Having a premature baby who has to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, can be scary and stressful! In the United States, 1 in 10 babies is born too early.1 Do you have a family member or friend who had a preemie? Are you looking for gifts to buy them but don’t know where to begin or what will be helpful? Well, look no further! As a NICU Nurse of two years and a two-time NICU mama, I can tell you first hand that these NICU gifts are not only helpful but so meaningful. NICU is hard, and giving a gift can help them make those hard moments a little easier!
Top 10 Preemie NICU Gifts
1. Octopus for Preemies
These little crochet octopuses are not only adorable but serve a mighty purpose for preemies in the NICU! The octopus tentacles are spirals, just like an umbilical cord. Preemies are supposed to still be in their mom’s womb for weeks or months. So having an octopus next to them comforts them by giving them something to hold onto that feels familiar. It’s also fun for parents to take monthly milestone pictures of their preemie next to the octopus so they can see the size comparison as they grow!
2. Flannel Baby Blankets
Many preemies need help regulating their temperature, so they are placed in a large “box” called an isolette. The isolette helps keep their temperature under control and helps control their environment. Inside the isolette is a little mattress pad that’s often covered with a hospital blanket. These are usually starchy and not cute! Gifting swaddle blankets are a great idea because they are often the perfect size to use as an isolette mattress sheet. They’re super soft, which is great for a premature baby’s sensitive skin. They are also perfect for wrapping the baby once they grow big enough to be swaddled. These blankets from Target fit perfectly!
Sometimes premature babies have lots of tubes and wires covering their bodies to help keep them alive and stable. Though preemies are tiny, they are mighty! They love pulling on their tubes and wires. Baby mittens are a great gift because they’ll help prevent the baby from pulling on things and are also so cute! You can find mittens for babies as small as one pound at The Preemie Store. You can also find newborn-size baby mittens at most large retail stores.
4. Preemie Hats
You can also purchase hats for preemies! Preemies love coming out of their isolettes and doing skin-to-skin with mom and dad. Premature babies can lose heat quickly, so having a hat helps prevent them from losing too much heat.
5. NICU Milestone Cards
You can find these adorable milestone cards on Etsy or Amazon! These are perfect NICU gifts for the growing preemie and fun for their parents too. They’re a great way to keep track of milestones that often only happen in the NICU, such as removing IVs.
6. Preemie Clothes
When first born, preemies cannot often wear clothes. When they hit a certain age or weight, they finally can, which is such an exciting moment! It can be discouraging for NICU parents to receive newborn sizes or above because their baby is often tiny.
7. Bonding Squares
A bonding square is a little cloth square (can be cut into any shape!) that gets placed into a baby’s isolette for a few hours. Then the parent takes it out, tucks it into their shirt against their chest for a few hours, and puts it back in with their baby. This way, both the parents and the baby have a little piece of each other! These can be homemade or bought. Etsy makes some adorable ones!
Having a baby in the NICU can be isolating. It can be hard to bond with your baby through the glass of an isolette. Books are a special gift because parents can read to their baby and bond with them. Even preemies recognize their mom and dad’s voices!
9. Dr. Brown Bottle Brushes
As a premature baby grows, they have to learn how to eat. In the NICU, Dr. Brown’s baby bottles help babies learn to eat because they make bottle nipples for premature babies. The bottles and nipples are supplied by the NICU and washed frequently, but don’t come with brushes to get them nice and clean. It’s a simple but practical gift that won’t go to waste!
10. Baby Clean-Touch Ink Pad & Canvas
Keepsakes are a special thing to create in the NICU, especially with preemies. It’s an amazing thing to get handprints and footprints of your three-pound baby and be able to compare them a year later to your growing toddler. Clean Touch Ink Pads and a blank canvas are the perfect keepsake gifts. These special ink pads make it easy, so no ink actually touches the babies, protecting our tiniest patient’s sensitive skin. You can then transfer the ink prints onto a canvas and create a lasting memory!
Being a NICU parent is no easy task. The ups and downs of the NICU are often referred to as the “NICU Rollercoaster.” Sometimes mom and dad need little gifts or pick-me-ups to keep them afloat! I surveyed 20 NICU parents and asked them, “What is one gift you would have enjoyed while your baby was in the NICU?” These are the most common answers:
NICU Gifts for Parents
- Gift cards for gas, Uber, or Grubhub.
- Personal Care basket: lotions, travel shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant.
- Adult coloring books and colored pencils.
- Phone charger and headphones.
- Extension cord.
- Boppy pillow.
- Nursing cover.
- Snack basket.
- Disposable cameras to leave for the nurses so they can take pictures when parents can’t be there.
- Support! Don’t assume that they are doing okay. Reach out!