What mom needs to remember while her baby is in the NICU – take care of yourself too.
Giving birth is a highly anticipated event in the life of a woman. It is a grandiose feat no matter the style of the delivery. Natural, Vaginal with medical intervention, Cesarean, it doesn’t matter, mom is a superhero. When her baby needs to make a detour on the way home into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the hospital, her dreams and joy become a little dashed. No one purposefully chooses a NICU stay in their postpartum plans. Still, when this happens, you’ve become a NICU Mom and postpartum care is still a big priority.
Here are 5 things every Mom must do postpartum to care for herself while she awaits her baby’s release from the NICU.
Tip: Save this article for later in the event you may need it. And if you don’t have a need for these tips, Praise God! And remember to share it with someone who does.
1. Mama, you are exhausted. You just gave birth after all. Get some rest.
As you know, delivering your baby was no small feat. Even if your delivery was a piece of cake compared to the scene you were expecting, your body has just been through something monumental. After all, we don’t call women “the stronger gender” for nothing! Men could never handle it, you know it’s true, you’ve seen your husband under the influence of a head cold. Pitiful. But I digress!
If your labor and delivery process was a days-long affair, please respect what your body has achieved and reward it with rest. And by the way, Way To Go! Have I already said, “You are a Rock Star!”
If you underwent a Cesarean section to deliver your baby, congratulations for getting through that (hopefully without a hitch). You might be feeling good right now, but PLEASE remember a Cesarean is MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY. The medicine will wear off. Do not take your doctor’s recovery instructions lightly. Get rest!
If you are in the hospital for the same stretch as your baby’s NICU stay, visit baby when you can, especially for feedings, but rest your body for the remainder of the time. You will NEED your strength restored when you both go home.
After you get home, if your baby is still in the NICU for a short while longer (right? We are believing for that), rest whenever you get the opportunity. Visit baby often, again for feedings, and to hold her. On those occasions, for as long as you can and at least for the first few days/weeks when your baby sleeps, you sleep or at the minimum, relax.
You will be going back and forth to the hospital and that alone takes its toll, even on a healthy strong woman. You have just given birth, by rights you shouldn’t have to get out of your bed for two weeks so your body can restore and heal properly.
Alas, now you have to go back and forth to the hospital to care for your newborn? PLEASE rest for every moment you aren’t “on duty”.
Don’t worry, you will not drop your baby, hold him and love him, and then, recline your chair and close your eyes and rest together. If you feel yourself starting to fall asleep, put your bundle in the bassinet/incubator and take a well-deserved nap until he wakes up for his next feeding.
2. Eat, drink (hydrate) and nourish your body for making milk
Hydrating yourself and giving your body the appropriate healthy calories it needs is essential for making a healthy amount of milk. Plus, your body will need nourishment for the stamina you will need to go back and forth from home to the hospital. But don’t feel obligated to do the cooking. Graciously accept the kindness of friends and family.
Make sure you eat and drink plenty of WATER. Your body will need water and healthy calories to create milk for your baby’s sustenance. Critical those first few weeks of baby’s life when he needs it most.
If you plan to nurse, we will discuss how to keep your milk production up while the baby is in the NICU. But do keep it up, because I promise, at some point whether it was like my son’s stay for 5 days or my daughter’s for 6 weeks, your baby will come home. If you are keeping up your milk supply now that will make it far easier to nurse for months and months after baby gets home.
Meanwhile, take care of your body and provide it with nutrients. Now is not the time to stop your prenatal vitamins, and stop eating healthy foods.
Remember, you are your baby’s everything. If you go down with exhaustion or illness, or malnourishment, you will be no good to anyone. It’s easy to forget with the stress and worry of your baby in the hospital. Do not. Take care of yourself by feeding your body good fuel and water.
3. Let someone else drive for the first few days.
You just gave birth. You may still be on medication, and your legs might not be all there yet. Give yourself time to regain your independence to come and go as you please, as your body recovers postpartum.
Ask Dad to come along with you for as long as he possibly can. Dad needs to bond with baby by spending time with her in the NICU too. And it will give the two of you a time to talk and to be together and process everything you are feeling emotionally.
4. Let someone else do the shopping for baby’s last minute essentials, grocery shopping and filling the car up with gas.
If your baby’s delivery date came as a surprise to you, your head will be swimming with all the things you feel have been left undone. Yes, there will be shopping to do and other errands, but let someone else handle it. And don’t let it be Dad. He is also exhausted. Add to that emotionally drained with worry over his precious child and wife.
Be gracious when friends offer help and say “yes please, that would be great.” Let the control freak in you take a break. See “NICU: 7 Simple Ways to Support the Family” for ways your friends and family can help you guys out at this critical life stage.
5. Pay close attention to your postpartum care instructions.
The postpartum period is when mom is most vulnerable to ignored health issues. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “The maternal mortality rate is highest in the postpartum period, so special consideration needs to be given to the care of the mother.”
Remember, you are still bleeding heavily regardless of the method of birth. You are likely very sore down under if you had a vaginal birth or got stitches for an episiotomy. Or you may need to support your abdomen with a pillow if you are especially tender after a cesarean.
You may have a need to monitor your blood pressure or other health factors as you recover. All these health matters need to be attended to in addition to your newborn in the NICU. Like I said before, your health and your recovery are important these first few weeks postpartum.
You should not go up and down too many stairs for the first few weeks. Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby if you had a C-section.
The silver lining here is that because your newborn is in the NICU and you are making many visits to see him, the NICU nurses are observing you while you talk and catch up on baby’s health progress. If you look very ill, hopefully, they will notice and recommend you see your doctor. They cannot do anything for you there because you are not their patient.
However, I would hope that if they notice something is very off, they will alert you to be seen by a doctor who can help. Plus you would be in a hospital. Probably the one where you delivered, so your records would be in the system. One of the few silver linings of your baby being in the NICU. I can think of at least one more that I will share in this future post: NICU 4 Preparing for Baby to Come Home.
So, let’s avoid any problems. Take it easy. Care for your body and do not neglect it, or else think you are Wonder Woman, or that your body heals like the Wolverine. If you have specific prescriptions to take or clear directions from your doctor, please follow them. Do not neglect your personal doctor visits.
Everybody will need mama healthy when it’s time for baby to come home!
I know all this can be hard to think about when your only concern is for the health and well being of your child. However, its worth it to get yourself as rested, healed and restored as possible so you can give all your energy (and believe me you will need it) to your newborn when she is all yours 24-7 once she goes home. Yay!
Check out this post called The NICU: Emotional Safeguards and Practical Tips
Please, save this article for later in the event you may need it. And if you don’t have a need for these tips after all, Praise God! And remember to share it with someone who does.
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.