So you have a friend or a loved one with a baby in the NICU? And you're wondering what you really can do to help? You've come to the right place! Read on!
The truth is - NICU moms are struggling. They have had their babies too early, or too sick, and they are very scared about having to be separated from their babies. NICU moms - like all moms - dreamed of blissful times snuggling their babies, but instead they have to ask permission to touch their own baby. They are worried every time the phone rings, in case it's the hospital calling with bad news. The experience they are going through is hard, and they will very much appreciate your care and love.
Do you know what tons of NICU moms tell me again and again? That their friends don't know WHAT to do, so they don't do anything. NICU moms often get no baby gifts because people don't know what to get, and they don't get phone calls because nobody knows what to say. OK, how much does that suck?
So, to make an awful situation worse, NICU moms feel isolated and not-understood and they would really love their friends to help them out during this heart-wrenching experience.
The first thing I recommend you do is read this article I wrote about basic Preemie Etiquette, if your friend had a preemie. If your friend has a baby in the NICU for something other than being born early, you still might want to read it just to get an understanding of some basic do's and dont's.
After you've done that, check out his huge list of great gifts you can give your friend. I've chosen some incredible gifts that money can't buy, and also tons of awesome gifts that are sure to please any NICU mom. I'll show you the best of both and you can decide.
NICU Gifts than money can't buy
1. Run Errands for her
Offer to buy the groceries. Don't ask if you can do it, just offer. Tell her to write her grocery list down and you'll deliver them to her fridge.
Or take the dry cleaning in, pick up mail, fill the car up with gas, etc.
Any errands you can do while she's at the NICU being with her baby will be ultra-appreciated.
One of the #1 pains that NICU moms have is the struggle of trying to spend time with her baby in the NICU and the rest of her family. It usually feels like there's no good answer for how to meet everyone's needs.
Tell your NICU mom that you want to babysit. Give her some clear dates and times that you're free, or ask her to write down the days and times that would really help.
3. Drive her to the hospital
Any mom who has had a c-section has to wait weeks before she can drive, so she may be desperate for a ride to visit her baby in the NICU.
If you can offer it, give her a lift to the hospital. She may invite you to join her inside, but most likely she will not for one reason or another. You'll do her a favor just by understanding either way.
4. Go for a walk
Offer to go for a walk with your friend.
Fresh air, along with someone who cares and who will listen, are incredible gifts.
You might even offer to meet her at the hospital and walk nearby, if there are places to walk and if it helps your friend not have to go too far away from her baby.
5. set up a caring bridge
This service is incredible for NICU families, as a way to keep everyone in the loop. As they explain it, a "free CaringBridge website has all the tools you need to keep your family and friends updated during a difficult time. Because we’re a nonprofit, we put your needs first.
- Share news and updates with everyone at the same time
- Communicate in a private, ad-free place
- Activate your community and coordinate help
- Receive emotional strength and support
6. Suggest NICU Support Groups
You NICU mom friend may have had no time to think about anything more than just getting through one day after another. And what she might be missing is the vast community of support that exists for NICU moms. Help her out by giving her this list of websites to check out. They have so much to offer, including peer mentoring:
Gifts to Buy
If you want to do more, or if you simply don't have time to offer, then these gifts are some really awesome ways to show you care. Keep in mind - many NICU moms say they received no gifts whatsoever after the birth of their baby, so you can do something incredible by remembering and showing you care.
If you received a gift that you loved and don't see here, add it to the comments! We all want to know!
1. Bring Art to the baby's NICU space
Of course I'm partial to the NICU products we produce here at Every Tiny Thing, so let's start with these. They are created 100% for NICU families.
Our NICU Crib Art is a most awesome way to bring a spark of joy to the otherwise dreary and depressing NICU environment. Hopeful quotes & sweet illustrations inspire - they're a unique way to decorate the NICU.
Laminated, double-sided original art can be hung on incubators, cribs, or anywhere nearby. NICU nurses & parents love 'em.
2. Help her remember the NICU staff
Secondly, our NICU Family Posters are a special and adorable way to remember all the NICU nurses, doctors, therapists, & volunteers who take care of babies during their NICU stay.
Have you ever seen a wedding "guest book" where everyone signs their name to a leaf on a tree? We took that idea and created a poster specifically for the NICU. Framable, original illustrations make a perfect and thoughtful gift.
3. The Gift of a Massage
Figure out her favorite place to go and get her a gift certificate. If she doesn't have one, find a reputable and safe massage place and get your friend a gift certificate there. She might not feel up to using it right away, but then again she might be dying to have a quiet hour when she can be pampered. Either way, you're giving her something thoughtful.
4. Gas Station Gift Card (Or any gift cards, really!)
All that driving to and from the NICU adds up. So if you're looking for a more practical gift, the type of gift that says "Hey, I get it" then stick a gas station gift card together with a thoughtful note, and know that you've done well.
Also, gift cards to local restaurants & grocery stores help out too!
5. Amazon Prime Gift Membership
Did you know you can give Amazon Prime membership as a gift? Yep, you can.
So while your NICU mom friend is up late at night pumping, worrying about her little one, if she's like most mommies she'll be online. A gift of Amazon Prime membership will open the doors to amazing fast shipping on anything she needs, and it also gives her the gift of a huge selection of streaming videos to watch any day, any time. I'm in love with Prime, and it's an incredible gift to give.
6. A tote for keeping breast milk cool
Any NICU mom who is pumping will need a way to deliver her milk to the hospital while keeping it cool. And, sure, she may have some crappy old cooler tote that will suffice, but she'd feel pampered and delighted to have a nice, clean, brand new insulated tote. There are millions of them out there - find one that's cheerful and you'll make her day!
7. A Hands free pumping bra
While we're on the subject of pumping moms in the NICU, if your friend is pumping and she doesn't already have a hands-free pumping bra, GET HER ONE NOW! I have never, ever yet met a pumping mother who didn't absolutely love it. And they always wished they had it sooner. It's impossible for any pumping mom to do anything else while she's pumping, hands stuck holding those dang bottles and flanges to her chest. Not to mention how it gives some moms carpel tunnel aches and pains. NICU moms usually have to pump every 3 hours round the clock, so that's a lot of time wasted and/or hurting. But with a hands-free bra, she can get stuff done! She'll love you for it.
NICU & Preemie Related Books
Books make wonderful gifts for NICU moms, particularly when they show that you're thinking of them and their struggle.
There are loads of books about prematurity and the NICU, and I've read many of them. The following are my top favorites - I've read them all and definitely recommend them.
1. Ready for Air
This book is awesome! Read my review of Ready for Air if you want to learn more about it. Love it, my daughter loves it, I think you & your NICU mom will love it too!
Anchored is a beautifully written, sweet & funny tale of one mother's journey with having a preemie in the NICU. And while it does touch on spiritual matters and struggling with faith, it's a great read for anyone of any faith. It's a great comfort for a mother who feels all alone in the NICU.
3. Half Baked
Half-baked is a funny mom's story of struggles with infertility and and the NICU. The author's wit that will keep you giggling, yet on the edge of your seat wondering how everything's all going to go. Great for a friend with a good sense of humor!
Preemie by Kasey Mathews is another fantastic story of prematurity, an intense journey through the NICU, all told in such a beautiful way. A great read for any preemie moms!
Here's my review of Preemie, in case you'd like to learn more.
5. Go Preemies
Go Preemies is awesome for parents and kids alike. It reminds parents that amazing individuals have survived prematurity to go on and lead incredible lives - it offers hope.
It's also great for siblings of preemies to read, and parents love to read this book to their preemies once they're home and grown, to remind them just how awesome preemies are!
I'll keep adding to this list as I remember more and more ways to show NICU moms the love they deserve. Please share your thoughts - what makes a perfect gift? What did someone do for you, or give you, that helped? Is there anything you want NICU friends to know so they can be better helpers?