If your baby is currently in the NICU, this may not be how you envisioned spending your holidays. The realization that your baby is not home for Hanukkah, Christmas or the start of the New Year can be a real jolt. But, with a little creativity, an open mind and a willingness to adapt, you can still make your holidays bright. Here’s how:
• Although no two NICUs are exactly alike, many will allow you to decorate your baby’s bed space (but ask first). You may be able to attach pictures or tiny holiday decorations on the side of the incubator or warmer bed.
• Engage your other children if you have them. You can take a photo of them and pin it up on the side of your baby’s bed (if allowed). Likewise, take a photo of your baby and bring it to your child or children at home to decorate. They can make a Christmas ornament out of it and hang it on the tree or draw a picture around it and set it up next to the menorah. This way, your littlest one is always present at your home in a physical way.
• If your baby is healthy enough, see if you can put him in a special holiday outfit. A snowman, Santa or elf onesie would be adorable! (But be sure to check with the head nurse or doctor first.)
• Depending on the health of your baby and NICU rules, perhaps Dad can pose as Santa and take a photo with your baby. (Be sure the Santa outfit is squeaky clean please!)
• Place a tiny “Charlie Brown” tree, menorah or other symbolic decoration on the windowsill or counter next to your baby.
• If appropriate, see if you can play soft holiday music when visiting your baby. Humming or singing to your baby may be soothing to him and in this way you can introduce him to his first Christmas Carol or Hanukkah song.
• Make a clay impression of your baby’s foot as a keepsake. There are kits that you can buy that are easy to prepare. Or, if you have a creative streak in you, you can make the “dough” yourself. Search the internet for recipes.
• Enjoy your New Year’s toast together as a family in the NICU with your baby, even if you do it well before midnight to accommodate bedtimes of your other children.
Spending your holidays at the NICU is not something you planned on. But, hopefully, the New Year will be one of improved health, weight gain for your preemie, and a soon-to-be united family at home.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts.
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