We asked parents in the BuzzFeed Community who have had a baby in the NICU to tell us their best advice, and here are the tips you need to know:
1. "If you bring your own baby clothes and blankets for the hospital to use, sleep with them first — your scent on the items will comfort the baby."
—Tracy Gilbert Gardner, Facebook
2. "Try to visit the NICU at the same time every day around the time of the nurses' shift change. That way, you'll get to know ALL the nurses caring for your baby, and you and your baby will establish a routine."
3. "Designate someone you trust to be your messenger, and let them share your baby's updates with family and friends so you can step away from the phone and just focus on your baby."
4. "It's OK to not be there all the time. If you need a break — even if just for an hour — take one! You aren't a bad parent for taking a breather."
5. "Celebrate your baby's milestones while they're in the NICU, just as you would if they were home. Make a scrapbook, post on Instagram, do something — anything — that will help you celebrate them during this journey."
6. "Pack yourself a lunch, water, and snacks. Eating at those hospital cafeterias can get expensive!"
7. "The nurses will become your best friends — they will hold you, reassure you, and teach you little things that help you feel like you're part of your child's experience. Let them."
8. "And after your baby has been home a few months, send a thank-you card to them with updated photos, so they can see how much your baby has grown. Or better yet, go visit with NICU with your big, healthy baby!"
9. "Don't Google. Seriously, don't do it. Trust your baby's doctor and nurses, and save yourself a trip down the internet wormhole of fear."
10. "Take care of yourself, too! I didn't, and ended up being admitted to the hospital for extreme exhaustion and dehydration."
11. "Remind yourself that your baby is exactly where they need to be."
12. "When my labor was induced due to preeclampsia, I didn't even get a chance to hold my son before he was whisked away to an incubator. When I finally got to the NICU — physically and emotionally exhausted — to see him for the first time, he was behind a wall of plastic, covered in wires. I was desperate for a connection to this little human who had so recently been a part of me. Then I remembered reading that he would know my voice. So I leaned right up to the barrier between us and sang to him for hours. It helped me through the fear and allowed him to feel my love there."
13. "Ask what support resources the hospital provides for NICU parents. They might have helpful programs you aren't even aware of."
14. "I wish I'd known how common PTSD is after a NICU stay. I suffered from terrible anxiety and stress from the experience for over two years afterwards before finally getting help. And even now, the sound of a heart monitor can take me right back to their bedside in an instant."
15. "Ask all of the questions! The doctors will talk to you as if you are a doctor, too, so ask them to explain the things you don't understand."
16. "Bring sleepers for your baby that have snaps instead of zippers — the snaps are easy to snap around wires."
17. "Be sure to check if the hospital waives parking fees for NICU parents. We didn't realize that was a thing until we'd already paid for a week of parking."
18. "Try to ignore the progress of the other babies in the NICU and focus on your own baby. Comparing your baby to the others can leave you feeling terrified, guilty, and can cause you to slide into the pit of 'what ifs.'"
19. "People will ask how they can help you. Ask them for gift cards to local restaurants so you can get away for a hot meal once in a while. Of course, delivery cards and gas cards for all those trips to the hospital are helpful, too!"
20. "Connect with the other families. Having a baby in the NICU is a unique experience, and talking to someone that understands what you're going through is SO important."
"All the other families become your 'team,' and you all root for each other. You silently cheer when they go home, and you quietly mourn their bad news with them, too. No one else understands what you are all going through but each other. And the day you leave, they are silently cheering for you, too."
21. "And once you're out of the hospital, reconnect with those families and celebrate how far all your babies have come."
22. "Know that you are good enough, your body is good enough, and you are not to blame."
23. "Most hospitals have counselors or chaplains dedicated to the NICU, so talk to them in those moments when you feel like your heart is being ripped out."
—Karin Rankin, Facebook
24. "Ask the nurses for extra diapers, blood pressure cuffs or footprints as mementos — most of them will gladly oblige!"
25. "My baby was in the NICU for six weeks, which meant six weeks of wearing hospital ID bracelets everywhere I went. What helped me through it was being honest when people asked what they were for — because it turned out that everywhere I went I ran into people who lived through the same thing. By being open with them, I was able to hear all the amazing, validating, comforting things they had to say. And I felt much less alone."
26. "You're going to wash your hands a gazillion times a day, so get some extra hand cream to keep your hands from cracking."
27. "If you're planning on breastfeeding, make sure you pump as close to the baby as you can — feeling them near and hearing their sounds helps boost milk production."
28. "Take it one moment at a time. Cherish each time you get to touch or hold your baby. Don't be afraid to to cry. And know that you are stronger than you think."
"And remember that this part of the journey isn't forever. When my daughter was in the NICU, I thought it was never going to end...but eventually it did."