In the first few hours of having your premature baby, we can guarantee that it will feel like your world has been turned upside down. You probably weren’t prepared for your little mouse to be saying hello to you as soon as they have, and it could be that mum – and baby – isn’t very well.
The nurses on the neonatal unit will try and orientate you to the unit as soon as possible, but it can be hard to take it all in, particularly when you have your new baby to focus, so they may wait until the day after your baby has been born to talk you through the visiting policy, and to show you the parents room. One thing that you nurse will be eager to talk to you about is your involvement in your baby’s care. We want to facilitate as much as you would like to do. The nurses will have seen a premature baby like yours hundreds of times, so although it might be new for you, it is most probably not new for them.
Trusting your NICU medical team
The first thing you have to learn to do is trust your nurses and medical team. Everyone involved in your baby’s care has your baby’s best interest at heart. Although it might seem like there is a lot going on, each of the tests and procedures is a necessary evil – aiming to get your baby where they need to be – at home with you!
Family centred care in the NICU
There are studies out there showing that babies have a quicker recovery and gain weight faster, the more parents are involved in their care (Sardoughi & saitz, 2018). This study also showed that parents had less anxiety and stress, the more involved with their child’s care. Parental involvement – or Family-Centred Care - can be anything; from changing nappies, mouth care, feeding, bathing, dressing…..the list goes on. If you can be present for all, or part, of the day, you will be able to get an understanding of your baby’s routine and how you can start to take over some elements of their care, working in partnership with your nurse.
Communicating with your medical team and other families
Although a lot of NICU’s have adopted a very family-centred care model, sometimes it can feel as though communication is lacking. If you feel like you need something explaining, or have a question to ask, please ask someone. Try and be present for the ward round, as this has been shown to improve parent’s perception of care, and is recommended as a strategy to encourage family-centred care (Fanos, et al, 2015). Parent peer support is also widely available on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. Ask your NICU if they have a parents Facebook group, as this is something which they may be able to facilitate.
A great video from Bliss
Bliss have developed a lovely video to show you all of the ways you can provide hands-on care for you little mouse, even if they are in the hospital attached to machines and wires. You can find it here.
We can’t stress how important family-centred care is to the development and progression of your baby’s health and wellbeing, and how it will help you and your family bond with your little mouse, while they are in hospital.
Fanos, et al, (2015) The importance of parents in the NICU, Journal of Paediatric and Neonatal Individualised Medicine.
Sardoughi, S. & Saitz, R. (2018) Parental Involvement in NICU tied to better weight gain in very premature infants, Lancet Journal.