Come to Dads' Night to learn how you can best support your growing family and take care of yourself, too.
Let Others Help
Set your priorities and let others pick up the slack. Ask for and accept help. Make a list of practical things people can do to help: cook meals, clean the house, mow the lawn, go grocery shopping, take children to school and walk the dog.
When you return to work, try to limit your work hours so that you can spend time with your baby, partner and other children. Let your employer know about your baby's condition, in case you need to leave work unexpectedly or are sometimes unable to accomplish all that you would like. This can take some pressure off of you.
Maintain Your Sense of Humor
Try to joke about the little things. Humor can be healing, and can make a difficult situation better for everyone. Take a break. Though your time is limited, try to fit in activities that help you relieve stress, such as exercise, sports, hobbies, going to the movies or playing with your other children. You will be better able to cope and help your family if you give yourself a break once in a while. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet is also essential.
Consider attending a NICU parent support group or Parent Hour. Participate in the NICU Navigator Program. You may find it helpful to talk with other dads with babies in the NICU. No one understands what you are going through better than other dads who have been there.
You are already playing an important role in your baby's life. You provide your baby with comfort and support, and you celebrate victories as only your baby's father can. Take pride in all the things you do to help your baby and your partner, and realize that you are making a difference. Remember, you are a member of the NICU team that is working to make your baby stronger.
Ways to Support Mom
Fears, pain, fatigue and hormonal changes can make a mother more emotional and irritable than usual. Keep in mind women handle the NICU roller coaster differently. Mom may blame herself for the baby coming early. It is important to support her and try to convince her that a premature baby is no one's fault.
Listen and empathize with her feelings. Many mothers of premature or sick babies feel responsible and guilty for their baby's condition.
Help With Breastfeeding
Breast milk is the ideal food for all babies, and may have special health benefits for premature and sick babies. Help mom with the demands of pumping milk, getting bottles ready and supporting her in any way you can.
Encourage Well Being
Encourage mom to take care of herself. In her concern over the baby, she may not get enough rest or eat right.
Support Your Baby
Spend Time With Your Baby
Begin bonding with your baby by touching and holding them as soon as the doctor gives you the go-ahead. Kangaroo Care, singing, reading a book and eye contact are all wonderful ways to bond with your NICU baby. Although your baby may look fragile, they won't break. Know that your baby recognizes your voice and touch.
Get to know the staff in the NICU. Learn about your baby's health care needs. The more time you spend with your baby, the more comfortable you will feel about your baby's condition and care. Share any concerns about your baby's care with the staff. Trust your instincts — you are the dad.
Ask as many questions as you need to about your baby's care. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Make decisions about your baby's medical care with your partner.
Spend Time With Other Children
If you have other children at home, try to spend some special time with them. Reassure them that they are loved. They are worried about mom and baby, too.
For More Information About the NICU Navigator Program
To learn more or to request support from a NICU Navigator, please call 858-939-4802.