The holiday season is a time full of cheer for many families, but if your baby is currently in the newborn intensive care unit (also called NICU) it can easily be an extra emotional time of the year. You may be stressed and worried about your baby’s health and when you’ll be able to take him home. If your baby needs to stay in the NICU through the holidays, knowing that your baby won’t be home may cause you to feel sad or angry. This is not how you envisioned spending your holidays.
Coping with stress in the NICU
When your baby’s in the NICU, there’s no “normal” way to feel. You and your partner may feel differently and your relationship may be strained because this is all new to both of you. If you have more children, you may feel guilty and overwhelmed about how to split your time between being with your baby in the NICU and being at home with your other children.
Know that many families who have had a baby born early or sick share the same kinds of feelings that you and your partner have. Especially those who have had to spend the holidays season in the NICU.
Getting the right support
It may be hard to think about taking care of yourself because you’re so focused on your baby’s needs. But taking care of yourself can help you stay well and have more energy to spend time with your baby.
Here’s what you can do to help take care of yourself when your baby’s in the NICU:
- Stick to a daily routine. Every day, take a shower, eat healthy foods and regular meals, drink plenty of water, and get a good night’s sleep. As part of your routine, decide when you want to be with your baby in the NICU.
- Connect with other NICU families. They may understand how you’re feeling better than friends and family who don’t have the same experience. Talk to the NICU staff about support groups for NICU families in the hospital or in your local area. You can meet and talk with other NICU families on shareyourstory.org, the March of Dimes online community for families.
- Take breaks from the NICU. It’s OK to make time for yourself and your family.
- Talk to a counselor. This may be someone from the NICU staff or a social worker in the hospital. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to someone other than your family and friends.
You may feel scared and confused about your baby’s condition. It’s OK to feel like you do. Don’t hesitate to talk to your baby’s health care provider and the NICU staff. They can answer your questions and help you feel better.
Visit marchofdimes.org to learn about resources and support that can help you and your family while your baby’s in the NICU.