Caring for Yourself When Your Baby is In the NICU
Placing your needs ahead of your baby is common. Find ways to get the support and help you need for your own recovery.
When your baby is in the NICU, you’ll probably feel stressed and worried. You’ll want to spend as much time as possible with your baby. This might make you forget to take care of yourself.
You may be feeling many different emotions:
- Afraid about your baby’s condition
- Angry that this is happening
- Worried that you could have done something different
- Frustrated that you can’t help your baby more
- Anxious about things outside the NICU (like paying the bills, caring for other children, housework and your job)
It’s important that you accept these feelings. Try to talk about them with your family and friends. NICU staff, other NICU parents, a hospital chaplain, or a support group might be able to help you through this difficult time.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. And it’s OK if you and your partner are dealing with feelings differently. This is perfectly normal. Try to accept and support one another as much as you can.
If you have other kids at home, try to make special time for them. Take time to talk to them about their new sibling and let them talk about their feelings. Ask the NICU staff if siblings can visit. If so, bring them in to meet their new brother or sister. Remember to look after your own personal needs. Try to stick to a routine and eat healthy meals. Drink lots of water, stay rested and take care of yourself as you usually would. Doing these things can make it easier to cope, so you can take better care of your baby.
Give yourself a break. The nurses will call you if there is anything you need to know.
Going back to work while your baby is still in the NICU?
If your baby is still in the NICU when you have to return to work, talk with the NICU staff about it. Let them know your schedule and when you’ll be visiting your baby. Also talk with your supervisor.
Ask about a flexible schedule or other ways to help you balance work with being there for your baby.
Along with being good to yourself, you can also call on family and friends for help. They’re probably anxious to support you. Let them know what you need, such as:
- Help with meals and snacks. These can be brought to the hospital or to your home for other family members.
- Running errands.
- Cleaning, laundry or other household chores.
- Rides for you or for your other children.
- Keeping family and friends updated about the baby’s health.
The NICU staff, the hospital chaplain, a hospital social worker and other NICU parents are excellent sources of support. They know what you’re going through. You might want to join a NICU parents’ support group.
The baby blues and postpartum depression
After giving birth, hormones in your body may cause you to feel sad, weepy or crabby. You could lose your appetite or have trouble sleeping. You may even wonder if you’re capable of caring for your new baby. This could be “postpartum (after birth) blues” or “baby blues.” This is a temporary condition that may come and go. It usually goes away about 10 days after the baby is born. If you feel overwhelmed with sadness and worry and these feelings don’t go away, you might have postpartum depression. This is a more serious condition. It usually happens one to three weeks after giving birth. But it can happen up to a year after the baby is born. If you think you have postpartum depression, you should talk to your doctor about it as soon as possible.
Remember, if you do have postpartum depression:
- It’s not your fault.
- You’re not alone.
- You can get help.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your health care professional, 911 or a suicide hotline such as 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Or have someone drive you to your nearest emergency department.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Postpartum Depression. Accessed March 20, 2018.
KidsHealth. When Your Baby’s in the NICU. Accessed March 20, 2018.
March of Dimes. Continuing medical care after the NICU. Accessed March 20, 2018.
March of Dimes. Postpartum depression. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Last Updated: March 20, 2018