How Friends and Family Can Help in the NICU
When friends and loved ones are in these circumstances, you may feel you want to help, but just don’t know how. You can start by asking the parents what they need. They may be feeling overwhelmed and in need, but unsure who or how to ask for help.
Some common needs that a family could use help with are:
- Babysitting or carpooling help for their other children.
- Do laundry or go grocery shopping. Provide meals that can be brought to the hospital, or gift cards to local restaurants/delivery apps.
- Help with pets.
- Ask the father how you can help him, especially if mom is still admitted at her delivery hospital, and he is commuting between the two facilities.
- Sometimes, what a parent needs is someone to lean on. This can be a very emotional time for parents of a baby in NICU. A text saying you are thinking of them, or an offer to sit and listen can mean more than you realize.
Keep Up the Offers of Support
Patients and families often need space immediately following a birth, but they don’t want to feel forgotten. Often, offers to help come in the early days of hospitalization, and drop off after a few weeks or months. Continue to check in with them as long as their baby is in the NICU.
Be understanding if you offer to visit and the answer is “not yet” or “not right now.” Let the parents know you understand they need time to be with their baby, but that you are there for them when they are ready. Visiting a baby in the NICU is very different from visiting a newborn in a hospital’s labor and delivery unit. Parents/guardians might not feel up to having visitors. Accept their wishes and try not to take it personally.
Don’t forget about siblings. Becoming a big brother or sister can be a hard transition, even without the added stress of a hospitalization. Siblings may feel overshadowed as their parents focus on the new baby. If you have prearranged a visit to the NICU, think about bringing an activity for the sibling, or just something to make them feel special. Offering to spend one-on-one time with the sibling can be a great way to help them feel loved, as well as help their parents. It’s healthy for siblings to stick to their normal routine as much as possible, so offer rides to school, dance class, soccer practice, etc.