On October 10th, my baby girl was born 13 weeks early. I had developed preeclampsia essentially overnight and pregnancy was no longer safe for either one of us. The minute our sweet Scarlett was born, she was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
My husband and I had prepared for a lot of scenarios, but this was not one of them. We were thrown into the NICU world with no clue what to expect.
Nine weeks later, I am happy to report that Scarlett is doing really well and my husband and I have adjusted to life in the NICU. We have settled into what is our new normal and created a routine that works for us.
Based on our experience, here are 15 things you need in the NICU.
1. Pump Cleaning Wipes
Do you feel like you spend your majority of your day pumping and cleaning pump parts? I do, too!
When I’m in the NICU, I rinse my pump parts with water when I’m finished using them and then wipe them with one of these cleaning wipes. It looks like the wipes leave residue behind, but it goes away as the parts dry.
2. Crib Art
I have spent a lot of time researching life in the NICU and one thing that comes up in almost every article is to decorate your baby’s isolette. Crib Art is a great ways to do so.
Every Tiny Thing has some fantastic Crib Art! Whether you are looking for an inspirational quote or just a cute picture, Every Tiny Thing has it. Best of all, the Crib Art comes laminated and each card is double sided so you can change out the art.
3. Expanding File
This was a tip that I saw on Pinterest and it’s been great! Keep all of your baby’s documents and information together in an expanding file. Between a birth certificate, social security card, insurance cards, and hospital information, it’s a lot to keep up with.
I labeled all of my tabs and paper clipped any corresponding cards (like for insurance) to the appropriate divider so they are easily accessible.
Here are some tab label ideas: NICU Information, Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, Vaccination Records, Insurance, Medicaid, WIC, Milestone Stickers, Pamphlets, and Pediatrician Visits.
4. Swaddle Blankets
The nursing staff will wrap your baby’s bed in a hospital blanket, but you can bring your child’s own blankets and have them use those instead. We brought a pack of Scarlett’s swaddle blankets and they are used on her bed and as a cover on top of the isolette. It’s nice, and comforting, that she’s able to use something of her own while she is in the NICU.
My husband’s coworkers brought us a basket full of gifts to the hospital when our daughter was born. Among them was a journal–some of the women thought journaling would help me cope with my feelings. I’ve really enjoyed doing so!
I write recaps of the day (what we did while we visited, how she’s doing, her weight) what her birth was like, and our feelings when we found out that we were pregnant/she was a girl. It’s been fun for me because I feel like I’m connecting with her and I hope that she will enjoy reading it when she’s older. Plus, it’s a great way to document our time in the NICU. I try to write in it every day, but there are days when I forget or am just too physically and emotionally tired.
Every Tiny Thing has a really cool NICU Journey Journal. Use it daily to track your baby’s weight, nurse/doctor, feedings, highs and lows, and how you interacted with your baby. There’s also a weekly summary page where you can write your child’s milestones and any thoughts/questions you may have.
Reading to your baby is a great way to bond with them while they’re in the NICU. We keep a stack of books at the hospital and rotate them out once we’ve read them.
I really like the Junie B. Jones series. My mom read them to my sister and I when we were little and now I’m reading them to Scarlett. The books are less than 100 pages and I like that I can read it over a day instead of going through a short book in five minutes.
7. Nursing Cover Or Shirt You Can Pump In
With all of the people coming in and out of your child’s room, you will want something to cover you while you pump. Our hospital makes us wear gowns and I’ve been using it as a nursing cover, but this is a great option if yours doesn’t.
8. Milestone Cards
We bought really cute milestone stickers before Scarlett was born and wanted to use them while she was in the NICU. Since I can’t stick the sticker on her (because she isn’t wearing clothes yet), I put it on a piece of cardstock and laminated it. We can take pictures with it and then hang it up in her room so everyone knows what milestone our sweet Scarlett has achieved.
Celebrate your baby’s NICU milestones, too! Every Tiny Thing has a set of 48 NICU milestone cards, including I weigh 2 pounds, first time breast feeding, I am in an open crib, no more feeding tube, mom/dad’s first time holding, I’m breathing on my own today, first bath, and I am going home today.
9. Hands Free Pumping Bra
This is hands free pumping bra is a lifesaver! Pumping takes time and you could spend that time doing something more productive than holding the equipment–like reading a book, checking your phone, or journaling.
10. Phone Charger
Between all of the pictures and videos I take of Scarlett, my phone battery drains pretty quickly when I’m visiting the NICU. Set yourself up for success by leaving a phone charger at the hospital.
11. NICU Family Posters
Remember all of the people who cared for your baby during their stay in the NICU with one of Every Tiny Thing’s Family Posters. Simply keep it at your baby’s bedside and have all of your child’s nurses, doctors, and therapists write their name in a balloon. Frame the Family Poster and put it in your baby’s nursery or a NICU scrapbook.
12. Breast Milk Cooler And Freezer Pack
You will need something to hold the milk you pump at home while you drive to the NICU. Our hospital provided bottles to put my milk in and a lunchbox to transport it, but if your NICU does not, this breast milk cooler is a great option.
Scarlett’s room is often cold and that’s the last thing we want during kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact. I brought a blanket from home that I can throw on top of us if need be. It’s also great for taking a nap in the recliner.
14. Cup With A Lid
It’s easy to forget about staying hydrated when you’re spending a lot of time in the NICU (and you need tons of water if you’re pumping!). We’ve been using our Yeti Ramblers to take ice water with us.
15. Tote Bag
You will need something to carry all of your belongings back and forth from home to the NICU. I use this Vera Bradley Tote Bag and it’s been perfect! I have plenty of room for everything I need to take and I can throw it in the washing machine every week.
Having a baby in the NICU is hard, but we hope these 15 things will help make your time in the NICU a tad bit easier. I pray your child’s NICU journey is full of many more ups than downs!
If you have spent time in the NICU, please let us know if there’s anything else we could add to our list.
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Thank you to Every Tiny Thing for sending product to my NICU for including them in this article!