Last week, I shared my general tips for new moms. Today, I wanted to share some special tips for my fellow NICU moms. As many of you know, Harper was born six weeks premature and spent a week in the NICU before finally coming home with us. I know that we are extremely blessed that her stay was relatively short, but it was still the hardest week of my life. I had no idea that she would come early. I had no pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. My water just randomly broke the night after Christmas. Because of this, I wasn’t prepared at all and I had no idea what to expect after she was born. I hope first and foremost that none of you will ever have to experience preterm labor, but if you do, I hope that sharing the things that helped me the most during that time will help you to get through it if that day ever comes.
1. Take breaks. // You are going to want to spend every single minute in the NICU with your baby. But try to remember that you just gave birth. You need time to rest and recover. Spending every minute in the NICU might also be too much for your postpartum emotions. In the first few days after Harper was born, while I was still in the hospital, Sam spent more time in the NICU with Harper than I did. In fact, he changed her diaper and bottle fed her before I did. I spent the majority of my time in the hospital resting and pumping. When I was discharged, I would come to the hospital for her feedings. I would feed her, hold her and then head back home to get everything ready for when she was discharged. It was just too much for my emotions to stay there all day and I felt much better when I focused on her coming home.
2. Ask the nurses to teach you everything and then do as much as you can yourself. // I was very familiar with babies before Harper was born, but I had never seen or held one as small as she was. The first time I changed her diaper, I got so nervous and flustered (she was crying and my milk came in and I just panicked), that I had to ask the nurse to finish for me. I got help with feeding (both nursing and bottle feeding), burping, bathing, everything! But after I watched them do it once or twice, I did it myself the rest of the time. After a few days, I would come in, close the curtain around us, and pretend that it was just our little family in there. Nurses are so amazing, but you can’t take them home with you. You want to feel as confident as possible when you walk out of those hospital doors and the best way to do that is to get your practice in while you still have professionals around to help you and answer any questions you may have. (more…)