The moment my baby was born he was wide-eyed, content, and handsome. At 7 pounds, 13 ounces, he was the picture of a perfectly healthy baby. I was the one who needed medical attention, stitches, and help to keep my fever down due to pre-eclampsia. After the first day in the hospital as I seemed to not know what I was doing when I tried to breastfeed, I called in a lactation consultant. She came in and within 30 seconds of seeing my boy sent him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Apparently he was showing yellowish skin and was breathing rapidly.
That was the start of a week-long stay for Spencer in the NICU. As any new mom can attest, I had feelings of sadness, guilt, and fear when I could no longer be right next to my baby boy or take him home when I got to go home. Each day in the NICU I kept asking the doctors whether we could take him home. He had so many monitors and needles attached to him that seemed way too much for a newborn to handle. He had his heel pricked everyday to check his jaundice levels and bloodtests, a spinal tap, and antibiotics administered every 12 and 24 hours. I wished and wished that he never needed to be in the NICU. Seven days seemed like an eternity to wait for him to come home with me.
After this ordeal I realized there were some significant benefits to having him stay in the NICU in his first days of life. As I shared about his personality, feeding schedule, and sleep schedule, many of my mommy friends told me I had an ‘easy baby’ and that they wished their newborns were like mine. Here are my top 9 reasons going to the NICU can be a good thing.
- Your baby is cared for by professionals with a ton of newborn care experience. They know what to do when he gets fussy. You will get lots of extra guidance on how to care for your baby just by watching, asking, and listening to these loving nurses. They show you how to change your baby’s diaper, take his temperature, burp him and hold a bottle to feed him.
- Your baby is put on a solid feeding routine immediately after birth. He was fed every three hours on the dot. This established an excellent feeding schedule for me when I went home with him.
- You get to practice breastfeeding with knowledgeable nurses every day that you’re there. I got tons of advice from each nurse that cared for my baby. They gives me tips and strategies to try as I learned to breastfeed with my baby.
- You get to rest through the night (which you NEED since you’ll never get to do this for a while and your body just went through one of life’s most traumatic experiences.)
- Free diapers for a week plus some goodies such as baby bottles to store your breast milk if you were pumping, access to hospital grade breast pumps and training on how to use those breastpumps.
- Around the clock monitoring which you wouldn’t get if you went home. If something was wrong they’d receive immediate care. They know what to check for if your baby isn’t acting normal.
- You get to make friends with new moms who are in the same boat as you.
- You don’t have to deal with a bombardment of visitors when you’re feeling weak and overwhelmed. (The NICU only allows 2 visitors at at time).
- I also got him started on tummy time which was recommended by the nurses even in his first week of life. This helps with neck strength and reducing the flatness on the back of his little head.
Of course there are babies who stay in the NICU much longer and wish they could take home their babies sooner. It’s not all glamorous, but its important to keep in mind the positive aspects of the NICU because the moment we become a mom is the moment we become a worry machine.
Did you have a NICU baby? What was your experience like?