When your new baby needs to be treated in neonatal intensive care, it’s so incredibly hard. Long hours in the hospital, away from home, not to mention the overwhelming worry for your little one. It can also leave family and friends at a loss as to how they can help. Abby Murphy, whose baby needed to stay in NICU for the first six weeks of her life, shared this wonderful advice in The Motherload® Facebook community to help others support parents who are going through a similar experience.
Abby, who’s a mum of two and a step-mum of two told us: “We had a planned c section as scans showed there might be something wrong. They said our baby might need a small operation after birth. Unfortunately it was much worse when she arrived and she ended up having three operations whilst in NICU. She was in intensive care twice then in High Dependency then Special Care. The whole time I expressed milk in NICU and at home as to begin with she wasn’t able to feed, then she was tube and bottle fed before eventually taking to the breast. She was in for 40 days and discharged home needing ongoing care and future operations. Having said that she is now 12 months old and a thriving boob monster! She still has a medical journey ahead of her but she’s doing great.”
Here’s Abby’s advice on how to help someone whose baby is in intensive care.
Things for the baby
They might not be able to wear clothes for a while but when they do brightly coloured vests and babygros with poppers down are best, in case of wires / tubes. We loved anything bright – it makes a change from hospital white! Also bright muslins are great, really jazz up the cot, a light blanket. In most wards cuddly toys aren’t allowed but might be if they are low dependency.
Things for mums and dads
A Costa gift card, hand cream, vouchers for takeaway. It’s exhausting cooking after a long day by your baby’s side. Offers of home cooked meals in a pot to warm up are also great. If you are fairly close, ask to visit. Mum and dad might like a few minutes with you, or to leave you there to read to the baby whilst they have a break. Or offer to take them for a coffee after. Bring all the cake!
Offer support at home too
If there are other children at home offer to amuse them or help out with childcare. It might be hard for mum and dad to be anywhere together and it’s important that they can be. There is a high likelihood that at some point they won’t be doing okay, no matter what they say, so be careful not to lay on too thick that they are doing great as they might need the head space to tell you they aren’t.
Don’t ask too many questions as they might not have answers.
Keep it open-ended and supportive, they might need you to listen or just talk about the weather or something ‘normal’. Texts and messages are great. Let them know you are there. Ask what they need, offer practical help.
It’s a tough journey, and a hard place to be. Our family and friends are our lifeline. We are still affected as a family a year on but I’m grateful for all the support we’ve had.
Thanks so much to Abby Murphy for sharing this advice with us.