We Look At Tips For Parents Of Babies Who Are Born At Full Term, But In Need Of Neonatal Care
Pregnacare is proud to support the services of Bliss, the charity for babies born premature or sick, and their families.
While we may think that neonatal care is only for babies born prematurely, over 60% of babies admitted to neonatal care in the UK are born at full term.
Support From Bliss For Babies Born Full Term But Sick
While some babies born at full term but admitted to neonatal care may only spend a few days on a unit, and others much longer, they all need the same specialist care as premature babies. Their parents’ will also have the same practical and emotional needs and need the same care and respect.
The trained volunteers at Bliss are there to support families whose little ones need neonatal care, no matter the reason for their stay or how long they are there.
Ten Practical Tips For Parents Of Babies Born Full Term But Sick
If you are the parent of a baby born full term but sick, finding out they need neonatal care can be a shock.
If the news is unexpected, and you’ve never had a baby in neonatal care before, it can be difficult to know what you need to do for your baby and yourself at what’s already an emotional time.
Here are ten tips for parents of babies who are born at full term but need to be admitted to neonatal care, which include advice from parents in this situation who have been supported by Bliss.
While these are general tips that parents of sick babies needing neonatal care may find helpful, there will be some differences on advice and on how the care of your baby is managed, between different units and in different hospitals.
- Get To Know The Unit
When your baby is admitted to a neonatal care unit, it can seem like a bewildering place at first, with many unfamiliar sights and sounds. However, you’ll quickly get to know how everything works.
Find out what you need to provide for your baby. While they may not initially need clothes, you might need to take nappies and cotton wool. Find out what time of day the ward rounds take place, so you can know when to expect updates on your baby’s condition. This is when you can ask to speak to the most senior doctor looking after your baby.
It’s also useful to familiarise yourself with the hospital, to find out where the shop and café are, for example. If you’re driving, you might be able pay a reduced rate for parking.
Nurses and staff will help you, and if it’s possible, chat to other parents on the unit. They will understand what you are going through and can also be an invaluable source of support.
- Find Out About How You Can Breastfeed
Breastfeeding can have lots of benefits for your baby, and breastfeeding – if you can – or expressing milk for your sick baby, is something important to consider.
Staff on the neonatal unit will have advice on the best way for your baby to have breastmilk, and Bliss have information about breastfeeding your sick baby here.
- Focus On Your Baby
Bliss mum Phoebe said: ‘It feels like forever sitting in NICU day in, day out, my house was a mess, and my diet went out of the window but none of that matters. All that matters is that you’re there with your baby. It’s hard but it won’t be forever!’
And while it may not be the start to parenting that you’d envisaged, there are different ways you can bond with your baby. Some parents also like to read to their baby, so they can hear the sound of your voice. As it’s not possible for relatives to meet your baby yet, you can Facetime, or video call them.
- Take Care Of Yourself, Too
As a new mum recovering from childbirth, it’s also important to take care of yourself, too. Make sure you eat, even if you don’t have a big appetite. Most hospitals will provide meals for parents who are breastfeeding or expressing, but you can take snacks or buy food from the café and vending machines. Stay hydrated and drink lots of water. Rest when you can.
New mum Stacey says ‘An unexpected stay in the NICU is such a massive shock for parents of full term babies. Each day is so long and difficult. Its so important to remember to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally, after giving birth and is something that medical professionals often remind you of.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health it is important to seek support and talk about it. There is support within the NICU, but also through charities that you can find online if you do not feel able to talk to people who are emotionally involved in your situation.’
- Accept All Offers Of Help From Friends And Family
It’s important to accept all offers of practical support from friends and family members. If anyone offers to make you food, take them up on the offer - it will be one less thing you have to think about.
Stacey continues: ‘Take the support than family and friends offer, let them do some washing and cook you some food. Without even realising, little gestures like that give you more time to focus on your newborn in NICU and your own health after giving birth.’
Rosie adds ‘We relied on our parents doing our washing, including the baby’s. Sometimes a hot shower and a pair of clean clothes can re-energise you but, as we all know, it can soon stack up if you’re busy!’
- Wear Practical Clothes
As you may be expressing breastmilk or having skin-to-skin contact with your baby, it can help to wear clothing to the hospital that has easy front access, such as a shirt with buttons, or a top you can lift up with a vest underneath. Screens will also be provided for privacy on the unit.
- Don’t Feel Like You Have To Update Everyone
Bliss mum Steph said: ‘Well-meaning friends and family will want to know what's going on, but I found this particularly hard to deal with when I didn't always know, plus I was trying to process all my emotions about everything.
I found it really handy to either have a person who I updated who could then pass that update out (especially good with groups of friends), or I made sure family knew that I would update at certain times of the day (such as after morning rounds for example). This prevented the added stress of my phone constantly going off and then I didn't have to keep repeating everything to different people.’
- It’s OK To Switch Off From The Outside World
Steph continues: ‘Sometimes it feels like you only have bad news and you just want to switch off from the outside world. Sometimes I did, which is 100% OK and I think is actually a good thing to do. I definitely turned my tones off on my phone to stop it disturbing any rest time I got.’
It can also be useful to take headphones and music, which will to help you cut everything else out and relax, which is also important so you can express milk more easily.
- Expect It To Be An Emotional Time
Everyone reacts differently to their baby being in special care once born, there’s no one way to feel. Try and be patient, as hospital stays can be short, but may be longer. And while it can feel an incredibly intense time, most days involve a lot of sitting around and waiting.
Having a baby who is full term but sick and in neonatal care is likely to be an incredibly emotional experience, when you’re already emotional after giving birth, so be kind to yourself.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Support
‘Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it and don't be shy to accept any help offered as it can be very tough at times in the NICU, it’s an emotional roller-coaster.’ Bliss mum Kerry.
The trained volunteers at Bliss are on hand to help you and are there to support families whose little ones need neonatal care, no matter the reason for their stay or how long they are there for.
Support can be given in person or remotely, via the Bliss email and virtual support services. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org for support and information via email or video call. More information is available here: https://www.bliss.org.uk/parents/support/emotional-support/remote-volunteer-support
As a parent of a baby admitted to neonatal care, it’s important to remember to take good care of yourself too, which can involve reaching out for help. Know that you are not alone, and that support is available.