Welcome to the NICU, also known as the "Neonatal Intensive Care Unit." This is most likely the last place you or your loved one/s pictured themselves. Certainly the farthest thing from a nursery one can picture. A place full of alarms, tubes, IV lines, electrodes, ventilators, isolettes, dinging sounds, galore!
After 8 years of working with NICU patients, I can full heartedly say this is the most stressful time in a parents life. One day is 5 steps forward, and the next is 3 steps back. The NICU journey is overwhelming, full of both happy milestones and (sometimes) sad tears.
As a NICU mom or dad, the one thing they crave is to make their new environment "normal,." or as normal as it can get. However, with limited space, infection control issues, & the many tubes, wires, and machinery, this can be difficult!
So, what can you do?!
With inspiration from my experiences & much time talking with families, I have decided to compile a fun list of things you can gift your NICU baby! These items are things that can be used at the bedside as new milestones occur. From "micro preemies" who are admitted to our NICU for months all the way to a full term baby enduring several surgeries & procedures for various diagnosis, I have created a list of NICU approved Gifts and Tips!
NICU GIFTS & TIPS FOR YOUR
SPECIAL LITTLE FIGHTER
Keeping you close, even when you're apart. Finn the Panda was developed to help comfort babies during hospital stays, as well as to foster the bond between the baby and their caregivers, even when they have to be apart.
Antimicrobial material to help prevent the spread of germs to the baby
A washable heart-shaped scent patch that can be detached and worn then reattached to the bear
A recording device that allows a song or comforting words of up to one minute to be played back once or on repeat
Contrasting black and white colors that appeal to baby's early vision
Made of 100% cashmere to be amazingly soft and cuddly
The sealed packaging keeps exposure to a minimum and the antimicrobial fabric helps kill any bacteria it does come in contact with.
As a mom who spent several months of her son’s ﬁrst year of life in the hospital, Michelle knew the stress and pressure of hospital parenting. So, she developed Finn the Panda!
1. SCENT: The scent patch can be worn in place of a breast pad, or under any garment, to absorb your smell and can be reattached to the bear to provide your scent in baby’s incubator or crib. Research has shown that the pheromones a mother exudes after birth are recognizable by her individual baby and can release endorphins in the baby’s brain.
2. SOUND: Your baby has heard the comfort of your voice in the womb and it is the most recognizable sound to their little ears. Record a lullaby or soft words for your baby and play it back once or on repeat, to help soothe baby to sleep, comfort baby during nurse cares, or just give you a few minutes away.
3. SIGHT: Research has proven that black and white contrasts register powerfully on baby’s retina and send the strongest visual signals to baby’s brain. Stronger signals mean more brain growth and faster visual development. High contrast shapes and patterns provide the baby with something simple and engaging to focus on, and in this focus – or intense concentration – they can allow their minds to rest. High contrast shapes are designed to hold babies’ attention.
I originally discovered this product while working bedside in a NICU unit. After researching the product, speaking with the CEO, and learning about this NICU skin care line, I can genuinely say these are (first hand) amazing products for ALL babies.
Unique to the preemie population, their skin is extremely thin and delicate. Did you know that skin is our body's largest and fastest-growing organ. It protects our bodies from foreign invaders, regulates temperature, provides thermoreceptors, regulates sensation etc. Our NICU population has the most vulnerable skin prone to tears and infection risk etc. We have several ways to help protect our babies skin (use of humidified isolettes, gel padded electrodes, positioners, etc.
Part of protecting our babies skin is cleansing it! And of course, one of the most special moments for babies parents is giving their baby the FIRST BATH! Or, as we refer to it in the NICU, "Spa Time." Healing touch not only helps our babies skin but also their most beloved parents hearts as well.
As a clinical skincare brand, made with meticulously sourced natural ingredients, BEB Organic serves families by providing luxuriously healthy products and expert education to both parents and professionals to promote the powerful benefits of touch.
Chosen by America’s top hospital NICUs for uncompromising standards, all BEB Organic products are packed with PHYTOCURA™ and crafted of pure, luxuriously healthy ingredients. As one might expect, these soothing formulas have proven to work wonders for skin of all ages that's in need of extra love.
I have personally used these products and discovered this line while using it at the bedside in a hospital setting who supplied it to their patients. I can say first hand, these products are wonderful!
Sucking is a form of self soothing! One way that infants (preemies included) learn about their surrounding world is oral introductions. They seek comfort through various repetitive motions & one way they do this is through sucking. While hospitals offer pacifiers (through various vendors), it could be fun to spruce up their pacifier with a fun one!! This is one company I have been a fan of for many years!
Named of its function, the Cutie PAT is a Pacifier and Teether in one. This multifunctional pacifier is made in two different stages: Stage 1 and Stage 2. The Cutie PAT pacifier is made with 100% medical grade silicone. It is safe, non-toxic, and free of BPA, PVC, phthalates, and latex. The Cutie PAT is US CPSIA compliant and FDA approved, designed in the USA and made in China. Silicone does not harbor bacteria or support the growth of mold. I have watched this family owned company grow for years, gifted many Cutie Pats and it is always a big hit!
Babies (preemies included) crave boundaries. They seek containment and comfort. One way to provide this is bringing everything "back to core" (AKA arms & legs flexed inwards in a relaxed manner just as they were in the womb. Materials we tend to sway towards include cotton, muslin and or bamboo cotton blends.
These materials breathe well (despite what you might think, our little ones can over heat/sweat at times. (We steer away from fleece etc). Although we have plenty of blankets in the hospital setting, it can be fun for parents to add a personal touch for their little one with a fun blanket.
It may be a while until your little one can wear (or fit into) a Onsie, however once he or she can let the fun begin! Several companies now offer "Preemie" sizes and a fun array of colors, patterns, and styles. However, the most unique NICU clothing line is by far, "Perfectly Preemie." This is unique line of preemie clothing to help both the babies (and their nurses) battle the many lines, tubes, wires
Since 1993, they have done the medical research, consulted with NICU staff, and dialogued with Preemie parents to determine just what a Preemie baby needs in regard to their clothing and accessories. They manufacture their own Perfectly Preemie line of clothing to best meet these requirements. They have also looked far and wide for the best Preemie gear and products from other manufacturers to ensure that you find everything needed in one stop.
1. TRIED, TRUE AND FIELD TESTED 2. GREAT SIZING AND SELECTION 3. IMPECCABLE QUALITY 4. AFFORDABLE PRICING 5. FAST SHIPPING 6. SAFE AND SECURE 7. FRIENDLY CUSTOMER CARE
At birth, a mother's scent is the baby's preference! That scent was carried in the amniotic fluid and was present 24/7 while baby was in utero. This form of using scent to stay connected is still possible for non-birth mothers and fathers as well! Building a connection through scent is a way to create that wonderful bond! Whether it's an adoptive mother, single father, two mothers, two fathers, adoptive guardians - whoever. If you wish to build a bond, scent is one way to do it.
Here are "Bonding Love Hearts." Parents can place them in, or near, the baby and back on parents skin to transfer that precious scent.
These are a double layer of high-quality polyester minky for extra softness. The cotton is highly absorbent and retains scent for baby's comfort. Super soft for Baby's delicate skin.
Care instructions: Machine wash in cold water, tumble dry low.
Once baby is appropriate age (<34 weeks), a white noise machine would be a wonderful gift to consider! Why? The soft low tone lulls of white noise (Heartbeat, Cradle, Ocean, Brook, & Summer Night. etc) are soothing to an infant. (And to be quite honest, all of us!).
The soft repetition of a (low tone) noise helps all infants to rest their minds & offers an improved sleep pattern. Sounds that mimic a natural environment can help create a relaxing, soothing environment for your baby. Adjustable volume settings allow you mask background noise and the craze of the NICU environment.
Babies, parents, and their Nurses love their WubbaNubs! Why? Let me tell you, when your little one looses that binky, we pay for it! These are great to help keep those pacifiers in its place.
They are easy to grasp, offers great support for the pacifier, and ultimately provides comfort to our little ones. These are an innovative baby pacifier & plush combination, offering a one-piece solution for our babies. In addition, mothers & fathers are not always at the bedside to hold, comfort, & soothe their little one. This tool helps us nurses at the bedside to maintain comfort, keep the pacifier in place, and helps us provide better care with soothed babies.
Yes, a mirror! One of the greatest feelings for baby & parents is their first SKIN TO SKIN or "Kangaroo Care." Skin-to-skin contact, is a technique of newborn care where babies are kept chest-to-chest & skin-to-skin with a parent. The surprising benefits of kangaroo care for the infant include: warmth, stability of vital signs including heart rate, respiratory rate, increased oxygen saturation, increased time spent in deep sleep & quiet alert states, decreased irritability & crying, increased weight gain, increased milk supply for mother & even better coordination with feedings!
To help parents take in ALL of their bonding moment, the use of a mirror (while they hold baby) allows them to see their baby in full range. This small simple tool is a very helpful & useful gift to use while skin to skinning. Some NICUs do provide these (often supplied by March of Dimes), however many NICUs can not afford to offer each & every baby a mirror. So at little cost to you, you can help provide a HUGE part of their bonding experience.
New evidence based research has shown that limiting scents, perfumes, dyes, or other chemicals on infants skin is essential. Our baby patient population has extremely sensitive skin, where skin irritation & breakdown is one of our biggest priorities.
Many NICUs have moved to using "water wipes," or some form of wipe with water for all diaper changes. In one of the NICUs where I work, we use a soft disposable wipe and simply add water to it for our diaper changes, rather than the traditional baby wipes. And now, several companies offer sensitive water baby wipes perfect for your little one!
With new research coming out about plastics & the affects it may have long term on all of us (not to mention the affect it is having on our planet) many companies have created an awesome solution! Glass bottles! I am a BIG fan! And personally, when I have children this will be my go to for my bottles.
Companies such as Dr. Brown's, Avent, Baby Breeza, etc, now offer glass bottles as an alternative to plastic. In addition, these bottles offer "slow flow nipples," which is often a NICU preference when beginning to feed babies.
It's no secret, the NICU is full of ups and downs. One of the NICU highlights is when Mama has the opportunity to start breastfeeding! (This is not always the case for various reasons, but in most cases it is possible to breastfeed). Nursing pillows are immensely popular with moms because they offer comfort & convenience. But figuring out which one to choose is difficult, especially with so many moms who are passionate about their favorites.
BOPPY VS BREAST FRIEND
The "Boppy" look like travel neck pillows – like a C-shaped doughnut that someone has taken a bite out of. These pillows have so many uses. You can use them to prop up your baby while you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding. (Essentially a C shaped pillow.) You then buy a slipcover for it so you can use whatever color scheme fits in with your house. Because you can change and wash these slipcovers, it helps keep pillows from having that sour milk smell if your baby spits up on them. Boppy pillows aren’t big enough to go all the way around you, so you’ll need a separate pillow if you want to support your back. Additionally, they can be used to help prop up babies during their dreaded tummy time (source).
My "Brest Friend" is a nursing pillow that, in many ways, is like a Boppy. They both help with the sometimes awkward process of breastfeeding. But, unlike the Boppy, the top side of My Brest Friend is flat, which means your baby stays where you put her, and there’s no rolling baby syndrome while you feed her. My Brest Friend also has two added features that I love – there’s a snap that secures the pillow in place, and the pillow goes all the way around the mother, giving her much-needed back support. Either way great gifts!
Welcoming a baby into the world is full of special moments. Although having a baby in the NICU is a difficult time for families, there are many moments to capture & treasure. These printable milestone cards are designed to help you celebrate all of the successes on your baby's journey. With soft pastel backgrounds and simple designs, they help to make the challenging journey a little easier. NICU is all about the milestones!
- weeks one to six - months one to three - forty weeks corrected - today I am breathing on my own - today I had my first bath - today I was weighed for the first time - I am ventilator free today - today I had my first snuggle with Mom - today I had my first snuggle with Dad - I wore my first outfit today - today I had my first breasfeeding - today I had milk for the first time - my first kangaroo cuddle - I had my first pacifier today - today I am wire free - I had my first sleepover - I am all ready for the carseat today - Hooray I gained weight today - I am going home today!
Our little ones are tiny, curious, and quite smart human beings! They are learning the world around them & quickly begin to understand the world they are embarking! So why these dolls exactly? The design of the doll gives the babies something to hold and squeeze.
This can be a good thing for regulating everything from oxygen requirements to heart rates, respiratory rates, and comfort measures. What's more, the fabric might be helpful at keeping the tiny patients from pulling out their tubes, lines, and wires! In addition, we can use them to help position baby in a comfortable position. (AKA hugging the doll, side lying, much like you or I would a pillow for hip and alignment comfort!)
I hope you enjoyed this list of Tips and Tricks for your mighty
NICU baby! Many of these products are offered on Amazon
or Etsy. All products included are my own (even hospital endorsed products) and not views of employers. This blog includes affiliate links & partnerships and ALL are products & companies I love working with!
See full Disclaimer for questions or concerns.
Please contact me with any questions! I also love your feedback!
NICU Essential Resources
March of Dimes! Resources for parents & providers
Tori Meskin BSN RNC-NIC. Nurse. Blogger. Podcaster. Tori has been a clinician since 2012, works in acute care/inpatient NICU & Pediatric settings in southern California. She is a blogger, podcaster, NICU & Pediatric Critical Care RN, Sponsored Capella University MSN student, a Barco Uniforms Ambassador & Brave beginnings Ambassador. She has obtained her National NICU Nurse Certification (RNC-NIC) & has previously worked as a travel nurse, pursuing bedside experiences in several NICU settings. Follow her as she shares her NICU journey married life & juggles work, school, content creation, & brings you top notch Tips & Tricks along the way. Find her at www.tipsfromtori.com or firstname.lastname@example.org