Ways to Support the Family
The NICU: What Mom Needs to Remember Postpartum: Take Care of Yourself
Also, definitely grab the NICU Experience Journal Page below to have a place to write down your questions for the NICU doctor & nurses, a place to note down changes you see in your baby, and mini milestones of your baby and more.
Chandra is the chocolate-chip loving mother of 2 teenage girls who started over again with a baby boy in her 40’s! She is the author of The Mom’s Playbook to Conquering Softball Season. She gives other moms the tools they need to prepare their daughters for real life. Her content is centered on helping girls grow up to be well-rounded, equipped, expressive, confident, intelligent, capable, kind and independent.