Coping Tips for Neonatal ICU Parents

A healthy parent is better for baby.  Take care of yourself. 

Some babies are in the NICU for a while, others for a short time. No matter how long you are here, think of your stay as a marathon, not a sprint. You need to pace yourself. We suggest you review the following tips:

  • Take care of yourself first with sleep, showers, meals and medications.
  • Involve yourself in your baby’s care as much as possible.
  • Read your baby or babies’ chart(s). The staff can help you with viewing the electronic chart. Even if you don’t understand everything in it, the chart can teach you a lot.
  • When you can’t hold the baby or even touch the baby much, bring something calming with you to do: crocheting, scrapbooking, note-writing, reading, even reading to baby.
  • Realize that you are the voice for your child, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • Don’t feel guilty for being with your baby. You’re doing the best you can in an impossible situation.
  • Try to get rest at night so you have energy for the emotional roller coaster during the day.
  • Cry if you need to. Don’t hold it in. It’s normal.
  • Talk with other NICU parents. Sharing your experience with those who are in the same situation can be very helpful.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Go out for dinner (outside of the hospital).
  • Go for a walk.
  • Ask for help from family and friends. Don’t turn down help. Even a small thing is something you don’t need to do.
  • Ask questions. There are no dumb questions.

Excerpted from "NICU Field Guide: A Parent's Guidebook for Finding Your Way Through the NICU Jungle." Material in this field guide was developed by the Neonatal Family Advisory Council at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is used with their permission.