- Be informed: To feel more comfortable in the NICU environment and with their baby's condition, parents should learn all they can about NICU equipment and staff and the specific medical conditions their baby is coping with. Parents should get to know the people who care for their baby, and ask questions when they have them.
- Get involved in baby's care: Premature babies require diaper changes, baths, feedings, and other typical baby care. One of the most important NICU parenting tips is to ask the nurses caring for your baby how you can best help with your baby's care.
- Comfort baby through touch: Premature babies feel most comfortable when they are contained, with their hands brought to the center and their legs flexed. Premature babies can't always be swaddled, due to medical equipment, and their muscles are often too weak to allow them to hold a flexed position on their own. Parents can help by using steady touch (don't stroke, as it can stress preemies) to help their babies stay in a comfortable, flexed position.
- Maintain a healing environment: Preemies need quiet, calm environments so that they can grow and develop. When parents are with their baby in the NICU, they should use quiet voices and keep stimulation to a minimum. Parents can share this parenting tip with others by always using quiet voices around the baby.
- Provide breast milk: Breast milk is best for all babies, but it is especially important for preterm babies. Even if a mom didn't plan on breastfeeding, she may pump milk for her baby while he or she is in the NICU. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula and provides nutritional and developmental benefits that formula can't mimic. Even more important, breast milk has been proven to reduce the incidence of NEC, a severe illness that preemies may get.
Try kangaroo care: Recommending kangaroo care is one of my favorite NICU parenting tips. When parents have longer periods of time to spend in the NICU and their baby is stable, providing kangaroo care can help baby to maintain a healthy heart rate and breathing pattern, to sleep better and cry less, and to develop better physically and mentally. Kangaroo care involves placing the baby, wearing only a diaper, on mom's or dad's bare chest for periods of usually an hour or more. Wearing a button-down shirt and asking for a comfortable chair can help parents to enjoy this time, which helps moms and dads feel more comfortable with their baby and more confident as parents.
Callen, RNC, MSc, Jennifer, Pinelli RNC, MScN, DNS, Janet. "A Review of the Literature Examining the Benefits and Challenges, Incidence and Duration, and Barriers to Breastfeeding in Preterm Infants." Advances in Neonatal Care April 2005 5:72-88.
Davis, Ph.D., Deborah L, Tesler Stein, Psy.D. Mara. "How to Be a NICU Mom." Pregnancy.org. Accessed: November 20, 2008. http://www.pregnancy.org/question/how-be-nicu-mom Ludington-Hoe, PhD, CNM, FAAN, Susan M, Morgan, BSN, CNNP, RN, Kathy, Abouelfettoh, PhD, RN, Amel. "Supplement: A Clinical Guideline for Implementation of Kangaroo Care With Premature Infants of 30 or More Weeks' Postmenstrual Age." Advances in Neonatal Care 21 May 2008 8:S3-S23.
Madden, Susan. "Providing Comfort and Developmentally Supportive Care for Your Premature Baby" excerpt from The Preemie Parents' Companion.Children's Disabilities Information. Accessed: November 20, 2008. http://www.childrensdisabilities.info/prematurity/supportive-care.html#madden 2000.