Having a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be stressful and overwhelming. Here are eight tips on how to communicate with your NICU team so you can make the best decisions for your baby while maintaining peace of mind.
- Create a routine
- Ask the NICU team how you can help
- Participate in daily rounds
- Plan a time to chat with the team
- Come prepared with questions
- Stay informed on baby's progress
- Surround yourself with support
- Take time for yourself
Who’s on the NICU team?
The NICU team is made up of advanced providers, pharmacists, dietitians and respiratory therapists. There is also a multidisciplinary team that includes NICU therapists (speech, occupation and physical) as well as lactation consultations, social workers and specialty surgeons.
However, one of the most important components of any NICU team is the family members of the tiny patients. The love and support that only the family can provide is important for the baby as he or she develops and heals.
In fact, creating a balanced routine to be with your baby can help ease your anxiety and soothe your newborn. Ask your care team how you can be there for your child, whether it’s changing a diaper, breastfeeding or just comforting them. Even reading books or singing aloud can be helpful to both you and your baby.
Stay up to date on your baby’s progress
Dawna Boudreaux is a NICU patient care coordinator at University Health. Boudreaux said it’s very important to be involved in all aspects of the baby’s care every day to make sure you’re getting the information you need.
Boudreaux also emphasizes how important it is for family members to be with the baby during the care team’s morning rounds. At the start of the day, the team will cover daily updates and baby's care plan. “We encourage parents to participate in daily rounds so that information can be clearly communicated about the baby’s progress and the family can ask questions about the care,” Boudreaux said.
She also suggested letting the team know when you’re available to talk. “After being admitted to the NICU, it’s a good idea to share the best ways and times you can chat with the team,” Boudreaux said. “It’s better to plan ahead when the team can communicate with you instead of just trying to talk or plan a time to chat at the bedside.”
In addition to planning when you chat with your care team, make sure to come prepared and ask questions when you don’t understand something or are uncertain about an aspect of your baby’s care. Questions like “What are his/her biggest current issues?” or “What are the short-term goals for the next stage of care?” can give the family needed clarity.
If you’re looking for more education, there are resources available for family members. “There are also several opportunities for education and preparation beyond the NICU stay, which can help parents make a safe transition from the NICU to home,” Boudreaux said.
One of these valuable resources is Gosling’s Early Language and Literacy Program at University Health. This innovative, research-based program is an early literacy initiative for parents of newborns in the NICU and is designed to help guide you through your baby’s development so you can know how to best care for them.
Stress less while your baby is in the NICU
When your baby is in the NICU, it can be very stressful and overwhelming for the family, but there are ways you can reduce your anxiety. “Having consistent, clear communication can reduce the stress associated with a NICU stay,” Boudreaux said. “Staying informed of the baby’s progress encourages the family to be active decision-makers about the care provided.”
Additionally, make sure to surround yourself with support and care from friends and family members. Having meals prepared or errands run for you while your baby is in the NICU can be helpful. And of course, always take time for yourself. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, grab a nap, chat with a friend or take a walk. Self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby.
NICU at University Health
The new Women's & Children's Hospital has a Level IV NICU, the highest designation possible. This means we can provide the highest quality care to you and your little one. We have a team of experts on call around the clock focused solely on the health of our tiniest patients. Learn more on our website.