Top 10 Things You Can Do While Your Baby is in NICU
1. Visit regularly
Spending time in the NICU is therapeutic for yourself and your baby. We can
be an extra source of encouragement, especially when your child is initially ill
or nearing time to go home. Follow our visitation guidelines. If you live far
away, you may stay at the Ronald McDonald House to remain close to your
2. Wash your hands
Effective hand washing is the #1 way to prevent infection in the NICU and at
home. Follow our guidelines before visiting your baby's beside, and don't forget
to wash after diaper changes, using the restroom, sneezing and coughing.
3. Stop smoking
Use local smoking cessation programs to kick the habit. By quitting, you will
be decreasing your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and of
developing asthma and respiratory infections. You will also improve your own
health and set a healthy example for your family.
4. Stay informed
Read Sparrow's brochure, "Getting Our Questions Answered: Meeting with Our
Baby's Doctor." Remember, the best way to stay informed is to ask questions.
Many parents find it helpful to write their questions down so they can remember
them during their visits.
5. Personalize your baby's bedside
There is no place like home, and making your baby's bedside homey is the next
best thing. Bring in pictures of yourself, your baby's siblings and pets. You
are welcome to bring baby clothes, blankets and small age-appropriate toys
(stuffed animals are not allowed in the NICU). You are encouraged to bring a
small tape recorder/CD player with soothing music or even your own voice reading
stories and talking to your baby. Please label all items from home with your
baby's last name.
6. Learn comfort measures and your baby's cues
Even if your baby is very ill, there are actions you can take that promote
comfort. Keep the bedside lights dim, talk softly, and ask your baby's nurse for
other soothing ideas. He or she can teach you additional comfort measures
specific for your baby, and cues that your baby may use to say "I need a time
out." Each baby is unique, so take time to learn what calms your baby the
7. Get involved in daily care
Baths, diaper changes, physical therapy, and weighing are all opportunities
to spend hands-on time with your baby.
Breast feeding is a perfect way to bond with your baby, but not all babies
are healthy enough to breast feed immediately. Pumping your breast milk allows
you to still provide the nutrients, whether your baby is bottle feeding or being
tube fed. If your baby is bottle feeding, do the feedings often. This will
prepare you for discharge, and is also a great way to participate in your baby's
8. Be a kangaroo
Do kangaroo care, and enjoy this skin-to-skin time with your baby. Ask your
nurse for guidelines. Holding is another great way to bond with your baby.
9. Remember to take care of yourself and your family
Having a sick baby is incredibly difficult and places stressors on your body,
mind, and sometimes your relationships with others. Take time out for yourself.
You will want to be healthy and energetic when your baby comes home. A balanced
diet, enough sleep, and a listening ear are all necessary to keep you
10. Keep a journal and take lots of pictures
Documenting your baby's stay in the NICU through photos, foot and hand
prints, growth charts, and journal entries will help you monitor progress and
preserve these memories. Use our progress sheets to record special firsts, such
as first day off ventilator, first bath, first bottle, etc. Remember, every day
is a milestone for your baby–nothing is unimportant. Some great photo
opportunities are weigh-in time, a picture of a parent's hand next to the
infant, a first family photo, or even dad's ring on baby's arm (for our tiniest