The standard period of pregnancy is 40 weeks. If a birth of the baby takes place before 37 weeks gestation it is known as premature delivery according to Pregnancy-period.com. Parents who have a child before 37 weeks gestation can expect their child to be placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU.
This is the new world you are now in for the next month or two. In a short time, you will know all of the NICU vocabulary, read countless articles and become your child’s number one advocate. Firstly, you need to know, though very small, your baby is very resilient. Secondly, trust your child’s medical team and their commitment to your baby’s health. Thirdly, you must keep a positive outlook. Some days will be wonderful and your baby will make tremendous strides and the next there may be a set back. This is just how a premature baby’s development is but by maintaining a positive frame of mind you will get through the days.
Here are some helpful ways to make your time in the NICU a little easier:
Document Your Baby’s Journey
It is important to keep a daily log of your child’s weight gain, which tests were taken throughout the day and your baby’s morning and evening nurse names. You should also keep track of any questions or concerns you may have and take your log with you when you speak to your baby’s doctor at rounds.
Find out When Your Baby’s Doctors Begin Rounds
Ask when your baby’s team of doctors start their rounds off all the children in the NICU. This is the perfect chance to ask questions you have recorded in your journal. You will find out what medicines your child will be given and what will be their care plan for the day.
Talk with the Nurses
Speak with the nurses who are taking care of your baby for the day. Ask questions about how was your baby’s night, how much weight your baby gained, and if there were any instances of concern throughout the day or night. Nurses keep a log of medicines and any issues or concerns. They are your number one resource for information and will gladly help you out with your concerns to the best of their ability.
Go for the “Do Up” Times
Wanting to stay with your baby all day everyday is your first instinct but your child is in the NICU to grow as if he/she were still with you. Going to visit your child at the “Do Up” times when your baby’s is changed and fed are best times to be there. When you are not there you can call the unit and ask to speak to the nurse to find out how your little one is doing. You can call at anytime day or night and speak to your child’s nurse.
Kangaroo Care was first studied in 1983 in Colombia when mothers would hold their infants on their chest for hours due to the lack of reliable equipment. They have since found that holding your child in the upright position on a parent’s bare chest with the baby’s head turned to hear the parent’s heartbeat has many benefits according to Prematurity.org . Ask your nurse when you can hold your baby – you will be happy to know your baby already recognizes your heartbeat and voice.
Take Pictures of Your Baby’s Family
Once your baby is stable, ask your baby’s nurse if you can place photos inside the incubator. These pictures can be of the family your baby will be coming home to in the near future, for example older brothers or sisters, Grandma and Grandpa. You should also take pictures of your baby with your hand beside his hands or of his tiny feet or place your wedding ring on her arm. This is a wonderful way to document your baby’s growth.
Remember to trust in the hospital staff and trust your instincts as a parent. Ask questions, keep records and keep a positive outlook in regards to your baby development. This time in the NICU may feel long but in reality it is only a short pit stop before you can enjoy your precious little bundle of joy at home.