Life is Tough for NICU Mamas

The NICU is not part of anyone’s ideal birth plan, take it from a professional NICU mama. My baby was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 186 days, that’s just over six months! We both survived, thank God! I was blessed with a situation that allowed me to stay with my baby nearly every day while my husband went back to our hometown to work. I spent 12-18 hours every day by Rowan’s side. During my time there, I found many things that made my life a little easier, and a couple that just made me a bit happier. I think these items are items that all NICU & Preemie mamas need!

Just a quick note before you read this list:

If you are a current NICU mama, after you read this list forward it to your mom, best friend, co-worker, church group, neighbor, aunt, cousin, whoever. Now is not the time to worry about what’s socially acceptable on a normal basis. You need to be supported, so send them this list and ask for help. Tell them, you could really use these items, and if they give you a hard time, just refer them to me and I’ll set ‘em straight.

If you are reading this because you are wanting to support a NICU mama, THANK YOU! Grab a few (or all) of these items, stick them in a bag and deliver ASAP. Don’t text mama and ask her if she wants these items. She doesn’t have time for that, and she might not even know she needs them (or she’s too tired to care)!

Disclaimer: I’m so humbled that anyone cares about my opinions on products. Below, you will find Amazon affiliate links to products that I adore. That mean this stay-at-home mom could get a commission for qualifying purchases you make when you click my links! I think it’s pretty cool, but I think it’s even cooler that it’s at no expense to you!

1. CUTE ROBE

 You are going to want to hold your baby as soon as possible. The NICU nurses will teach you all about Kangaroo Care, but basically it’s bonding with your baby through skin-to-skin contact. Your fragile baby will be placed on your bare chest, and you both will love it. Baby will hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth, and you will soak in the miracle of the precious life resting upon your bosom.

So why the robe? Some women just wear a tank top or hospital gown, but I’m here to tell you that the a robe will make everything easier (and you won’t give everyone an eyeful of your engorged breasts). Once the baby is safely upon your chest, you can wrap each side of the robe over the baby. This will keep him toasty and secure. Any robe will do, but I prefer a thin knee length cotton robe. Knee length because people can still see my pants and won’t think I just rolled out of bed. And thin cotton because you don’t want to lose your baby in bunch of fleecy fluff. You can find one very similar to mine HERE.

2. LONG CHARGER CABLE

It’s the longer the better when it comes to phone chargers. There is no telling where the nearest outlet will be hiding when you get that lovely low battery warning. The standard three foot cord won’t cut it; plus, if you’re like me, you needed a new cord anyway.

Much of your time will be spent interacting with your baby, but let’s get real you’ll need a break while he’s sleeping. Relax and play Candy Crush or whatever the new fun game is these days. My phone was a way to distract myself from a very stressful and uneasy time in the NICU, kind of therapeutic. I’m sure the nurses thought I was addicted to technology. Another way you may use your phone is during Kangaroo Care. Once you’re settled in and cozy with your sweet dumplin’, your eyes will probably start to get really heavy. I always used my phone to keep myself awake because it’s not safe to sleep with a tiny baby on your chest who’s hooked to twenty seven wires. Also, you’re gonna want to get tons of selfies with that precious bundle.

Important Tip: When you wash your hands upon entering the NICU, disinfect your phone with a wipe. Those cellular devices are germy!

3. BOOKS FOR BABY

Okay, so the books aren’t just for the baby. They are for you, too. I loved reading out loud to Rowan. Mainly because I wanted to interact with him by talking, but you can only say  “You’re the cutest baby ever!” so many times. Reading aloud helps you connect and baby recognizes your voice. Even if you aren’t able to get your baby out of the isolette, you can read to him. You can find a few children’s books out there that are NICU related.  I’ve listed four of my favorites below. I do like board books for the NICU as they can be wiped down because of germs.

See an entire post on NICU Story Books HERE!

4. NICU MILESTONE CARDS

If you were lucky enough to make it to your baby shower before your baby was born, you may have received a cute way to track your baby’s growth. The milestone blankets are a big thing right now; we use the monthly ties and took pictures. However, I wish I had known about these when Rowan was in the NICU! These milestone cards are made specifically with our special kiddos in mind. For example, there are cards for the first bottle feed, first night in an open crib, and going home! You can purchase these awesome cards HERE. Check out Rowan’s NICU friend Annie on the day she hit four pounds (which is a big deal because babies can’t fit in carseats until 4 pounds)!  Her mommy is how I discovered these cards.

5. NOTEBOOK & PENS

You are going to have information flying at you during doctors’ rounds. Take notes, even if you don’t know how on earth to spell what they’re saying! Document test results so you don’t have to rely on a nurse to look them up for you. Jot down your questions to ask your nurses and doctors. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. If something memorable happens, write it down with the date. If you encounter a problem with your baby’s care make a record immediately of what happened and report it.

I’m a teacher, and I’m super picky about my writing utensils (gotta have Flair Pens). Get something you’ll enjoy using. A pretty notebook and a pen that glides across the paper just right will supply just a tiny dose of happy to your day. If you want more than just a plain notebook, try out the NICU journal shown below. Little Annie’s mom from the picture above loved using it!

6. INSULATED CUP

If you are pumping, breastfeeding, or just wanting to be healthy in general, make sure you are hydrating! Most hospitals have ice and water machines in each unit. I would fill up my cup every day on my way in the NICU (and, you guessed it, sanitized it…those pesky germs are everywhere!). I love my cup like this one HERE

7. SMALL RECEIVING BLANKETS

These can be used for two purposes. First, obviously, swaddling baby. Second, many NICUs use these as “sheets” for the isolettes. They will provide the standard blue and pink stripe hospital blankets, but you can bring cute ones if you want to spruce up baby’s living quarters a bit. Make sure the blanket is about 3’ X 3’. You can find blankets for girls HERE, and blankets for boys HERE! Below you’ll see some pictures of Rowan with different “sheets” on his bed.

8. PERMANENT MARKERS

You will need to put your baby’s last name on personal items, so nurses know what belongs to the hospital and to baby. The NICU more than likely has donations of clothing and blankets for babies to use, so you don’t want your items to get thrown in the hospital laundry never to be seen again.

You will also need a permanent marker for marking the date on your breast milk containers. Trust me, pens smear and when you go home with all your stored liquid gold you’ll want to know the date it was expressed. By the way, I like the twin tip sharpies. 

9. LANOLIN

You may not have stocked up on this before you baby was born, but it will be your breast friend when that pump (or baby) gets ahold of your nipples. Ouch! You can find Lanolin in the baby aisle of most grocery stores, Walmart, and Target. Tip: Put a little on before using the pump to reduce friction and help things glide. The packaging says it’s safe for babies, so don’t worry about it contaminating the milk. Back when I was purchasing this on a regular basis, Amazon had the best price for the Lansinoh brand which was my favorite. A tube usually lasted about a month for me.

10. HAND LOTION

Don’t go to Bath and Body Works and get your favorite scent. Your baby’s little lungs can’t handle the fragrance. Get some good quality, unscented hand cream. Your hands are going to be chapped from all the hand washing with the extra strength hospital grade hand soap. I actually had to visit the dermatologist after we got home from the NICU to help heal the damage my hands had suffered. My favorite hand cream when my digits are looking rough is this Eucerin.

11. GIFT CARDS & CASH

**This one is specifically for friends and family who are supporting a NICU mama. 

Restaurant gift cards were amazing to have on hand for a little treat. We have a friend who Googled restaurants surrounding our hospital and gave us a ton of gift cards. It was a huge blessing! My husband and I got to go on occasional date nights, and it was a good break from hospital food.

Gift cards to Amazon, Walmart, and Target were very helpful. We needed to restock hygiene items, pick up items for the baby, and just purchase miscellaneous things you need to live. This is especially needed when the family has to live in a town away from home like we did.

A little extra cash is always nice, too! Slip ‘em a couple twenties when you go visit the baby. They’ll appreciate it more than you know. And if you’re not allowed to visit the baby due to NICU rules, go visit the parents anyway. It gets lonely there.

I really hope this list makes someone’s NICU journey a little easier! If you are a NICU mama or staff, what else should be on my list? Comment below!