The NICU Parents List here has been adapted from the Austprem - NICU Checklist and from suggestions that I included in Part 2 of the article that I wrote on "Identifying, Understanding, and Working with Grieving Parents in the NICU."
This checklist includes suggestions for coping with some of the basics, caring for your NICU baby as well as special tips for the family...things you might want to consider while your baby is in the NICU.
The Basics - Parking, Meals and Accommodations
Parking - Check about subsidized parking. Most hospitals offer some sort of parking discount for the families of long term patients. Ask.
Meals - See if meals can be provided for you, or if you can get meal vouchers for the cafeteria.
Accommodations - Find out if there are accommodations available within the hospital or nearby for when your baby is having a difficult time and you want to be closer.
More Accommodations - If you live a long distance away from the hospital, the hospital staff should be able to help you find accommodation nearby.
Caring for Your NICU Baby/BabiesUnderstand the Equipment and Charts - Have the nurses explain the equipment, their settings and the medical charts and how to read them. You'll know exactly what your baby did and what tests were done without having to ask.
Learn about the NICU - Learn about the routines, hand-washing and gowning procedures, visiting hours, nursing shift changes and when the doctors do their patient rounds.
Ask Questions if You Don't Understand - Ask the NICU staff to explain anything you don't understand. Ask again if you don't understand the first time, or get enough information. It can be hard to take all of it in at once.
Caring for Your Baby - Get involved in caring for your infant as soon and as much as possible. Ask what can be easily done by parents rather than have the nursing staff do it.
Learn how to...do things for your baby. Change a diaper, give a proper NICU bath, wipe the eyes or mouth and gently rubbing oil into dry skin.
Ask when you can hold and cuddle your baby - Realize that if the nurse says no because your baby is not well enough just then, that is okay. Check again later or the next day. Ask when might be better.
Check about Training Sessions - Some hospitals offer training sessions to officially teach parents how to do tube feeds so you can then help do the feeds even if you aren't breastfeeding.
Ask for foot and hand prints if possible. Babies grow so quickly that you won't remember how small they were to start.
Check when and what clothing is appropriate. The clothes will need to be easy to get on and off if your baby is still on oxygen or has other medical needs. Some hospitals won't allow clothing until your baby is a certain stage.
Bring in clothes for your baby to wear. Make sure the clothes have been washed and are marked. Provide a few spares in case your baby needs to be changed.
If you bring in clothes for your baby to wear...make sure there is a bag for the dirty ones for you to take home and wash. If they end up in the hospital wash, you may never see them again.
Make (or have someone else make) clothes for your baby. A great way to get relatives who can sew involved. Have them make something appropriate and the right size for your baby to wear.
Special Tips for the Family
Visitors - Find out how many visitors your baby may have at once, and if there are restrictions on who. If you have other children, check when they may visit and if there are any restrictions.
Get dad involved on his terms - Some dad's can't cope with full term babies, let alone NICU babies. Other dad's might feel left out or pushed away if they don't get to help.
Getting Extra Support
Try to get to know some of the other NICU parents - Talking with other who also have their baby in the NICU and are experiencing many of the same things may be helpful.
Ask to see a social worker or clergy if you feel the need - These services are usually available even though they may not be directly offered to you.
See if the hospital offers a support group - You might see them once or twice or weekly while your babies are in hospital.Find out what additional resources the hospital has for parents
You might need them when you are in the hospital and also once you go home you.Find out if there are any talks for parents (or grandparents). Read noticeboards regularly. Check in the Waiting Room area or wherever information is posted for families.
Austprem is an incorporated, non-profit organization in Australia. Those involved have all experienced, or been closely involved with the experience of prematurity. They aim to support in any way they can parents and caregivers of other premature infants and children. Their formal purpose, aims and objectives can be seen below.
Dyer K. 2005. Identifying, Understanding and Working with Grieving Parents in the NICU, Part 2. Neonatal Network. 24 (4): 27 – 39.
Austprem. NICU Checklist. Products, Resources and Links.
Image: Modified from Dominik Gwarek. Feedback Form. Royalty Free Use.