It was such a shock when we first arrived in NICU that it took us a while to bring in a few things that helped to make our time there a little more comfortable. Some of them seem obvious looking back, but in that very stressful situation, it’s hard to focus on anything apart from how your baby is doing. So we hope this list is helpful, and please let us know your suggestions.
1) Notebook and pen – at the end of each day, we noted down what had happened in a small notebook, and it is now a keepsake telling Edward’s story. It helped us to remember when he reached milestones, such as wearing clothes for the first time, and going into a cot. After we left hospital, we heard about the idea of milestone cards specifically for prem babies, which lead to us creating a set ourselves – see this post here
2) Bonding squares – our hospital’s neonatal unit charity gave all babies a set of bonding squares. These are small pieces of fabric which mum and baby wear, and then swap, so that each gets the other’s scent. I was expressing milk so his square helped when I expressed in the night and I got some comfort from knowing that he had my square and so my smell in his cot.
3) Book / magazine – babies sleep, a lot, especially tiny ones. Edward’s downtime was an opportunity for us to try and have a little break.
4) Earphones – we found listening to music or catching up with TV helped us to relax a little. We were also able to stay with Edward during ward round if we had earphones in because of patient confidentiality.
5) High energy bars – we kept a stash of these in the locker we had there for when we needed a quick snack, but didn’t want to leave Edward for too long.
6) Musical night toy – we bought a musical owl that played restful classical music tunes and had a tummy that lit up. Playing the owl just before we left for the day was an important part of Edward’s nighttime routine. We also read him a story and the hospital had a good selection of books to choose from.
7) A family photo – there isn’t much space in the NICU, but we put a couple of photos on our shelf and enjoyed telling Edward all about his family. It helped to make a very clinical space feel a little more homely.
8) A special blanket – Edward’s nana knitted him a small blanket and it was lovely to see him snuggled up in it.
9) Set up a What’s App group to keep family and friends updated – we’ve borrowed this tip from our friends who had triplets in the NICU this year. It’s a quick way to share photos and updates with loved ones during a very busy time.
10) Hand cream – the endless hand washing takes a big toll on your skin.
Have we forgotten anything? Let us know, and we’ll add to our list.