Sanitation is VERY important. Babies have underdeveloped immune systems, and premature babies are particularly sensitive to infection. The NICU has strict guidelines about hand washing and sanitation. Sometimes a face mask is recommended as well. It is critically important that you adhere to the guidelines about sanitation every time you visit the NICU, not just for your baby but for the others as well.
The NICU is busy. At any given time, there may be neonatologists, pediatricians, NICU nurses, RN’s, lactation specialists, other parents, and sometimes social workers or psychologists in the NICU. (A psychologist can help parents process the difficulty of having a premature baby.) It can feel very crowded and this is normal.
It's OK if you're scared. If being in the NICU with your baby feels scary, that is OK. You don't need to try to look at the bright side, try to see the good, or look for a silver lining. If you're intimidated and scared, it's OK to not like it and just be present in the situation as it is.
You can still breastfeed. Premature babies benefit greatly from their mother’s milk. While it may be difficult to establish a latch with a premature baby, you can still pump and slowly work toward a latch. If you need to supplement, many hospitals have donated breast milk that you can use for your baby. A premature baby’s stomach is particularly sensitive and breast milk is going to be much easier for your baby to process and digest than formula. Talk to your pediatrician and neonatologist about the options available to your baby.
In most situations, you can still do kangaroo care. Kangaroo Care is the term used to describe a mother and baby staying skin to skin as much as possible to support baby’s development. Kangaroo Care regulates the baby’s body temperature, helps establish regular breathing patterns, and generally contributes to baby’s overall well being and health. Even if your baby has a lot of tubes or cords attached to them, NICU staff can usually get the baby to stay on you. Remember, your baby knows you and they benefit from your presence
You are allowed to stay with your baby as much as you want. That is your baby. You have a right to see your baby as much as you want, whenever you want. Don’t forget to do some self care, but do not be afraid to insist on staying with your baby if you want to.
NICU nurses are highly skilled, and they really care about your baby. It takes a very special type of person to be a nurse. It takes an even more unique type of person to be a NICU nurse. NICU nurses truly love babies and families. They do the best they can to make sure your baby is healthy and cared for. That being said, if you have an issue with a particular nurse for any reason, you can request that person not work with your baby and your request should be honored.
A NICU stay is never the plan, but a little extra medical support can mean a world of difference for tiny babies. With a little patience and help from a supportive staff, you and your baby will be discharged and snug at home in no time.