Top Questions about Visitors after the NICU

NICU Growing Home Series

When is it safe to take my baby out in public?

Because your baby was born prematurely, it’s important to remember to keep your baby safe from unnecessary exposure to bugs in the environment. Your baby’s immune system may not be fully developed which may be putting your baby at an increased risk of sickness or infection. 

When you do take your baby out, try to avoid large crowds of people or closed areas where many people gather or shop on a regular basis.

Some of these places include:

  • The mall, department, or grocery stores.
  • Schools or playgrounds.
  • Restaurants.
  • Your baby’s pediatrician’s office. With multiple appointments, this is hard to avoid, but you can ask to be placed in the well baby area or if possible, to be put in an examination room while you wait. 

Should I allow friends and family to visit my baby when we get home from the NICU?

When your baby is discharged from the NICU you may have many well-meaning people; family and friends who may want to come and visit. It is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Your premature baby will be more sensitive to stimulation and may do better if not held and passed around in a crowd of people. Too much noise can make your baby feel disorganized and unhappy.  Watch your baby’s special body language and speak up if you feel your baby needs a break.
  • If it is flu or RSV season, it is important to limit visitors at this time.
  • Make sure your friends and family are healthy and free from viruses, such a cold when visiting your baby. If they are sick, make sure they visit at a later date.
  • Do not let people who are smoking around your baby. Keeping your baby safe and free from smoke, even second-hand smoke is very important to your baby’s health.
  • You CAN limit the number of people who visit at one time as well as limit the time they stay.

How do I react to what people may say about my premature baby? How do I educate them and squash some of the myths they may have?

You may be bombarded with questions and comments from strangers as well as friends and family. Some of these questions may include:

  • “Why is your baby so small?"
  • “You need to expose your baby to germs to build their immune system."
  • “Was it something you did?"
  • “You're just being paranoid."
  • “I know what you mean..."
  • “You're being overprotective."
  • This is what I would do."

It can be very frustrating and exhausting to always explain yourself and feel like you have to defend the decisions you are making in the best interest of your baby.  It’s important to keep in mind you are your baby’s biggest advocate. Don’t be afraid to speak up and let your family and friends know what is important to you and to your baby. And if they don’t understand...it’s okay. Move on, don’t exhaust yourself trying to educate people who don’t want to be educated.

Put your efforts into your baby. You know what is best and you are doing a good thing. Surround yourself with a support system. If you can’t find it in your close friends or family, find it online, in a group or a community of parents that understand what you have been through and where you are going. 

How can I get some help from family and friends, such as grandparents if I am limiting visitors? 

  • If you have other children at home, now would be a good time to call on friends and relatives to help out with siblings. Perhaps a special outing or an overnight visit to their house. This will allow a special time for the older child while giving you some time and space to acclimate your preemie to the new home environment. 
  • If you have a friend or family member ask you how they can help, simply ask them to bring you a meal or give them your grocery list and have them go shopping for you. Maybe they can come by and throw a load of laundry in or clean the bathroom for you. 
  • If you have a close friend or family member you trust, you can ask them to stop by and allow you to have 30 minutes to yourself so that you can shower, wash your hair, or decompress.

While most relatives are well-meaning, there are those who will give you advice that you don’t want to hear or advice that is incorrect for your preemie. You will need to decide what is best for your family and whether visits and phone calls from others are helpful or hurtful. It can be a stressful time of adjustment. If you find just one person who will be there to listen to you and advocate for you and your baby, they can help you explain to others your needs and your decisions, and what is best for your baby.  

Sources:

Retrieved from http://babystepstohome.com/nicu-discharge-module.pdf

Retrieved from http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/hospital/nicu_toolkit/nicutoolkit.pdf

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