Passing the time while your baby is in the NICU

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUIt may be difficult to know what to do with your time when your baby is in the NICU. Going home to an empty house may seem impossible. All you can think about is how your little one is doing. However, there are all kinds of productive things you can do, to pass the time until your baby is ready to come home.

While at the hospital

• Learn about your baby’s condition as well as what to expect on the NICU journey.
• Get to know your baby. As soon as your baby’s condition allows, take an active role in his care. Feed, hold, bathe, diaper and dress your baby. Learn about preemie cues to help you understand your baby’s behaviors.
• Room-in with your baby. Some hospitals (depending on your baby’s condition) will allow you to spend the night caring for baby. Ask your nurse if this is an option.
• Read to your baby
• Learn how to take care of your other children while your baby is in the NICU. See if they can visit your baby in the NICU.
• Is a holiday coming up? Read our blog on spending the holidays in the NICU for tips.

While at home

• Get the right car seat for your child.
• Prepare your home for your preemie.
• Make sure you have food in the house or ask a friend or relative to get some groceries for you. Eating healthy foods will help you maintain your energy.
• Keep up with your chores; ask a relative or friend to help if you need it.
• Visit our website for information on managing the NICU experience.

Relax and rejuvenate

• Put your feet up. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby.
• Take a nap: Getting enough rest is important during this time.
• Be active.  A short 10 minute walk once or twice a day will be more beneficial to you than you can imagine. If you can manage a longer walk, go for it. Or, join a class (like Zumba) where you can dance off your frustrations as you have fun.
• Take a yoga, meditation or a stretch and tone class or use a DVD. You can take them out of a library for free. These classes combine getting in shape with learning to calm down. Believe it or not, most people need to learn how to relax.

While at home or by your baby’s side, seek support by visiting Share Your Story®, the March of Dimes online community for NICU families. You will be welcomed and comforted by other NICU moms who are or have been in your situation and know how you are feeling.

Do you have a baby in the NICU? Email us at with your questions. We are here to help.

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12 Responses to “Passing the time while your baby is in the NICU”

  1. Tosha Clayton Says:

    I always had daddy with me but those hand held monopoly or yahtzee games meant alot sometimes. I didn’t have cell phones at the era of my children’s time in the n.i.c.u.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    I worked at the hospital where my son was born. Since I wanted to save my time for when he came home

  3. Kambria Says:

    Since my little peanut was in the NICU for 117 days we had lots of time to kangaroo and read through most of the Harry Potter series. Most of the time she slept on my chest but it was nice to be able to do something I knew was normal, like reading to my child.

  4. Emily Says:

    I made a scrapbook for and recorded what was going on. It’s so nice to look back on it now. I wouldn’t have remembered the details if I wood have waited. My son’s room in the NICU had enough space for me to work on it while he was sleeping!

  5. Valarie Russo Says:

    I always left my sent cloth.

  6. Michelle Says:

    I left a scent blankey with them. When I got home I was in a wheelchair for the most part, but I had 2 older kids that needed me. They kept me occupied.I spent a lot of time at the Nicu myself 4-8 hrs a day along with constant phone calls.

  7. Sheena Says:

    With twins, I’ve clocked many hours in the NICU. I feed them, bathe them, talk and read to them. I love kangarooing, it’s so relaxing that I usually fall asleep. I’m also able to pump milk.

  8. latrice Says:

    My son spent 6 months in nicu. It was a long time before I could hold him, so I read a couple Dr Seus books everday. We had a bedtime book also. I would change his diaper and feed him whenever I could. Once I was able to hold him, we had kangaroo time. I never nursed, but during shift change I would pump. I didn’t spend much time at home, so a when I was there, I slept and pumped a little.

  9. Nancy Says:

    I was high risk all my pregnancy, so I had a lot of time to shop. By the time my son was born I had everything I really needed. Only thing I didn’t plan on was preemie clothes, had family pick it up for me while I was still in the hospital. Once I was discharged I spent all the time I could ar the NICU, I changed and fed him, while I was there: I feel like it helped him get home sooner. I went home to sleep and got up to pump as if he was home. I didn’t have other kids at home, and babies father understood my place was with our son.

  10. Nicole Oberlin Says:

    Both of my babies were NICU babies. with the first I spent every hour I was awake with her. would go home wake up and head back to the hospital. with my son it was more difficult, he was even more premie than her, he was also nearly two hours away, I was there as much as i could usually durring the day when my daughter was at school, i would bring my own clothes for him, something with my scent (i thought it was weird i was one of the only parents who used his own clothes) i would nurse him while i was there and pump when i wasn’t having another young child kept my mind pre occupied though i won’t lie when i say i had break downs and had to exit the room she was in so she wouldn’t see me cry. i really wish they knew why i was going into labor so early with my kids? :/

  11. Michele B. Says:

    I was blessed to be able to spend most of the daytime with my daughter for the 2 months she was in the NICU. I had a quick routine in the morning for doing necessary upkeep at home. I then headed to the hospital for the day, where I spent most of my time trying to do as many “normal” things as possible: providing any care I could, reading, singing, playing music or snuggling. I also kept a journal to record in daily. On difficult days, I tried to connect with friends and family for support. My husband came on his lunch break and for few hours in the afternoon/early evening after work. A few times a week a friend would meet me at the hospital for lunch. Of course, we took a lot of videos and pictures, which was also great for our extended family that could not visit during flu season. At home, we also had a routine that helped make things easier. We would leave at shift change to head home for the evening. The drive home was a great time to make calls to update our family, and took my mind off of the fact that I had to leave my daughter. We were blessed with many meals from friends and family to take that burden off of us. After dinner, we would watch a show together for a little time to decompress. Before bed, we would watch the videos of our daughter together and look at that day’s pictures. Each night, before going to sleep, I would call the NICU for an update. The nurses would tell me her weight and any other updates, which I would record in my journal. If I woke in the night, I would call to check in. First thing in the morning, before starting my day, I would make another call for an update. Having a routine helped me feel a little more in control in a situation over which I had very little. Doing these things also helped me feel connected to her, whether we were at the hospital or at home. My advice is to establish a routine that works for you and to accept as much help and support from family and friends as possible. This is a hard time but will soon be part of your memories (both joyful and difficult) and it is all a part of your child’s story:)!

  12. Judy D Says:

    I had one twin at home and one in the NICU. Some of the most difficult times. I needed to split my time in 2. I would spend most of the morning in the NICU. I would talk to her about everything from her home to how happy I was she was here, I would play Music for her. Read to her. Show her pictures of her Sister and family. I would bring her blankets her sister would use the day before so she can at least smell her. I would also bring clothes for her, Hats and gloves and bows. I would spend a lot of time pumping to leave milk at home and at the NICU. I would also looked at social media to distract myself. My Husband brought his Lab top with him and he would watch a movies. I would talk a lot to my family and get updates on my other daughter. When I was finally able to hold her I would just spend most of my day doing that. For the mom that has one baby in the NICU and one at home it is hard to have to leave one in the hospital but you are a mom and their is nothing stronger then the love you have for your babies. You can get through it. When I was at home. I would just dedicate the time to my daughter and try to make up for the time I was away from her. Don’t feel guilty for leaving to be with either baby. I had to fight that feeling even today, but When I look at my girls now and see how they smile every time they see me I move those feelings aside.