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Top 10 Things You Can Do

Top 10 Things You Can Do While Your Baby is in NICU

1. Visit regularly

Spending time in the NICU is therapeutic for yourself and your baby. We can be an extra source of encouragement, especially when your child is initially ill or nearing time to go home. Follow our visitation guidelines. If you live far away, you may stay at the Ronald McDonald House to remain close to your child.

2. Wash your hands

Effective hand washing is the #1 way to prevent infection in the NICU and at home. Follow our guidelines before visiting your baby's beside, and don't forget to wash after diaper changes, using the restroom, sneezing and coughing.

3. Stop smoking

Use local smoking cessation programs to kick the habit. By quitting, you will be decreasing your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and of developing asthma and respiratory infections. You will also improve your own health and set a healthy example for your family.

4. Stay informed

Read Sparrow's brochure, "Getting Our Questions Answered: Meeting with Our Baby's Doctor." Remember, the best way to stay informed is to ask questions. Many parents find it helpful to write their questions down so they can remember them during their visits.

5. Personalize your baby's bedside

There is no place like home, and making your baby's bedside homey is the next best thing. Bring in pictures of yourself, your baby's siblings and pets. You are welcome to bring baby clothes, blankets and small age-appropriate toys (stuffed animals are not allowed in the NICU). You are encouraged to bring a small tape recorder/CD player with soothing music or even your own voice reading stories and talking to your baby. Please label all items from home with your baby's last name.

6. Learn comfort measures and your baby's cues

Even if your baby is very ill, there are actions you can take that promote comfort. Keep the bedside lights dim, talk softly, and ask your baby's nurse for other soothing ideas. He or she can teach you additional comfort measures specific for your baby, and cues that your baby may use to say "I need a time out." Each baby is unique, so take time to learn what calms your baby the best.

7. Get involved in daily care

Baths, diaper changes, physical therapy, and weighing are all opportunities to spend hands-on time with your baby.

Breast feeding is a perfect way to bond with your baby, but not all babies are healthy enough to breast feed immediately. Pumping your breast milk allows you to still provide the nutrients, whether your baby is bottle feeding or being tube fed. If your baby is bottle feeding, do the feedings often. This will prepare you for discharge, and is also a great way to participate in your baby's care.

8. Be a kangaroo

Do kangaroo care, and enjoy this skin-to-skin time with your baby. Ask your nurse for guidelines. Holding is another great way to bond with your baby.

9. Remember to take care of yourself and your family

Having a sick baby is incredibly difficult and places stressors on your body, mind, and sometimes your relationships with others. Take time out for yourself. You will want to be healthy and energetic when your baby comes home. A balanced diet, enough sleep, and a listening ear are all necessary to keep you healthy.

10. Keep a journal and take lots of pictures

Documenting your baby's stay in the NICU through photos, foot and hand prints, growth charts, and journal entries will help you monitor progress and preserve these memories. Use our progress sheets to record special firsts, such as first day off ventilator, first bath, first bottle, etc. Remember, every day is a milestone for your baby–nothing is unimportant. Some great photo opportunities are weigh-in time, a picture of a parent's hand next to the infant, a first family photo, or even dad's ring on baby's arm (for our tiniest babies).

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