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The Bump Editors

Advice for Surviving the NICU?

My baby’s in the NICU. Any advice for getting through this tough time?

Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is exhausting, heart-wrenching and just plain scary. So we took this question to the best experts on the subject, moms on The Bump Preemies board, who’ve lived through having babies in the NICU.

“Take lots of pictures and videos. You may not think you’ll want to remember these tough days/weeks/months, but being able to look back and see how far your baby has come is amazing.” — jacquez_

“Write in a journal your feelings and baby’s milestones.” — jcsntms06

“Celebrate all of the good, one ounce gained is amazing.” — appylovee

“Advocate for your child. The doctors and nurses may know medicine, but you know your baby better than anyone else.” — JoJoGee

“Cry. It’s not just okay. It’s good for you to cry.” — AlwaysSunny

“None of the nurses told me that I could bring in and wash our own linens, decorate his incubator, give him his baths or take his temperature. These are all things I learned online — some of them too late. The NICU feels overwhelming and is a very controlled atmosphere, so you might not think of these tasks as yours to do whenever you want.” — urbanflower

“Kangaroo care is a must! Ask when your baby is stable enough to hold her skin-to-skin. It is a tremendous bonding experience for the two of you, and it is proven to help babies in many, many ways. Plus, it feels fantastic to hold your baby so close.” — MommynTeach

“Chat with other parents! It’s nice to hear what others are going through. To this day, I am still friends with another mom and a nurse my son had. Also, take time to recover, especially if you had a c-section. After being discharged I wanted to spend every waking moment back at the hospital and therefore wouldn’t take my meds or rest as I was supposed to. This resulted in a longer healing time. If you are not well, you won't be the best your baby needs you to be!” — JeepersWife

“Don’t feel guilty if you're not spending every waking minute in the NICU. You need time for you (and your spouse!) too!” — pinotgirl

“Don't be afraid to voice your opinion or ask your doctor questions. It’s easy to feel as though your role as a parent has been taken from you when you’re in the NICU, with nurses tending to your baby round the clock and doctors calling all the shots. It’s also easy to feel intimidated. Many NICU moms feel as though if they question something, it might prevent their baby from getting the best care. The truth is, NICU doctors and nurses are happy to see parents be very involved in their children’s care. Once I let it be known that I wanted to know everything I could and be as involved as possible, our doctors were wonderfully accommodating — even showing me how to read my daughter's chart and daily X-rays so that I could watch her progress.” — kaylaaimee

“Invest in a good-quality double electric breast pump, especially if you have a very premature baby or a micropreemie — you’re going to be spending a lot of time with it! Also talk to your lactation consultant as much as you need to if you’re stuck or need some help.” — BostonKiss

“Buy a pumping bra immediately. Do not wait. It will be so liberating to be able to breast pump and also send emails, read a book or research online while pumping — or actually catch up on a phone call!” — iristony

“Don’t feel guilty asking visitors to stay away from the hospital.” — kes3237

Plus, more from The Bump:

The Ultimate NICU Cheat Sheet

Will I be able to breastfeed my preemie?

Worst Things to Say to Moms of Preemies