Ways to support a Mama in the NICU

When your friend or family member finds themselves in the NICU with a brand new baby, you can find yourself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. You might feel helpless and unsure of how to support a NICU Mama and her family, but there are actually a lot of things you can do to support her and her new little one. Let’s talk about some of your options…

Provide emotional support

This is probably the most important thing you can do because, as hard a time as you’re having navigating this situation, she’s struggling even more. This is likely not the way she envisioned her birth experience, so any kind of emotional and verbal support can go a long way in making her feel a little more comfortable in her situation.

What does emotional support look like for a NICU Mama?

  • Respect her boundaries. Being in the NICU can be both overwhelming and exhausting, which can make answering concerned family members’ questions too much to handle. If she’s not ready for phone calls, texts, or explanations, make sure you respect that and let her tell you when she’s ready.
  • Be excited. That said, don’t shy away from reaching out and congratulating her — she did just have a baby after all! Make sure you show up with the same celebratory response as you would a perfectly healthy baby. She’ll appreciate the reminder that she’s still a brand new mom with a little miracle to celebrate.
  • Understand her visitor status. If she doesn’t want you to visit, it’s important that you’re completely okay with it. She may feel overwhelmed, she may feel cautious about her baby’s health, she may have been told there are no visitors allowed. Whatever the reason, respect her decision to turn away your visit and don’t take it personally!
  • Don’t visit if you’re sick. Even if the new mom is 100% ready for new visitors, respect her baby’s health enough to avoid visiting if you’re sick. Whether it’s a small cough, a head cold, or something more serious, steer clear.
  • Listen. She is going through a lot. Having an ear to vent to, a shoulder to cry on, and a friend to listen to her will do wonders for her sanity. Be there for her any time she needs to talk, and make sure to be an active listener. If you don’t always know what to say, that’s okay. She’s not looking for someone to solve her problems. She’s just looking for someone to validate her feelings and comfort her. 
  • Be available. Try to be emotionally available when your friend is in need. It may take her some time to be ready to share, so being there when that time comes will be so helpful to her.

Other things you can do

If you feel more inclined to physically do something to support your friend, there are several great ways you can help a NICU Mama during her stay.

  • Pet-sit. Even with the arrival of a perfectly healthy baby, pets can get lost in the crazy shuffle of new parenthood. And with the time that new moms and dads must spend away from home when their baby’s in the NICU, pets can feel even more confused and neglected. So, offer to watch (and walk!) your friend’s beloved furry friend during their NICU stay. (Bonus points if you continue after she comes home!)
  • Clean the home. Every new mama would love to come home from the hospital to a clean house. And since your friend likely won’t be able to spend much time at home during her NICU stay (with the exception of grabbing things or dropping them off), chances are she’ll be even more appreciative if you offer to swing by and tidy up for her.
  • Laundry. Offer to do a few loads of dirty laundry, either at her home, your home, the nearby laundromat, or the dry cleaner. It will be a huge weight lifted off her shoulders knowing that her family’s clothing is clean and fresh.
  • Meal prep. Offer to bring a home-cooked meal by the NICU, or stock her freezer with casserole dishes to keep her settled in after a long NICU stay.
  • Run errands. Offer to tie up any loose ends or run any errands she may have – she likely didn’t expect much more than a couple-day hospital stay, so her to-do list just keeps growing.

Gifts you can give

If gift giving is more your style, there are plenty of small (and larger) gifts you can offer a NICU mom to make her time a little easier.

  • Gift cards. Gift cards to nearby restaurants, gas stations, or even spas for massages and mani/pedis can do wonders for a NICU mom. Aim for restaurants that deliver, so she can order some food up to the hospital, and gas stations somewhere between her home and the hospital.
  • Parking passes. Some hospitals charge for parking in their decks. Try to take that load off the new mom in your life so it’s one less thing she has to stress about. You can talk to the front desk of the hospital about what you can do to snag some passes for her. 
  • Transportation. Many new mamas are unable to drive in the event of a C-section, or just because they typically use public transportation. Offer to pay for Ubers or Lyfts for her, unless you can offer rides yourself. She’ll be doing a lot of traveling from home to the hospital during this time. 
  • Care packages. If you want to give a gift as an office team, a family, or a group of friends, a care package is the perfect way to get multiple people involved.  Build a cute basket filled with coffee, hand sanitizer, books, magazines, a nice water bottle, cooler bags for milk, easy snacks, nursing covers (if she’s breastfeeding), a journal to log the special moments, etc. It’s a gift she’ll truly cherish.

Remember, the biggest and best thing you can do for a new mom staying in the NICU is love and support her. She’s got a long road ahead of her, but with the right support system, she will come out stronger and more confident than ever.

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