Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What To Expect, When You're Expecting a NICU Stay

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The birth of your baby is a joyous occasion. However, the experience of being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be very overwhelming. Concern and fear may take over the excitement surrounding the birth as you are now faced with a variety of different emotions. The range of emotions you are feeling are perfectly normal. Knowing what to expect can help you manage those emotions. Here are a couple key points you should know for your stay.

Know the Rules.
Each NICU is different; all rules will vary depending on the hospital’s policy and the severity of your child’s condition. Most NICU’s will hand out guidelines, but if not, make sure you check on a few things the first day. For example: What are visiting hours? How many people are allowed at your child’s side at a time? Are physical interactions such as bathing, diapering, feeding, and holding your child, limited? Can you bring items in from home such as a book to read to your child, or stuffed animals and pictures to leave in the isolette? What phone number can you use to check on your child?

Know the Routine.
A NICU has a specific routine in place. By knowing the routine you can be better prepared as to what to expect during your stay. Find out how long the shifts are, and what time shift change takes place. Ask what time rounds are made, and if you are allowed to be there during these times.

Ask Questions. Take Notes. 
No question is too small. This is your child, and staying informed is important. If no one is around, write down questions when they come up, to ask later. If you are even the slightest bit concerned about your child’s condition, ask questions! The nurses and doctors are there to help you understand and make informed decisions on your child’s care. To help you remember the answers to these questions, and jot down new ones, keep a journal and take notes. It can be a great tool to refer back to later on.

Know Your Nurses.
Every nurse is different with a unique personality, routine, and opinion. There may be times you disagree with an opinion or action. If you are uncomfortable with or not ‘seeing eye to eye’ with a nurse, take your concerns to another staff member that you do feel comfortable with. Remember, this is your child and you must be able to trust whoever is taking care of him/her. If you are unhappy at any time with the care of your child, take your concerns to the head nurse, social worker, or leading neonatologist.

Make Sure Your Expectations are Understood.
Most parents have a preference on the parenting style and care that they chose for their child. Breastfeeding vs. Bottle, the use of pacifiers, religious considerations, etc… are all topics that should be discussed. Keep an open mind, not every request may be able to be accommodated based on your child’s condition. However, by informing the staff of your wishes, they can help you make the best decisions for your child.

Above all know that you are not alone. Connect with other parents who have been or who have a critically ill child like yours. No one understands the journey unless they have been there.


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