There are many reasons a newborn may be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). One of the more common reasons is premature birth, but there are other serious reasons such as: breathing, heart, or serious digestive problems; infections/illness (RSV); weakened immunity; and other birth defects.
As a NICU parent and support to those that have come after me, here are 5 ways you can offer to help parents with a newborn in the hospital.
- Offer your company. The NICU can feel terribly isolating at times, even with nurses and doctors coming in every so often. You don’t need to fill the silence. Just holding space and being another person to talk to makes all the difference.
- Ask about the baby(ies). Ask how about their quirks and progression. That’s their new baby – they want to gush all about them, just like any other parent.
- Offer a home-cooked meal. The majority of the time, these parents are relying on hospital cafeteria food and it leaves something to be desired.
- Ask how you can help. In the event of a premature birth, it is likely that they might be unprepared. Is there an older sibling at home? Pets? Ask if childcare is covered. Ask if the pets need to be fed or if the dogs need to be walked. Ask if there are any items they still need. Ask if there are still items that need to be put together or set up. These offerings may mean more than you know because it is helping take off some additional stressors on the parents.
- Offer to set up a GoFundMe to help with the costs associated with hospitalization. If you know the parent is struggling financially or worried about the inevitable hospital bill, offer to set up a crowdfunding account (with permission). In many cases, the hospital bill is unfathomable and the parent has to temporarily or permanently leave work to be with their baby(ies). The unexpected stay in the NICU can be financially crippling and hard to recover from. Talking about money and finances can be taboo or uncomfortable, so please be sensitive if you decide to make this offer. Their answer may be a quick no, and that’s OK – don’t push it.
I hope this helps you get a better understanding on how you can support a loved one who has a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I know the people who offered these things to us made such an impact during our journey in the NICU.
Be sure to share this with others who may need some guidance on how to show support!