Tips for Surviving a Stay in the NICU

Baby on couch next to picture of when he was in the NICU.

Tips for Surviving a Stay in the NICU

No one gets pregnant and imagines they will start their child’s life out in the NICU, but it happens to even the best of people. And whether the stay is due to a known condition or due to something that surprises the doctors at birth, it’s never easy on parents. It’s a rollercoaster full of emotion and stress until their child gets to go home.

So today, I wanted to let a few parents who have made it to the other side—Jason, Ryane, Julie, Megan and Hannah—give future or current parents who are in the NICU their best insight and advice for dealing with a stay successfully. They all have happy and healthy children. So before anything else, be encouraged!

How would you describe your experience in the NICU?

“Fear is your ever-present friend when your child is in the NICU. Every time you walk through the doors you are scared that something will have gone wrong in the brief time you have left your child. You have to give yourself over to the experience. The dye has been cast . . . you have to give your life and the life of your child over to God. Whomever you view as the higher power is ultimately the one in control.” –Jason

“I felt panic. Each day could take us a couple of steps forward or many, many steps backwards. It was a game of not knowing what the next second ahead of us looked like. I felt frustration. Though the world of medicine has made incredible advancements in realm of coronary heart diseases in the last 30 years, there is still so much unknown. I felt sadness. Being thrown into the world of sick kids was like nothing I have ever experienced. I felt hope. Or rather, I learned hope. Real hope. I learned that even if the very very worst happened, I was not alone, Christ was carrying me every single step of the way. That’s not said in a cliche Christian way. It was undoubtedly my reality for so many months and continues to carry me on days when those fears of Judson’s future creep back in.” –Hannah

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What is one thing you didn’t expect?

“One of the hardest things about having a baby in the NICU is leaving; the day that I had to get into a car and be driven away from my tiny baby, that was fighting for her life, absolutely tore me apart. The only thing that comforted me was knowing how amazing the staff was at Women’s Hospital. The nurses truly love those babies.” —Julie

What is your best advice for parents in the NICU?

“My best advice would be to take care of yourself. Take the time to shower, to eat and, most importantly to sleep. Your child is in the NICU. Your child is in the best, most capable hands the medical profession has. It takes a tremendous heart to work in the NICU and every staff member is there because they want your child to thrive . . . [And] throw away your phone. You are not Dr. Google. Trust the neonatologist, they do this everyday. An hour long Google search is no match for medical school and years of experience”. –Jason

“Learn what all the wires, tubes, and alarms mean. It all looks SO scary. But if you know what everything does and what each alarm means it makes it much less scary.” –Julie

“Be your child’s advocate. There are God-given mom-intuitions that sometimes trump that of the doctors.  You know that baby even though you feel like you barely do. He or she is from your womb. Trust your gut.” –Hannah

What is one thing you did to make yourself feel better?

“I read my daughter The Hobbit cover to cover. As I read I did the voice of each character the best I could. A beautiful moment happened between us when Smaug the dragon appeared. She covered her ears almost as if she could feel the menace in his voice, in my voice. I read several other books over the months my daughter was in the NICU, but that moment stands out in my heart.” –Jason

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baby chick, NICU

Pump! Pumping milk for Emily was one thing I could control. One thing I could do for her to help her get stronger. I drove an hour each way, twice a day, for 80 days to visit her. I used that time to cry, pray, and pump! I bought a hands-free pumping bra and an adapter for the car so I could plug in my pump.” —Julie

“[Do] kangaroo care! As soon as you are allowed to hold that baby, get your shirt off (and your bra!) and put that baby skin-to-skin. Button down shirts are helpful for this. Also, it’s nice to have a Boppy pillow so your arms don’t get tired (I kept one by her bed). Emily’s heart rate and respiratory rate were always best while she was skin-to-skin. Em had high blood pressure for a couple of days (I was sick and couldn’t visit for 3 days). When I got to her, I held her skin-to-skin for 4 hours straight and her blood pressure stabilized!” –Julie

Were you always strong?

“I very often did not stay in one piece. It was a world I so badly wanted to pretend I didn’t know about, devastating on every level. My heart ached like I had never experienced when we faced many, many set backs in his hospital stays. It often felt like I would crumble under the weight of it all. I literally just went moment by moment and didn’t look much further than that. We are Christ followers and relied very heavily on our faith. But even then, we had to choose so often to believe all we knew about God, that he is faithful and would see us through no matter the outcome. And He did! Let yourself grieve for what you thought life would look like for you and your child. It’s ok and understandable to do that.” –Hannah

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Is there any good that came from your experience?

“I always feel very hesitant to say this because it feels almost mean, but the lessons we have learned by just experiencing this kind of level of heartbreak and world-falling-apart have opened our eyes to so many new things. We love deeper, empathize more deeply, have a new and stronger desire to help others in their crisis, and so on. If you had asked me any of that on the midst of the trial, there’s no way I felt that. But on this side of it, those are our feelings.” –Hannah

Any final thoughts?

“Prepare for the long road. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”Megan

“All you can do is be there for your child. All you can do is love them and endure. And you will do it because they are yours. Endure, there are happy endings.” –Jason

Lastly, if you are reading this and know someone in the NICU, here are a few things these parents said were wonderful to receive: 1) calls and texts to check in, 2) gift cards for gas money or food, 3) offers to help give rides to other children, and 4) meals!

baby chick, quin, surviving the NICU, NICU, neonatal intensive care unit

About the Author /

Quinn is a wife, boy mom (x’s 4), blogger at Sanctification and Spitup, host of the Renew You Podcast and licensed marriage and family therapist. She loves to encourage others in relationships through her speaking, writing or podcast episodes.

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Instagram post 18074272528164523 @debiandbebi wrote these words when she was a new mom and struggled with #postpartumdepression. She hopes to remind everyone that it is okay to struggle with being a new mom and that does not mean you don't love your baby. ❤️⁠
(quote by @debiandbebi)⁠
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#postpartum #mentalhealth #ppd #motherhood #selfcare #kindnessmatters #postpartumprogress #postpartumlife #newmom #newmotherhood #mommychick #babychick #depression #mentalhealthmatters
Instagram post 17863413055589017 When they wake up in the morning and give you that big grin . . . 😍 There is nothing sweeter.⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #goodmorning #happybaby #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #mommychick #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
Instagram post 17848203934772065 Her comes Amazon, here comes Amazon, right down my driveway! 🎶📦🤣⁠
📷: @cmon.mama⁠
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#christmas #christmasshopping #amazonmom #motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick
Instagram post 17862171103601373 All of these things make me happy. What would you add to your self care toolbox?⁠
I'm seriously needing some of these things tonight to start a new week. Hoping you mamas get some self care time too! 💕⁠
📷: @hallmark⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #selfcare #selfcaretoolbox #mumlife #mommylife #metime #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
Instagram post 17974795027288980 Was he dreaming he was riding a bike last night escaping from wild animals?! OUCH! 🤕🚲⁠
📷: @themommyconfessions⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
Instagram post 18081610903134401 Praying that your toddler let's you get to sleep this weekend. 🙏💤⁠
📷: unknown⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick
Instagram post 17866776847554303 Above all else, let us teach them to be kind. 💗⁠
(quote: @mommywinetime)⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #mommychick #carpool #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
Instagram post 17853200368708392 SURPRISE! A little shocked, a little tired, and a LOT BLESSED. Congrats, @sarah_lit! ❤️⁠
📷: @sarah_lit⁠
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#babyannouncement #pregnancyannouncement #pregnancy #pregnant #momtobe #pregnancylife #mamatobe #babybump #pregnancyjourney #bumpie #preggo #maternity #motherhood #momlife #expecting #mumlife #mommytobe #pregnantlife #babyontheway #inspirepregnancy #mommychick #babychick #babyonboard #mumtobe
Instagram post 17864808397574241 Pregnant and hungry all the time? Here are some great ideas to keep in the fridge when the hunger pains kick in! 🤰👍⁠
📷: @juna.moms⁠
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Instagram post 18073051357163780 When it comes to clamping the cord, our mottos is "what's the rush?" The blood volume in the placenta and cord at the time of birth is BABY'S blood. It's simply mid-circulation in the placenta at the time of birth. It just makes sense to leave it be and let it finish its job.⁠
No, the blood won't drain out of baby and go backwards into the placenta.⁠
No, your baby is not more likely to get sick from jaundice.⁠
Yes, your baby will still be getting oxygen while they figure out breathing, especially important if they need resuscitation.⁠
Yes, your baby will have better iron levels for the first year of their life.⁠
Look at how thick and engorged this cord still is at 4 and 18 minutes after baby was born. Just imagine how much blood baby would have lost if the cord had been clamped immediately, or at 60 seconds, 90 seconds, or 3 minutes! The placenta was expelled immediately before the 18 minute photo was taken. The pulse in the cord could still be felt even AFTER THE PLACENTA HAD BEEN DELIVERED! The cord was finally clamped and cut more than an hour after birth at 73 minutes. ❤️⁠
📷: @lawrenrosephotography⁠
Informative post and words by @bundleborn⁠
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#placenta #lotusbirth #homebirth #midwife #midwifery #phsiologicThirdStage #delayedcordclamping #optimalcordclamping #waitforwhite #whatstherush #postpartum #birth #laboranddelivery #babychick #mommychick
Instagram post 17866964371538725 Stacks on stacks . . . of diapers. 😂 Can you relate?⁠
📷: @krayons.n.tequila⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
Instagram post 17852665306696124 With the holiday season upon us and moms trying to make everything magical for their families, remember to stop and take a moment to take care of you. ❤️ Have a hot cup of coffee, a long warm shower and some alone time. Communicate this with your partner not as a wish but as a necessity. We must take the time to take care of ourselves to better take care of them. 💕⁠
📷: @hallmark⁠
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Instagram post 18095239591099259 After holiday feasting . . . this baby gets me.⁠ 🤣
📷: unknown (DM for credit)
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Instagram post 17844162355818683 I think I had a little too much turkey . . . and pie. 😬🍗🥧 #leggingsforlife⁠
📷: @hallmarkbaby⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick
Instagram post 17990835490280335 I totally felt this way when I was pregnant. And kinda feel this way after all that turkey. 🤣🦃 Happy turkey day to all you expecting mamas!!⁠
📷: @madiford2 via Twitter⁠
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#pregnancy #pregnant #funnypregnancy #momtobe #pregnancylife #thanksgiving #mamatobe #turkeymama #babybump #pregnancyjourney #bumpie #thirdtrimester #preggo #pregnancyhelp #maternity #motherhood #momlife #expecting #mumlife #mommytobe #pregnantlife #babyontheway #inspirepregnancy #mommychick #babychick
Instagram post 18094211479105476 I spy with my little eye the cutest turkey ever. 😍 Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Hope it's filled with love, laughter, and cuteness like this. ❤️⁠
📷: @emilyshapaka⁠
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#thanksgiving #happythanksgiving #family #grateful #thankful #babychick⁣ #mommychick #blessed #gratitude #happy #thankyou #happiness #givethanks #turkey #holiday #love #turkeyday #holidays #baby #babyturkey
Instagram post 17852562805720320 Loneliness is a real thing in new motherhood and I want to be sure we talk about this. It's okay to say, "I feel lonely." We normalize one another's experiences when we share the reality of our journey. It can be so isolating when we bring our small human home and our lives revolve around his/her care. We feel detached from the outside world. The monotony of new motherhood can be heavy.⁠
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Here are some tips to combat isolation:⁠
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1️⃣ Get outside when possible.⁠
2️⃣ Video chat with friends/family.⁠
3️⃣ Join a virtual group.⁠
4️⃣ Invite someone to come over.⁠
5️⃣ Find a local mom's group.⁠
6️⃣ Listen to the radio or a podcast (it's interesting how this can make us feel connected with others)⁠
7️⃣ Run an errand--even grabbing a coffee via drive-thru can feel good.⁠
8️⃣ Get to know your neighbors.⁠
What would you add to the list?⁠
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Repost: words and 📷 by @psychedmommy⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #momstruggles #momprobs #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #newmom #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommychick
Instagram post 17862516742586656 Pass the rolls. Baby rolls, bread rolls, all the rolls.⁠ 😍🍞👶 #thanksgivingjokes 😜⁠
📷: @divasunrisekiss⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #thanksgiving #toddler #mumlife #mommylife #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #toddlerlife #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣ #mommchick #rolls #babiesofig
Instagram post 17867282176536875 ⁠For the week of Thanksgiving (and longer if you can!) let's focus on what we DO have instead of what we lack. The more we express gratitude and appreciate our blessings the more we recognize all of our blessings and everything we should be thankful for. 💕⁠
📷: @hallmark⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #gratitude #thankful #mumlife #mommylife #mommychick #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #thanksgiving #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
Instagram post 17855722339639264 ✈️ Tips to Survive a Plane Ride with Kids ✈️⁠
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Flying on a plane with your little one for the first time can be terrifying. Are they going to cry the whole time? How will they handle the airport, the turbulence and the landing? Well we have some tips that will help prepare you for your flight with your kids. Here's what to do to have a more enjoyable experience 😊 {Link in bio!}⁠
📷: unknown⁠
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#flyingwithkids #travelwithkids #familytravel #travelingwithkids #kidsonplanes #travelpic #airplane #familyholiday #parenting #parenthood #firstflight #babytravels #motherhood #momlife #mumlife #mommychick #babychick #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣
Instagram post 17895768721417819 Who you gonna call?⁠ 🤣🤣🤣
📷: Martiza Elizabeth on FB
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