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    29 Parents Get Real About What It's Like To Have A Baby In The NICU

    "If you need a break, take one. You're not a bad parent for taking a breather."

    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:

    jenlafit / Via instagram.com

    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."

    daniellet4a096c9f4

    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."

    smurphette

    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."

    virginiag45c12ef4a

    6. "Pack yourself a lunch, water, and snacks. Eating at those hospital cafeterias can get expensive!"

    brittanijrogers / Via instagram.com

    —Tracy Gilbert Gardner, Facebook

    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."

    heatherl41abf4b6d

    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!"

    daniellet4a096c9f4

    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."

    BuzzFeed

    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."

    virginiag45c12ef4a

    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."

    newbornicu_nurse / Via instagram.com

    13. "Ask what support resources the hospital provides for NICU parents. They might have helpful programs you aren't even aware of."

    k4d6b463c3

    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."

    katieoz920

    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."

    buzzfeed.com

    kportelli

    "Nothing is scarier than hearing all the beeping and sounds and not knowing what the hell is happening." —dianamaazela

    16. "Bring sleepers for your baby that have snaps instead of zippers — the snaps are easy to snap around wires."

    kellycobbd

    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."

    rachelolsonw

    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.'"

    thetravelista / Via instagram.com

    virginiag45c12ef4a

    "No baby is exactly the same — twins in the NICU don't even follow the exact same course! Some babies will go home before yours and you’ll go home before others. But everything happens when it's supposed to."

    apetty21

    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!"

    kellycobbd

    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."

    cesher03

    "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."

    michelle8912

    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."

    amandafeltsullen

    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!"

    con_aroma_de_bebe / Via instagram.com

    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."

    fennip

    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."

    kellycobbd

    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."

    nancypeat / Via instagram.com

    rachelolsonw

    "And if your baby is being fed with a feeding tube, do skin-to-skin while they are being fed so they associate eating with being on your chest."

    daniellet4a096c9f4

    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."

    jillcarnelld

    "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."

    sgilbertrd

    29. "My wife had a C-section, so I was exhausted from running back and forth every day to check on the two most important people in my life. But what really helped me was sneaking out before shift change for doughnuts and coffee, talking to the nurses as if they were old friends, dancing for my son when no one was looking...and knowing that miracles happen between those walls."

    heysamanthaa / Via instagram.com

    "Oh, and bring warm socks and a beanie. It gets cold in there."

    lildog75

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