Parents Guide to Surviving the NICU

Last updated on November 26th, 2018 at 06:00 pm

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Parents guide to surviving the nicu

There is an unspoken bond among parents with babies in the NICU. I remember walking into the NICU and making eye contact with other parents and there was always a glimmer of understanding. They knew exactly what you were going through, and vice versa. Feel free to read my story about my son and the NICU. After experiencing it first-hand, I decided to write a parents guide to surviving the NICU.

1. Ask Questions

The first tip in the parents guid to surviving the NICU is to ask questions. One of the best ways I coped with my son being in the NICU was to ask questions. There are going to be a lot of things you don’t know about, and it is so much easier to learn about it than feel out of the loop. Some of the questions I remember asking were:

  • What is a normal respiration rate?
  • Why is he shaking so much (when he was on the high-flow ventilator)?
  • How does the high-flow ventilator work?
  • Is he going to be ok?
  • How does the CPAP work?
  • What is the tube going into his nose? (It never occurred to me that he was on a feeding tube.)
  • What is a pneumothorax?
  • Why does he need a blood transfusion?
  • When do you think he will get to go home? (I probably asked this one 100+ times).
  • How did he do overnight?
  • Have they weaned him off of the ventilator?
  • When can I hold him?

I know I asked a lot more, but I think I blocked a lot of that out of my memory. Another question that you might come across is what is is like to bring baby home from the NICU? Well, you can read all about it and a few ways to make the transition easier here.

2. Interact with baby

When the nurses/doctors give you the all clear to help with diaper changes and temperature checks, do. I wasn’t a first-time parent, but I was beyond scared to do anything. Seeing all the wires, tubes, an IVs can be daunting. Some other great ways to interact are by simply talking/singing to your baby, and bringing in scent circles. The best thing in the world is when you get to hold your baby!

3. Focus on the Positives

This can be difficult in the beginning, because no parent ever wants to have their newborn baby in the NICU. These were some of the things I was grateful for:

  • He is alive
  • He was born at 37 weeks (a baby next to Luke was born at 24 weeks)
  • He weighed more than what the growth scan had estimated he would weigh at birth
  • The amazing doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists
  • He didn’t have to have a chest tube

4. Don’t feel guilty

I struggled a bunch with guilt, because I hated leaving my son. What helped me was knowing that he was getting all the care possible even when I wasn’t there. Also, call the NICU. I did this at night time a lot just to get reports of how he was doing. The worst part is leaving the hospital each time without your baby, but remember this won’t be forever. Aother thing I struggled with was that this was not my first child. This meant that I still needed to be there for my daughter and so we just couldn’t stay up in the hospital all day (we went in twice a day). She still needed lunch/dinner and naptime/bedtime. Being a parent with other kids while having a baby in the NICU is rough. You feel like you are torn between your kids.

5. It’s OK to Cry

I think the first time I actually cried in the NICU was when my little guy was hooked up to the high-flow ventilator and he just looked so helpless. The nurses there were quick to hand me a box of tissues (they must go through a ton!) and comfort me.  I am not one to cry in front of strangers, but I couldn’t hold up anymore. To be honest, I think it helped me just a little bit to cry.

6. Get to know the Doctors and Nurses

This helps because it makes it easier (almost) to leave the NICU each day knowing who is taking care of your little one. We had quite a few nurses, but one I will always remember. She was with our little guy more than the other nurses and she even called to check up on him on her days off. She also stayed late one night too help comfort me, because I was a mess. NICU nurses are angels God thought the world needed. I don’t know how they do everything they do, but I will never forget it.

There is no way around saying it: having a baby in the NICU sucks. There are so many emotions going through your head and all you want is to bring your baby home. If you are going through this and having a tough time send me an email at if you need someone to talk to. No matter what, know that your baby is strong! I remember being given a sunshine bag from the Collins Grace Foundation and in it had a bracelet that said: NICU strong. Not only is your baby strong, but you will also be stronger after enduring this struggle. Feel free to comment below and share your tips or experiences with the NICU. I hope this parents guide to surviving the NICU helps!


6 comments on “Parents Guide to Surviving the NICU

  1. Thank you for sharing. I went through the exact same thing. My baby was born at 39 weeks, and all of a sudden, she was taken away from me in less than 24 hours because she had an infection. They told me when I go home she would go home with me, but unfortunately that did not happen. She stayed in the NICU for 3 weeks because she wasn’t feeding well. It was frustrating and all I wanted was to have my baby home with me. I couldn’t stop crying every day. Until a nurse realized how hard it was for me, she spoke to me one on one about my concerns and frustrations. I couldn’t thank her enough or else I would just sit there and not have said anything and everything would have stewed inside of me.
    Everything you mentioned, my husband and I did after knowing that we are not alone.
    To make it short, yes it’s hard, but I was thankful that her situation wasn’t worse, unlike the other parents around us. I count my blessings that she was healthy, but it was still hard to have her in the NICU and not have her home with us.

    • Oh my goodness! Vickie, I thought 12 days was bad…3 weeks would have been unimaginable. I remember there were so many times I would cry, and it was a rollercoaster in the NICU because my son would do well, but then take a turn for the worse. There was no feeling like the day you get to bring your baby home. Wishing you all the best and sending some love your way!

  2. Thanks for this. My son was born at 32 weeks and spend 6 weeks in the NICU. It was one of the hardest moments in my life. I cried a lot, asked a lot of questions, and felt a lot of guilt…not only about leaving him but also of not being able to carry him in the womb longer – he was born early because I developed preeclampsia.

    We’re now home and my baby is healthy, hamdome and growing so fast, but the pain of a few months ago still lingers. I agree, building that relationship with nurses and doctors is so helpful and comforting.

    • I went through some of the same guilt you did, as my scheduled c-section was moved up to 37 weeks because I was developing preeclampsia. The most important thing was that both you and your son were safe (even if it was early). My son’s stay only lasted 12 days and I thought that was brutal, so I can only imagine a 6 week stay. You are one tough mom, and I am sending some love your way. It is amazing how quick they grow, my little guy isn’t so little anymore. Thanks for commenting Mel!

  3. Thank you for sharing.. My daughter was born at 27 weeks and spent 2 1/2 months in the NICU It was extremely hard for us because she had a really rough beginning and we weren’t sure what the future held for her, but now she is a healthy (almost) seven year old and has no problems due to being so early! We are very blessed! I’m so happy everything turned out great for y’all!

    • Wow, my heart goes out to you. I had a hard enough time with my son being in the NICU for 12 days let alone 2 1/2 months. It is so incredibly amazing how strong we become after experiencing this. What I have also learned over time is that NICU babies are tough. My little guy who is not-so-little anymore will be 9 months old and by the looks of him, you would never know he had a rough start to his life. I’m glad everything turned out good for your daughter too, take care!

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