Every mother looks forward to the moment after the grueling hours of labor and delivery when she can pack everything up and take her newborn home from the hospital. But not every baby gets to go home right away.
Though it’s hard to imagine for yourself and your newborn, around 10 to 15 percent of babies born in the United States end up needing care from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Some NICU stays are expected before your baby is born. The doctor may notice some condition and be able to warn you ahead of time that your newborn may have to spend some time in the NICU. If this is the case, make sure to ask questions about what a stay in the NICU will entail. This gives you time to get familiar with the hospital’s NICU policy and talk to other parents who have had similar situations and can support and guide you.
Your new baby may have to spend time in the NICU because of a medical condition that you have, because of a medical condition that she has, or because of situations that can arise during labor and delivery.
Certain conditions in a new mother can result in a NICU stay, including
There are situations that can arise during the birth process than can also require your baby to spend some time in the NICU. These include
Your baby may be born with a condition that requires a little more time in the hospital. These can include
Even babies who are born without any complications may end up back in the NICU. This can happen because of things like infections, poor weight gain, or jaundice.
The old saying goes “Expect the best, prepare for the worst.” No one wants to go home without their newborn, but there are ways to make the stay in NICU a little less stressful for you and your partner.
When your new baby is in the NICU, she’s got lots of people taking care of her. It’s important that parents are involved too. But it’s also important that you take care of yourself as well. After all, you just had a baby!
Sticking to a regular schedule can help ease the difficulty of having a baby in the NICU.
It’s also important that you take care of your body physically. That means eating healthy foods, staying well-hydrated, and getting a good night’s sleep. Your new baby needs you to be healthy!
Get counseling if you need it so you stay mentally healthy too. Most NICUs have a counselor, clergy, or staff available to offer support and mental health help while your newborn baby is in the NICU. Take advantage of these services.
Connect with other parents who have babies in the NICU. It’s nice to have someone who can relate to what you’re going through.
Let friends and family support you while your baby is in the NICU. They can help with baby’s older siblings, prepare meals, run errands, keep your house clean, and simply offer a shoulder to cry on.
Make sure you’re bonding with your new baby, even if you can’t hold her. You can change her diaper, give her a bath, read and talk to her, even if you’re not able to hold her just yet.
Help older siblings understand the situation. Keep them in the loop! Your other children may not understand why their new baby brother or sister can’t come home yet. And they might be confused and sad because mom and dad are gone so often. Check in with baby’s siblings and let them ask questions and tell you how they feel. Often, NICU nurses will give tours to baby’s siblings and show them how they are caring for their brother or sister in the NICU.
“My daughter was born premature with down syndrome and a few other health issues. She had a two-month stay in the NICU. It was almost like a job. My husband and I would get up early and go visit her. We would be there from 8 a.m. and leave around 8 p.m. after talking to the night nurses about her care. We would get home, take care of the pets, shower, and go to bed and do it all over again in the morning. While at the hospital we would play board and card games while she was sleeping. The hospital also had events for the parents to get to know each other there. Her first Thanksgiving was there and was the hardest day for us. She’s now three and doing great.” –Kat Williams
“I’ve had three NICU babies due to isoimmunization. My last two spent a month each. It’s hard but having a supportive partner definitely helps.” -McKayla Allen
“My first baby was a 13 week NICU stay. It was hard, especially because it was 2 hours from my home. My second baby was five days and the third was ten days. It’s never easy; we just do our best.” –Meg Schmitter
“My daughter was born six weeks premature and had to stay for about two weeks. I stayed with her the whole time except to go home and take a shower. Having support is always great! Take it one day at a time. My little one just turned one.” –Simone Gwen
“It was depressing. I spent every moment I could at the hospital. The NICU becomes like a surrogate family. It was rough on their dad. He had to return to work.” –Christi Marie Lines
“I stayed two weeks with her in the NICU. I left once to get clothes. Dad stayed with her while I went home. It was a horrible experience, but we bonded while visitors were limited.” –Stephanie Myers
Even though your baby’s time in the NICU can be sad and emotionally draining for everyone, it’s important that you take lots of pictures during this time. If you can afford to do it and the NICU staff allows it, hire a professional photographer who specializes in birth and newborn baby photography. These photographers are specially trained to work around the staff and the equipment to get pictures of baby’s early days.
If your situation does not allow you to hire a newborn photographer, here are some tips for photographing your own baby while she’s in the NICU.
Forget the flash! Many hospitals won’t allow you to take flash photos of your newborn in the NICU. Also, the flash can be hard on baby’s sensitive eyes.
Don’t worry about fancy equipment. If a mobile phone or digital camera is all you have, then definitely use what’ve you got to get baby’s first photographs.
If your baby is a preemie, memorialize her size by putting items in with her that show perspective. Slide dad’s wedding ring around her wrist, or simply lay your hand on her head to show the relationship in size.
Photograph all the sweet details of your newborn baby, from her tiny hands and feet to the tip of her swirly-haired head.
Photograph the doctors and nurses who are taking care of your newborn during baby’s first days and weeks. They’re a part of her story too.
And of course, take lots of pictures of that magical moment when you get to take baby home from the hospital. After all, it’s a celebration, no matter how long it took to get there!
One of the most exciting pregnancy milestones is finding out whether you’re having a baby girl or boy. A very popular trend for expecting parents is the gender reveal party. Inviting your friends and family to get together and cutting into a cake or releasing some balloons can be a fun way to find out and announce the sex of your baby.
Some people can’t wait to learn the gender of their baby, while others choose to stay in the dark completely until their newborn comes into the world. Your ultrasound technician should be able to determine the sex of your baby around week 20 of your pregnancy.
If you’re trying to keep baby’s a gender secret, even to yourself, request that your ultrasound technician write down the gender of your baby rather than tell you. Then, make sure that information gets passed on to a trusted friend or family member who can keep a secret and help with arranging the surprise. Then you’re ready to plan your gender reveal party!
Having a party theme will make decorating easier. Use the elements of your theme in the foods and desserts you serve, games for your guests to play, and in the reveal itself! Here are a few fun gender reveal party theme ideas:
Of course, there’s always the classic “pink or blue” theme as well, which is cute and simple!
You can find a wide variety of gender reveal ideas online as many parents post photos from their reveal moments on social media. Here are a few favorites:
If you don’t want to plan a party but still want to arrange a cute gender announcement to post on social media, hire a photographer to take photos of you and your partner doing your baby’s reveal at home.
Make your party even more exciting by adding some game elements for your guests.
“We did one for a couple reasons. We love hosting people and we’ve been redoing a house so it was a way for the people in our family to see our new house. We didn’t do anything elaborate or expensive, just had food and shot some tannerite to blow up. It’s completely up to you and how you want to tell everyone!” –Jennifer Hinsley
“I think an intimate celebration with close friends and family is fun. I don’t see the need to have something elaborate since most families already throw a baby shower. I feel like combining the two would be cute. Like ask for gender-neutral gifts but then have a cake or pop a balloon. We never had the money to do more than just have people over and a surprise cake.” –Rachel Peters
“We loved doing our gender reveal party. It was an opportunity to bring our family and friends together and to celebrate the halfway point of each pregnancy. After having a miscarriage first I was happy for these celebrations. We also had our babies 16 months apart and had a baby shower for each of them. We hosted all four gatherings ourselves, three of which were in our own home. We pay and provide the snacks and food ourselves so if people want to come great if not oh well. It’s just another party for fun with a reason to celebrate.” –Germana Hale
“Each time we knew the sex of our babies and did the reveal for our family and friends and followed it up with a baby name reveal as well. Our first was a Gryffindor baby reveal and second was a baby pumpkin reveal.” –Lindsay Harrison
“I think they’re fun. I didn’t have one for my second because we decided to wait till he was born to find out, but with my first baby we did a reveal with family when we got together to celebrate my birthday because I found out the week before. I got a bunch of pink and blue balloons, poked the pink ones with a pin, so people picked what they thought it would be, but only the blue ones inflated — it’s a boy!” –Courtney Stephens
A gender reveal party is another fun way to celebrate your little one before he or she even comes into the world. Take plenty of photos during your special day and enjoy it!
To view more of my photography please visit my Littleton, Colorado Maternity and Newborn Photographer website