8 Mistakes NICU Moms Often Make

Are you Making these Mistakes?

Preemie Boy Holding NICU Mom finger
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You have a baby in the NICU - Congratulations! But now what?

You just been thrown into a devastating and scary experience, and you've probably had nothing to prepare you for this. You're most likely just trying to survive, moment to moment, figuring out how to handle the experience as you go.

That's understandable. The NICU is overwhelming.

There are things you may be doing right now that are making this harder, and it's important for you to realize that there are certain things you can do to get through this experience better.

Take a moment to find out if you are doing any of these 8 things which are making your NICU experience harder than it needs to be. And read on to find out what you can do about it.

#1 Not Taking Care of Yourself

NICU mom anxious, hand on forehead at home alone
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With your baby in the NICU, you would give anything - ANYTHING - to have your baby home with you, safe and sound, healthy and thriving.

All of your energy is going towards being there with your baby, pumping if you're able, juggling other family and household needs, and worrying. Trying to learn this foreign world.

So it's completely understandable that you're not giving yourself much thought, as far as what you need to heal and recover and maintain your sanity.  But it's a mistake that really can take a toll.

Of course you want to do it all, but you must take care of yourself if you hope to make it through this experience well. Do it for yourself, and do it for your baby.

Keep this in mind - your baby needs you. Your are your baby's ONLY mother. So you need to try to give your baby a healthy mother.

I can't tell you exactly how to best take care of yourself - you know best. Perhaps it means taking more naps (yes, you have permission!), perhaps it means taking some time away from the NICU for a sanity break. Maybe it means taking the time to eat a healthier meal, even if that means missing a little time with your baby.

Investing in yourself is investing in your baby's mother, so try your best to give yourself what you need.

#2 Blaming Yourself

depressed NICU mom crying sitting on edge of bed
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Have you already started blaming yourself for your baby being in the NICU?

It happens all the time.

Mothers, who would give anything to have their baby safe and healthy, blame themselves for failing their baby.

AS IF you could have done anything differently!

Preterm labor happens to all moms - mothers who do "everything right" still end up with preemies or babies who need the NICU.

Birth defects happen to all families, birth complications and infections happen to anyone.

So I suggest you stop it, right now. Seriously. You didn't do anything wrong.

#3 Avoiding your Friends & Family

Mother and grown daughter hugging and smiling
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Have you gotten into the habit of avoiding your friends and family?

It may feel as if they don’t understand. They may say things that aren’t helpful because they don’t have a clue just how hard this is.

But they care about you, and quite frankly you could use the support. 

So be sure to allow your closest friends and family - the ones who make you feel good and who offer genuine help - to help you.

This doesn't mean entertaining anyone and everyone who wants to come by and visit. That is stressful and exhausting (see mistake #1).

But do allow yourself to be helped, and do allow yourself to open up and talk with the loved ones who care about you.

Want help figuring out how to do that?

  • Let one person be your spokesperson, allow them to do all the communicating with your list of friends & family who need updates. Make them your "point person."
  • When someone says "what can I do to help?" give them the link to this list of great ways to help NICU parents.
  • Have someone set up a caring bridge for you, which is an ad-free way to post updates and - better yet - allows friends and loved ones to sign up to bring you meals or help in ways YOU want.
  • Do allow yourself to cry and be a mess and be honest about your trauma when talking with loved ones. It's okay. It's normal to be struggling with this, even in your baby isn't critically ill.

#4 Not Getting Involved in your Baby's Care

NICU Mother with preemie giving a bath
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Are you sitting by your baby's bedside, helplessly watching as all of the NICU staff do everything for your baby?

It’s understandable, and easy to do for many reasons:

  • They have way more experience with NICU babies & preemies
  • You’re terrified you’ll break your baby
  • You're sure you have no clue what you’re doing
  • All those wires are so frustrating!
  • Nobody has told you that you have permission to do any of your baby's care

But you are your baby’s mother, and your baby needs you. Now and forever. It’s very healing for you to get involved right away. As much as you can, as much as you’re allowed.

If nobody has told you it's okay for you to help, ask the next time you're there - "What can I do to parent my baby? Can I change the diaper or take a temperature?"

Even if the only thing you can do is touch your baby and hold her through her touch times and diaper changes, that human touch and hearing your voice is incredibly powerful and comforting for your baby.

And it helps you too. A lot. You'll start feeling more and more connected, more and more needed, more and more like a mom.

#5 Comparing Your Baby to Other NICU Babies

Happy NICU mom with healthy preemie
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Everybody does it. Ugh, human nature.

Maybe you see that baby next to yours who is so much bigger and seems so much healthier? Or the preemie next to yours who was born earlier but is already taking bottles and off oxygen?

Please remember that each baby is a completely unique individual, and each baby has a completely unique time schedule.

Your baby may have more hurdles and it may not feel fair. It's not fair. But then again, nothing really is.

I guarantee you, 100%, that somebody has it worse than you, and somebody has it better. It is not fair.

So just don't compare. Trust your baby and honor your baby's unique journey.

#6 Not Speaking Up

NICU mom holding preemie with NICU nurse
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Does it feel as if you have no say in what happens to your baby? Do you feel at the mercy of the NICU staff, with no input whatsoever?

Being in the NICU does require that you adjust to their rules and their way of doing things, but that doesn't mean you have no say at all.

You need to understand that you are your baby's voice. And it's a mistake to stay silent.

While it's fantastic to have your baby cared for by competent and caring nurses & doctors, still nobody loves your baby as much as you do, nobody wants the best for your baby more than you do.

Your thought and ideas are important. Your questions are important. Your requests are important.

So speak up. Ask the questions.

#7 Focusing Too Much on the Future

Sad NICU mother alone at home sitting on couch
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 It’s easy to spend all of your energy worried about the future, focusing your attention on the long-term. Of course it is. 

Whether you're worried about scary diagnoses that your doctors have warned you of, or you're just hating every moment in the NICU and can't wait until you're out of there, it's easy to avoid finding joy in the present.

If you are able to slow down and embrace the now - this moment, this feeding, this cuddle, this sweet baby smile - you will be reminded of the good in the world.

And that balance is really healthy for you.

Focusing too much energy on the negative makes the whole journey much more difficult.

Give yourself permission to find whatever joy you can right now.

#8 Thinking You're Not Important

Preemie mother kissing premature baby in NICU
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Do you feel as if you're not all that important to your preemie baby right now?

Nothing could be further from the truth! 

You matter, more than anyone in your baby’s life. 

Even when you feel inadequate, even when you are not there.

Your love is more powerful, and your attachment is real.

Your baby knows your voice. Your baby knows your smell. Your baby knows your touch.

You may not be your baby's main care giver right now, which is really hard, but that does not mean your baby doesn't need you. Your baby may sleep all the time and not seem to need your presence, but your care and concern help you bond.

Your baby needs you desperately.

To be his advocate. To be nourished by your milk if you're both able. To feel your touch. To hear your voice. To smell you and have you there.

Only you can do this. Only you can be mom.

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