I was 35 weeks pregnant the day our twins were born, with an almost 3-year-old son at home. My husband was unemployed at the time, which was scary, but the fact that he was readily available at all times was invaluable to us over the next few weeks. We knew there was a chance that our twins would probably be in the NICU, but we really had no idea what a NICU stay would mean for our family.
Our friends surrounded us and supported us in ways we never would have thought to ask for. If you’ve got a friend with a NICU baby, here are some great ways to help.
1. PREEMIE CLOTHES
While not totally necessary, getting the babies dressed (especially our daughter, because, let’s be honest, bows are cute) was a highlight for me each day. We had one preemie sleeper for each twin just in case they were born early, and that was nowhere near enough! The twins were conveniently born the same week that Babies R Us filed for bankruptcy, so a couple of my friends hit up the sales. Another friend used 2-day Amazon shipping, and some family members went to Once Upon A child. All great options! If you find yourself shopping for a NICU baby, wash all clothes in baby safe detergent before bringing them up to the hospital!
2. GAS AND FOOD GIFT CARDS
Chances are that mom will be released from the hospital before a NICU baby. This was the case for us, and we found ourselves going back and forth to the hospital several times a day. We live in Edmond and our twins were in OKC, so we had the potential to spend a lot of money on gas and eating out.
3. THE GIFT OF YOUR TIME
The NICU is incredibly boring, and often sad. There were many times we couldn’t even hold our twins because they were under billi lights. We weren’t allowed to bring in movies, or anything else that would be loud. It’s dark, but you aren’t allowed to sleep in the NICU rooms. Having a rotation of friends coming to keep me company was extremely helpful. It also allowed my husband to go home and interview for jobs without leaving me alone at the hospital.
It was nice to have friends at the hospital with me, but also friends who took me out to lunch or coffee for a break from being in the NICU. We had the advantage of having two available parents to switch off being at home or at the hospital, but there are plenty of people who might have to return to work before their child’s NICU stay is over. It would depend on the hospital rules, but if mom and dad are allowed to designate people to come to visit baby when they aren’t there, offering that service would be nice as well. We had a couple friends able to visit when we weren’t there, and it was so meaningful to get updates and pictures of our babies.
4. CHILD CARE AND PET CARE
Our older son wasn’t allowed in the NICU at all. The ten days his baby sister was in the hospital were probably the most fun ten days of his life! Our friends and family took him everywhere. We took our daughter home before our son, and once released, she was not allowed in the NICU either. There are not many people I would ask to watch a 10-day old preemie who barely knows how to eat. Having someone offer was invaluable to me! We also had friends offer to stop by and occasionally let our dog out or take her to the dog park. This is something I never would have thought to ask for, but something that was so appreciated when someone offered.
5. LAWN CARE
Depending on the season, lawn care is something that we were offered that ended up being extremely helpful. Our twins were born in late March, with lawn mowing season right around the corner. Keeping our lawn looking nice was the last thing on our minds when we were both awake, feeding babies around the clock.
Were you, or are you, a NICU family? What would you add to this list?