Taking Care of You

  • We know having a baby in the NICU is a very stressful time for parents. The best way for you to be able to look after your baby is to make sure you are looking after yourself.
  • Common responses and emotions to having a baby in the NICU can include: feeling helpless, feeling guilty for having the baby early, fear of the unknown and feeling frustrated that you are separated from your baby. It is important to note that fathers may have many of the same feelings about having a baby in the NICU, but they may react differently.
  • Ask about anything you are unsure of.
  • Make sure to take time for yourself. You need to take breaks for eating, drinking and resting to stay healthy. Form a daily routine that works for you. Keeping organized helps to decrease stress. This also helps to balance home life, hospital time and self-care.
  • Find time in your day to get some exercise. This could be a short walk with the dog or doing some stretches. The most important thing to know is exercise helps to increase your endorphins which helps you feel better.
  • Talk with your health care provider early if you have persistent sadness, crying, inability to sleep or continued worrying.
  • Limit screen time (television, cell phone) especially before sleep time.
  • Practice mindfulness. Once a day, take 10 minutes and just concentrate on your breathing or a meditation activity. It is important to take time for personal care. Whether it is a hot shower, reading a book, an afternoon nap or a massage. Take time to meet whatever needs are important to YOU. Stepping away from the bedside is not a luxury but a necessity.
  • Try to connect with other NICU families. Other families can be a big support, knowing you are not the only one going through this experience. For online parent support please see the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation website.
  • Know that this time in the NICU is only temporary. Most families will be taking their baby home to continue their journey together.

Self-Care At a Glance

Get Some Rest

Just as your baby needs sleep in order to grow and be healthy, parents need to sleep as well.  Whether you are spending hours by the bedside every day, balancing the NICU while caring for older children at home or back at work full time, adequate rest is essential for both mothers and fathers.

Fuel Your Body

Many New Parents in the NICU struggle to maintain their own health.  Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water is essential to not only your physical health but your emotional health as well.  It also helps breastfeeding mother establish their milk supply.  Nutritionally deficient parents do not have the energy needed to cope with all the various challenges in the NICU so make time to practice self-care when it pertains to your diet.  

Move It

Being physically active boosts your spirits, releases endorphins that encourage positive moods and emotions and is a great source of stress relief during an NICU stay.

Be Still

Take 10 minutes a day and just breathe.  Centre yourself.  It is important to take time for personal care.  Whether it is a hot shower, new haircut, reading a book, an afternoon nap, or massage, take time to meet whatever needs are important to YOU!  Stepping away from the bedside is not a luxury – it is a necessity.  

Ask For Help

Talking about what you are feeling with a support network can sometimes be difficult, but it is vital for your emotional health and the health of your baby during this time.  Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.  Having extra hands to help with the to-do list will help you and your family focus on what is truly important right now – each other and your baby.

Connect With Others

Finding someone to talk to who has experienced the NICU journey will provide support, hope and inspiration when you need it most.  Whether you meet families within your community, connecting with other NICU parents is one of the most positive things you can do.  NICU peer-mentoring programs can provide you with a trained graduate NICU parent who can support you during this time.  

Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself.  You must take care of yourself first in order to take care of your baby.