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In the NICU

  • In the NICU, your baby gets special medical care.
  • Get to know the NICU staff who take care of your baby.
  • Ask questions and get involved in your baby's care.
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Your family and friends

After your baby's arrival, some family members and friends will rally to support you. They will know how to tune in to your needs and provide immense comfort. You will value having these people in your life.

Unfortunately, others may be flooded with fear or feel too uncomfortable to face you. Or they may repeatedly say the wrong things. While most people mean well, not everyone will know how to support you. To guide family and friends, you can try the following:

  • Tell those close to you what you need. Assistance in grocery shopping, cleaning your home or taking care of your other children can be enormously helpful to you and easy for those who want to help.
  • People who want to be a support often don't know how unless you tell them.
  • Remember that family and friends take their cues from you. If you hide your feelings of distress, they may assume you are doing just fine, until you let them know differently.
  • Assume that insensitive remarks are not meant to hurt you. Gently let people know when a comment stings. Also, let them know how much you appreciate it when they do or say something helpful.
  • Be open and honest about your emotions and your baby's condition. Make it clear you don't expect them to fix the situation, but that you just want a sympathetic ear.
  • Don't worry about protecting others' feelings. They will work through their own feelings, just as you are trying to work through yours.
  • Consider leaving an outgoing message on your answering machine with the information you choose to share. That way you can decide with whom you'd like to talk and still supply information to others.
  • Gently, but firmly, tell those who continue to make you feel worse or make unfair demands on you that this is a difficult time right now and that you will contact them when you are feeling better.

If you are not getting enough support from those close to you, find other sources of support among extended family and friends, other NICU parents or professional counselors. Rely on people you can count on.

Additional information and support for families with babies in the NICU can be found at Share Your Story, the March of Dimes Web site for NICU families.

See also: Share your story

Last reviewed August 2014

On your baby's team

Confused about all the people caring for your baby in the NICU? Find out who's who.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to hold my baby in the NICU?

It depends on your baby's health overall. Some newborn intensive care units (NICUs) will encourage you to hold your baby from birth onward. Other NICUs will want you to wait until your baby's health is stable. Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care (holding your baby on your bare chest). Kangaroo care has benefits for both you and your baby. The skin-to-skin contact is a precious way to be close to your baby. You may be afraid you'll hurt him by holding him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he’ll enjoy feeling that closeness with you.

My baby was born full term. Why is she in the NICU?

Not all newborn intensive care unit (NICU) babies are born premature. Some babies, even those born full term, may need special care. Your baby may need to spend some time in the NICU if she had a difficult delivery, has breathing problems, has infections or has birth defects.

Most babies leave the NICU just fine. Others may need more special care once they're home.

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