Having a baby in the NICU can be stressful for siblings

Giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU is stressful for parents; but what is sometimes overlooked is how upsetting it is for the preemie’s siblings.


A change in routine is upsetting to children. Having mom and dad away from home for long periods of time can turn even the most well-adjusted child upside down. If your child has not been able to visit her sibling or she does not have a solid grasp on what is happening, the uncertainty of the situation can cause distress. What can you do to ease the anxiety that is trickling down to the smallest members of your family?


  • Talk to your child at a level that she can understand. There are children’s books that explain prematurity. These books can make the explanation much easier for parents. Check with your local library for appropriate titles.
  • Reassure your child that nothing she did or said caused her sibling to be born early. Some kids may blame themselves or feel guilty.
  • Your child might be very worried and fear that the baby may never come home. As best you can, let your child know that you and the doctors and nurses are taking good care of her baby sibling, just as they would take care of her.
  • Understand the signs of distress in your child. Any regression (loss) in developmental progress (such as bed wetting, not sleeping through the night, acting out or being excessively attached to you), may indicate that your child is feeling the negative effects of the situation.
  • If possible, have your child visit your baby in the NICU.
  • In the Preemies book, you can read about these and other ways to minimize the anxiety that having a baby in the hospital can have on your family.

Do you have any tips to share on how to help your older children got through the stress of having a baby sibling in the NICU? Please share.

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.



  • comment-avatar
    Anne@BaptismalGownsPlus.com June 28, 2015

    Great post – with the upheaval of the family with a preemie, the siblings need to be cared for in a very special way…

  • comment-avatar
    Andrea June 28, 2015

    Our NICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital provided a kit for our daughter Julia while baby Nadia was there. It included a story, a small teddy bear, a measuring tape that showed how big Nadia was, a picture for her room, a bottle, a small blanket, and some stickers to decorate a picture about her sister. This was an amazing help. These items helped us talk about the things the baby needed and used. They each have one of those bears and they are very special to us.