Just the other day I was chatting with a NICU family, and they asked about where to buy an item that they were thinking about getting for their little one in anticipation of his going home soon. He had been in the NICU for over 3 months, and his parents had no friends or family who understood just what they were going through. They had nobody to just chat and talk and swap stories about the excitement of choosing bottles and swaddles and kangaroo care carriers for a NICU graduate. Until they brought it up with me! And then we had a good long, fun talk. And it got me thinking....you also deserve to have a friend share ideas about products you'll enjoy having at home.
I'd love to share my recommendations for products that will make your first few days and weeks at home smoother. It is a challenging transition for many families, with all the laundry, feeding, changing, being the 24/7 caregiver, getting less sleep..... it's great, but challenging. Anything to help smooth the waters is a good thing.
The following are my most common recommendations. I've included links to find them easily on Amazon, though truthfully you can find many of them easily elsewhere. There are lots of items here, covering a wide range of products, but of course there are millions of other great items - what would you add?
You can find them in adult and child size, so any visitor who starts to sneeze can immediately don a mask to help keep your immune-sensitive NICU baby safe.
You've got to have hand sanitizer easily available to anyone who might be touching your little one, so have several around the house. Find some that are easy to take with you in a diaper bag, too. You never know when you'll need it, but you'll need it a lot!
You will need a good thermometer, and some pediatricians like you to use a rectal thermometer, while others prefer you use a less invasive one. Check with your pediatrician (the one who will be caring for your baby after you leave the NICU) to find out what they prefer. Here are a couple great choices:
Carseat Covers and Signs
When you do venture out with your NICU graduate, you'll probably find well-intentioned friends and strangers want to say hello by touching your little one. Either offer them some hand sanitizer (see above), or use these props to help discourage unwanted touching
Pump Cleaning Supplies
If you haven't discovered these awesome pump accessories, there's no need to wait until baby is home - they're great while you're still in the NICU! But either way, if you're pumping, these save time and help keep pump clean and safe for your baby. The travel option is great for those of you pumping on the go.
You'll have a whole bunch of bottles to keep clean at home if you're not exclusively breastfeeding. Many parents love the peace of mind that a sterilizer offers, and for keeping clean bottles organized, a good drying rack is a must.
White noise machines are so very handy for helping to keep baby sleeping soundly. I usually recommend that parents bring one in prior to discharge, so they can start their baby getting used to the comforting sound, which makes transition to home smoother. These two work great for keeping babies happy.
Swaddles and Pillows
To help your baby sleep, and sleep safely, many NICUs recommend that parents use sleep sacks. And while babies are sleeping, many parents opt to help keep their baby's head from forming flat spots by using a head positioning pillow. Many sleep sacks and positioning pillows may not have adequate testing, but these two have undergone significant testing.
All new parents - whether for a NICU baby or not - love to be able to view their little one when they're separated, and the new baby monitors are pretty incredible. These two are great buys:
When you finally have baby home, with no wires and tubes (or at least very few of them), you'll probably want to spend as much time holding them as possible. Most parents opt for a baby carrier or wrap that safely keeps baby close. These are time tested, well loved options.
Here's another product that makes pumping more comfortable, and there is no reason at all to wait until your baby is home to buy one - if you are pumping regularly, you should consider investing in a good hands free bra. But once baby is home, it's even more helpful, because just as soon as you start pumping, guess who decides to wake up and cry? This way you'll be hands free to care for baby without stopping pumping.
Swings offer babies the comfort of rhythmic motion that helps them calm and sleep. The only brand I've found that I can stand behind is 4moms, who make the mamaRoo (the caddilac of swings, and it's worth every penny) and the rockaRoo (less functionality, more affordable). These will help you maintain your sanity when you need a little break from the feeding/burping/pumping/changing/bathing/rocking. Lifesavers.
Rock N Plays
Many babies sleep better, for naps or otherwise, with a little motion and a slight incline, particularly if they have any reflux. Rock N Plays offer a little bit of motion, and a little bit of incline, to help some of the fussier babies sleep like, well, like babies! Many NICU parents have had great success with them!
Finally, a couple of videos. One for the parents - the Happiest Baby video is a great way to really see how the pediatrician calms fussy babies and how he swaddles effectively. It's chock full of good tips. And finally a video to play when baby won't be satisfied with any other distractions. I don't recommend popping baby in front of the TV often, but in a pinch, the Baby Einstein videos offer calming music and simple graphics that can help.
What else to you recommend?