So you have a friend or a loved one with a baby in the NICU? And you’re wondering what you really can do to help?
I hope after reading this blog you feel like you’ve come to the right place!
The truth is – our time in the NICU was one of the hardest things I’ve ever walked through.
NICU mamas- like all moms – dreamed of quietly blissful times snuggling their babies post birth, but instead they have to ask a nurse permission to touch their own baby. Holding Callie became a scheduled event in-between the litany of tests, hospital rounds, beeping machines, and navigating the wires and cords that encircled her tiny little body. NICU Mamas are filled with anxiety when they do leave the hospital–dashing home to change clothes and take a much needed shower. Filled with worry when they hear the phone ring, terrified it’s the hospital calling with bad news.
Kudos to you for wanting to support your friend!.
Do you know what tons of NICU moms share with me again and again?
That their friends don’t know WHAT to do, so they don’t do anything.
NICU moms often get no baby gifts because people don’t know what to get, and they don’t get phone calls because nobody knows what to say.
How heartbreaking is that?
If you are looking for specific ways to show up well for your friend read on–the experience they are going through is brutally hard, and I know how much they will appreciate your care and love.
The Things Money Can’t Buy
- Run Errands for her
- Offer to buy groceries. Tell her to write her grocery list down and you’ll deliver them to her fridge. Crunched on time? Schedule the grocery order using Instacart or Shipt for a time she will be home.
- Fill her car with gas, pick up her mail, return her library books or any other errand she might need help with.
- Babysit her other kid(s). One of the #1 pains that NICU moms have is the struggle of trying to spend time with her baby in the NICU and the rest of her family. It usually feels like there’s no good answer for how to meet everyone’s needs. Tell your NICU mom that you want to babysit. Give her some clear dates and times that you’re free, or ask her to write down the days and times that would really help.
- Drive her to the hospital. Any mom who has had a c-section has to wait weeks before she can drive, so she may be desperate for a ride to visit her baby in the NICU. If you can offer it, give her a lift to the hospital. She may invite you to join her inside, but most likely she will not for one reason or another. You’ll do her a favor just by understanding either way.
- Go for a walk with her. I remember at times, desperately craving fresh air while Callie was in the NICU. There was something about the glaring overhead lights and the harsh chemical smells that used to do a number on my senses. Fresh air, along with someone who cares and who will listen, are incredible gifts. You might even offer to meet her at the hospital and walk nearby, if there are places to walk and if it helps your friend not have to go too far away from her baby.
Thoughtful & Beautiful Ways Show You Care
- Gift cards to the hospital cafeteria, if applicable
- Gift cards to nearby restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores
- Gift certificates to food delivery services like Door Dash, GrubHub, Uber Eats, etc.
- Visa gift cards for those non-store specific items that might need to be purchased during the hospital stay
- Cash & rolls of quarters for vending machines
- Healthy snacks high in protein, fresh fruit, a reusable water bottle, and coffee thermos are amazing things for people to have during their stay.
- Care Calendars are an excellent way for families to receive home cooked meals and to include family and friends that want to help in other ways. Pro tip–always bring food over in disposable containers that do not need to be washed and returned.
- A specialized NICU journal to mark those precious milestones would be thoughtful. I love this NICU journal from Every Tiny Thing
- A camera to place by the baby’s bedside so nurses can take pictures while parents are not there. Some of my favorite pictures of Callie are ones that were taken by the nurses in the overnight hours.
- A gift certificate for a family photo session from a photographer willing to allow no expiration date gives something for the parents to look forward to when the NICU stay is over.
- A cute handmade name sign for outside the isolette or bed or a personalized baby blanket are items that we received that we absolutely loved. We still have the sign that hung on Callie’s crib.
- Paperback books to read, audio books (check out Audible), and magazines
- Books on the NICU experience for parents and siblings, as well as books on life after the NICU are welcomed additions.
- Playing cards, puzzles, or dominoes are great to pass the time and have a little bit of fun when visitors come.
- Make a cozy care package. Cozy items: consider adding cozy socks, slippers, a robe, and a blanket. A soft travel pillow, eye mask, earbuds or headphones would come in handy during those long days or overnight stays.
- Travel essentials: toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, deodorant, dry shampoo, brush, chapstick, gum, mints, Ibuprofen
- Unscented (very) moisturizing lotion are great to add to a gift basket. My hands were destroyed after the NICU–you wash your hands SO many times with harsh hospital soap!!
- Hand sanitizer is a critical addition to any gift basket, as well as a box or small packet of soft tissues for when those tears just won’t stop flowing.
Set Up a Caring Bridge Page
This service is incredible for NICU families, as a free online way to keep friends and family updated during a difficult time. It is an easy and quick way to communicate health news to family and friends—all in one place. We created a page for Callie shortly after she was admitted to the NICU and the website allowed us to share updates with all of our extended friends and family at the same time–without having to pick up the phone and make multiple calls. We could post as often as we wanted or share pictures as Callie progressed. And now, almost 15 years later, her Caring Bridge site is an online scrapbook, holding the milestones, memories, and triumphs she battled through in those 3 months.