How to Support NICU Families

January 16, 2020

Amanda Gaudet, YegDoula

I always say this, but I don’t think I can say it enough: support is unique to each family. So while all these suggestions come from Edmonton NICU mothers and NICU nurses, know that the mother you may be supporting might need something completely different.

Suggestions from NICU nurse:

  • Pumping Pals
  • Sterilized microwave bag
  • Hands free bra
  • New water bottle
  • Swaddles for baby’s isolette (the hospital linens aren’t great and they are allowed to use baby;s personal items for bedding in the solettes)
  • Journal (some parents like to document their days and baby’s progress)

Suggestions from NICU mothers:

  • Pre-made meals, snacks or meal trains
  • Friends to come for hospital visits. ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION FIRST! Do not show up unannounced.
  • Gift certificates for food and coffee. Skip the Dishes can be ordered to the hospital!
  • Help around the house. Offer to help her keep up with groceries (she might be able to do an online grocery store order, but you can offer to pick it up), do some laundry, clean the house. Or, offer to pay for a house cleaner.
  • Sibling care. Being in the NICU can be especially hard if she has children at home. She may feel torn between being in two places at once. Some families don’t have any family support around. Other families don’t have a partner to take time off during their NICU stay. If you can, offer to watch her kids!
  • NO “AT LEAST” STATEMENTS. No one mother needs to hear this.
  • Thoughts and/or prayers of support. Check in regularly to see how she is doing.
  • Money for parking or pay for their parking pass. Unfortunately when you have a child in the hospital you still have to pay for parking and that adds up quickly.
  • A place to stay that is near the hospital (being nearby to sneak away for a quick nap or shower can be so helpful).
  • NICU trauma and anxiety are very real. She has just given birth and things didn’t quite go as planned. Even a few hours with baby in NICU can be traumatizing and upsetting. Hold space and recognize that no matter how long the stay or what condition her baby is in, she may have a lot of difficult feelings to work through.
  • Slippers or warm socks (those Chapters reading socks are incredible)!
  • Reminder that it’s ok to take care of themselves too. To go home to shower or nap. It’s not enough just to tell her to do this. Offer to help her BE ABLE to do this.
  • You do not have to have all the answers or any advice. Just letting her know you’re there to love, support and pray for her in whatever way she needs is one of the best ways you can be there for a NICU mother.

Are you a NICU mother? What would you add to this list?

As an Edmonton postpartum doula, I support all families including those who are in the NICU. This might look like helping with sibling care at home. Making freezer meals or helping keep the house in order so that when your baby comes home you only have to think about adjusting to a new baby at home and not anything else. Coming to support you in the hospital. Whatever your needs are, I am here to help support you.

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