What is the NICU, and what is my role in helping my baby?
Of course, no parent expects that their newborn baby will end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or the NICU. It can be terrifying and distressing, but you should feel confident that your baby is in good hands, and if you let the doctors and nurses do their job, your baby can go home with you sooner rather than later.
Babies go into the NICU for special care if they are born prematurely, if there were difficulties during the delivery, or if they show symptoms of a medical problem in the first few days.
Letting the doctors and nurses do their job
You might want to know who would be taking care of your baby in the NICU and what they each do for your baby. The people in NICU looking after your baby will be the change nurse, the primary nurse, the neonatal nurse practitioner. The change nurse is the one in charge of a particular shift in the NICU. The primary nurse who has been appointed to pay special attention to your baby. The neonatal nurse practitioner is on hand at the NICU as someone specially trained in neonatology care. These three persons are probably going to be the ones interacting with your baby and you the most. You can get information from them about the progress of your baby’s health.
There would also be other people involved in caring for your baby. There should be a neonatologist, who is a doctor specializing in newborn intensive care. A paediatric hospitalist would also be present, and is a paediatrician who works exclusively in the hospital. There would also be various other specialists to give your baby specific care.
All these people in the NICU have been trained to treat babies with problems, including what your baby is going through. Trust that they will give your baby the best care possible, and refrain from interfering in their attempt to help your baby overcome any problems.
Doing my part
It might be overwhelming to have your baby in the NICU and you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. You can get information from the nurses regularly, such as the daily care of your baby, as well as to understand the diagnosis and course of treatment that has been prescribed for your baby.
Questions that you may like to ask is how long your baby will be in the NICU, what the problem is specifically, and what your baby’s treatment and daily care entail. You may also like to educate yourself on what medicines your baby will be taking, and any tests your baby will have.
As an NICU mother, you should also find out if you will be able to breastfeed your baby or bottle-feed your baby. You should also get help learning how to best feed your baby. To maximize skin-to-skin contact with your baby for its positive benefits, also find out how often and how long you can stay in the NICU with your baby, and whether you can hold or touch your baby while you are there.
Tips for coping
There could be a crashing wave of emotions as your baby stays in the NICU. You may feel everything from anger to guilt to helplessness. First of all, you should acknowledge that you have these feelings and accept them. It is also important to talk through your feelings and feers with your partner. It could also help if you can talk to a friend or a counselor. There are also many internet forums these days where you can talk to mothers going through the same experiences as you are.
Spending time with your baby can also help to alleviate your fears and help you be confident that your baby will be okay. Of course, spending time with your baby will also help your baby to recover more quickly.
In the NICU, the presence of all the machines may be scary, but once you’ve asked the questions about the ones that are helping your baby, stop being distracted by them. Instead, pay attention to your baby, who needs you the most right now. You should also support your partner emotionally, as both of you are going through your baby’s NICU stay together.
Last of all, do not be afraid to accept help from others, or to ask for help. In between visits to the NICU, you will still need to recuperate from the pregnancy and the delivery. You need all the help you can get so that both you and your baby are well cared for.