The NICU - ugh! Seriously, could it be any more sterile, medical, institutional, and scary? Could it possibly be less homey, comforting, welcoming and familiar?
In my quest to make the NICU a bit more bearable for parents, I need to share with you a key ingredient to NICU happiness - personalize the space. Make it beautiful. Make it yours.
Don't just take it from me - listen to what the experts - NICU parents - are saying:
"I think personalization of the baby’s isolate should happen ASAP. Allowing parents to bring in blankets in the beginning, clothes as things progress, makes such a difference in fostering bonding. Also allowing decorations of the isolette as holidays come and go is fun."
"Making my son's little corner of the NICU feel like home made an enormous difference to me. I felt like it was one way to belong, one way to own the experience. And it sure looked a whole lot cuter!"
"I decorated my sons isolette with window clings, and I put pics of mommy and daddy inside. I know he couldn't see them but in my heart, I knew he "felt" them."
"Before I brought in cute things from home, my baby's area looked scary and medical. Even though the same equipment stayed, once I brought in pictures and blankets and decorations, I felt a little more "at home" when I was visiting. It became my unique area, and I loved it."
We've got to get the NICU to feel a little more like that nursery you dreamed of when you found out you were pregnant. The sweet artwork, adorable stuffed animals, cozy blankets, comforting accessories you would have at home... something that feels good to you. It will help your stress level, it will give you a sense of control and of belonging, which in the end helps everyone, especially your baby.
Seem impossible? I think not. And I think it's worth it. Anything you can to do make the environment more pleasant will help you through this incredibly tough time.
Most NICU's will support you, either a little or a lot, in your efforts to personalize your baby's space. I am going to suggest that you take it upon yourself to make the effort.
What can you do?
Bring in family photos, bring in notes from siblings. Bring in inspiring NICU crib cards to decorate the isolette or crib. Ask if you can bring in blankets from home, clothing from home, maybe even artwork from home to tuck somewhere near baby's bed? Maybe that cute basket you wanted to use for storing diapers could go under the crib? Make a beautiful name card if your NICU doesn't provide one.
Be diplomatic. Ask what will work and what won't, but be firm and clear - you want to make the space happier, friendlier, and more like home. Certain items won't work well at some stages (bright prints for preemies will be overstimulating, clothes are not possible for some preemies, surgical patients, etc), so just ask. If one thing won't work, try another. Try to make the space yours. Some nurses may resist change, but this is your experience and you have a right to try to make it better.
Now, here's the fun part.... [**Contest has Ended**]
I wanted to really create some excitement about this whole idea, so I put the word out to dozens of Etsy shops - you know, those artsy shops filled with dreamy, adorable items - and I asked them for their help. I reached out and asked folks to donate an item or two for a NICU family. These were total strangers to me, but I gave it a shot.
I was blown away - what a heart warming response! So many artists and businesses have donated items, all in order to make one NICU family's experience brighter! Through their generosity, I've been able to put together an amazing gift basket of nursery decor that will make any NICU space more welcoming, more personal, more comforting.
It is over $350 worth of goodness!And one lucky winner will take it all home!
I'm no professional photographer, so every attempt to get a good shot with everything in it looked, well... it doesn't do it justice. One by one, here is what's included:
1. Two prints from Trafalgar Square: (Value $30)
I absolutely adore these sweet prints! High quality, crisp images, and they just make you feel happy seeing them. The elephant with the balloon is 5x7, and "Reach for the Stars" is 8x10.
These 5 x 7 and 8x10 prints are made using Claria inks and a wonderful Premium Epson matte paper (both of which are tested and guaranteed smudge, scratch, water, and fade resistant for up to 90+ years).
2. Tummy Time blanket from Baby J: (Value $42)
This is a high quality, generously sized blanket/mat that will make tummy time in the NICU (and after) something to look forward to. Your baby may be too little for tummy time now, but soon enough it will be an important activity, particularly for preemies! And I love what the creator has to say about it (it's like it was made for a NICU mom!):
This perfect play mat was designed for the germ-a-phobe mom who always wants a clean area for their little one. The play mat is crafted with vibrant and colorful, 100% cotton, designer fabric and super plush minky. It’s comfy and cozy for any new baby, and great for tummy time. It measures 29”x35” and features a Velcro closure that ensures one side stays clean and sanitary
3. Handmade blankets, eye masks, bibs & burp cloths from Lohas Design House: (Value $116)
These are all SO soft, and lovingly sewn by hand. She generously donated two soft, colorful blankets, two fun bibs with matching burp cloths, and two eye masks for sleep-deprived parents! All are backed with lovely soft minky. Did you know bibs can be great even in the NICU, for when they're learning to feed? It's true!
4. Burp Cloths from The Posh Pea Boutique: (Value $17)
These have a bold print which your older baby will enjoy, and they're generously sized to catch all that spit-up and drool as baby is learning to eat. You'll look oh so fashionable as you burp your little one!
Made with high quality, 100% cotton designer fabric, backed in super soft, absorbent, white chenille, has a black ribbon loop - babies love ribbon tags and it is perfect for attaching pacifier or to diaper bag! Measures approximately 17 x 9 inches (at the widest part).
5. Two sets of 5x7 Prints from Zeppi Prints: (Value ~$50)
These 6 prints would be perfect for decorating a crib or isolette - turn them out to face you if your little one is still sensitive and the stimulation is too much, but then when baby is older, turn them so she can enjoy the fun designs. Included is one set of 4 grey animals on a bold yellow chevron pattern, and one set of 2 happy joyful birds (all 5x7), sure to brighten any NICU space!
6. Cotton hat and blanket from Lil Hip Squeak: (Value ~$50)
How fun are these? I love them.
Little Hip Squeaks is an ultra-modern brand for ultra-modern babies, tots and kiddos. Everything from our fabric sourcing to our packaging happens in the USA, and we are proud to be a socially responsible brand.
7. Milk It Kit and Onesie from Milk It: (Value $20)
I've reviewed these awesome products before here, and I'm thrilled to have another Milk It Kit to give away as part of this bundle. This kit includes:2-sided Door Hanger, 2 Folded Desk Signs, 1 Pump Bag Tag, 32 Milk Labels, & 3 Milk It Stickers. Also the owner was kind enough to include a onesie (newborn size) with the ever-popular "Will Cry Over Spilled Milk" and the Milk-It logo on the back. Adorable.
8. One 13 x 9 Personalized Poster from T&J Love Prints: (Value $36)
I'm super excited about this one, because I'm not sure it's been done before in the NICU. It's an inspired idea for unique and meaningful art. Originally intended for a wedding keepsake or a baby shower memento, here's what the shop owner says about the poster:
This fingerprint tree poster makes the perfect keepsake or gift. It is a fun and alternative way for your guests to leave their mark on your big day. Fingerprints from your family and friends make up the leaves of your wedding tree. Signing on this poster is also greatly encouraged. The finished poster completes into a beautiful piece of art that is both personal and unique to just you. Hang it up on your wall and cherish the memories of your event for years to come!
I think it would be an amazing keepsake from the NICU if you ask every nurse, doctor, therapist & volunteer who cares for your baby to leave their print (or use a stamp if you think the staff would rather do that) and sign their name. It will make a beautiful heirloom. (Because this is a custom order, this item will be printed after the winner contacts T&J Love Prints directly.)
All of these gifts will go to one lucky winner. Can you imagine your baby's NICU space brightened by all this loveliness? I know it won't take away the reality and the heaviness of the NICU, the worry and the stress. I know that. But hopefully it will bring some joy, some brightness and some comfort.
UPDATE: The contest has ended.
Congratulations to Carrie, who took home the prize!
[photo credit: Jim BL]