08 June 2018
Throughout pregnancy, mums and dads spend their time preparing for their baby’s arrival, dreaming up ideas and making plans such as choosing clothes and decorating nurseries; however, when baby arrives earlier than expected, or born to full term but unwell and requiring extra special care in the hospital, these plans are often interrupted and left unfinished.
You can suddenly find yourself in the neonatal unit, an unfamiliar environment, clinical and so far removed from how you imagined your baby’s first days being spent. It is likely you will also have little idea as to how long he or she will be there.
Nursing staff will understand your trepidation upon entering this new world and will do their very best to welcome and help you to feel at ease as you settle in, but what can you do to help make your days and nights spent there more comfortable?
We’ve done a little investigating to try and help you create a space for you, your partner and your baby that will help make your time in the neonatal unit less overwhelming.
Creating a space for you, your partner and your baby...
Remember, before you add your personal touch to your NICU space, speak with staff so that you can get a feel for what is allowed and how much space is available to you. Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t allowed to place a particular item with your baby now as that may change as your baby’s health improves.
1. Decorate your baby’s cot
We’ve found some lovely sets of mini bunting you could display around your baby’s cot or incubator. It’s small so won’t take up too much space and the vibrant colours and patterns can help brighten up the ward. If you have other children, perhaps they’d like to make a drawing for their brother or sister whilst in the hospital? Maybe you could tape it to the outside of baby’s cot or incubator? And when your baby reaches important milestones in the NICU, why not proudly display your milestone cards?
2. Bring photographs from home
Surrounding yourself with reminders of life at home can help you to focus on the future and remind you that you won’t be there forever; you will be heading home and onto the next chapter of your lives. Photos can also remind you that you’re not alone as it can be easy to feel like the world is carrying on without you whilst you’re behind hospital walls.
3. Get comfortable
Why not bring a pillow and blanket from home? You might be spending a lot of time sat by your baby’s side and for your kangaroo care sessions, it might be nice to use a blanket you’ve chosen yourself for your baby. Choosing your own patterns and colours might help you feel a bit more “normal”, buying things for your child as you would in the outside world.
4. Choose some clothes
As mentioned above, choosing items such as clothing for your newborn is an important part of getting ready for your new arrival and shouldn’t change because your baby arrived early, or is receiving specialist care, it just requires a bit of extra thought. There are a number of online shops that sell clothes suitable for babies in the neonatal unit. You can ask nursing staff for advice if you are unsure, but this website sells a number of “easy access” clothes that help, rather than hinder, the administration of medicine or fluids. Marks and Spencer’s have also recently launched a new collection of clothing for preemies, hurrah!
5. Baby toys
Some soft toys are not allowed in with baby, but there’s no reason you can’t choose a favourite toy and position it outside the cot. Maybe baby’s older brother or sister might like to choose one for their NICU sibling? You could make it part of their role to pick toys they think their brother or sister would like; involving siblings in this way will help them feel more connected to baby. We have some more tips to help siblings feel involved in their baby brother or sisters care here.
6. Passing time
Of course you’ll want to be as involved in your baby’s care as you can be, but there will be times when your baby is sleeping and all you can do is sit and wait. Why not bring some books, magazines or keep a NICU journal to help pass the time and take your mind off things? You might be able to leave some of these items in a bedside table in your baby’s space; that way you will not need to carry things back and forth every day.
As much as you'd like to be by your baby's side 24/7, it's important that you take time away for yourself. We hope you found our tips for personalising your NICU space useful, and that by introducing, some, or all of them, your time in the NICU will be a little brighter.