5 tips for NICU parents

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s June 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here article by Katie Backer photo courtesy of Andrea Johnson A visit to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), whether expected or not, can take an emotional toll on parents. Oftentimes families can be caught off guard when their newborns are whisked away to be cared for in the NICU. The extreme care given to these babies is utterly important and can dramatically impact families. Andrea Johnson, local mother of three, experienced the NICU firsthand after her twin girls were born prematurely. In order to help other families she offers some priceless tips to make the best NICU stay.


“It wasn’t on our mind, and we didn’t think we’d need to tour it.” Taking a tour of your local NICU is encouraged, especially if you are categorized as high-risk or are pregnant with multiples. Educate yourself of NICU protocol so that your baby’s stay can go as smoothly as possible.


“It is very hard to leave your baby in the hospital. It hits you when you step outside that they’re not coming with you. It’s a wave of emotions.” Andrea’s nurses allowed her to be vulnerable and deal with her emotions day by day. She fondly remembers the NICU as a “safe place”.


“Get to know your nurses! They are the ones there 24/7 caring for your child.” Andrea adamantly believes in getting to know the staff that cares for your child. She learned a lot from them and holds them in high esteem. One must also understand that doctors do this every day and though it is good to communicate with them, Andrea didn’t question them on the small things. The best care for her girls was everyone’s top priority. She is very grateful for professional photos of the twins. “You don’t think to capture those moments because it’s all a whirlwind and you’re in survival mode.” She could not be more pleased to have those pictures now.


“Don’t be afraid to let visitors come and experience it with you.” Letting others in and allowing them to share in the “Care Visits” can greatly help the parents deal with their emotions. Each baby is allowed two visitors. Be prepared to scrub in before being able to enter the NICU and don’t plan on visiting if you are experiencing cold and flu symptoms. Many friends also brought Andrea and her family food at the hospital and to their home. This allowed for people to feel included and to join her on the journey. Having a Meal Tree and preparing freezer meals ahead of time gave her freedom to spend more time with her children while still having healthy, homemade meals.

Tip #5: Make Special Dates with Your Older Children

“Older children will need to be flexible but it helps if parents can still make some special one-on-one time for them.” Andrea said she intentionally made time for her son to play on the trampoline or have a special treat. These moments help prepare your older child and can affirm them of their still-special place in your heart. Andrea and her beautiful family are safely at home. With their positive stay behind them, she and her husband will never forget the incredible care that they received in the NICU. about the author...Katie Jones Backer is a local History teacher, with a passion for travel, history, writing, music, and helping others. She is happiest though, when spending time with her husband and two adorable Pomeranians!