It’s always stressful and confusing to have a baby in the NICU, but there’s an extra layer of stress that can come during the holidays. On the one hand, the world around you is festive and celebratory, and maybe you’d like to be a part of that. On the other, your baby is in the hospital, you are exhausted and worried, and you’re not sure if you can cope.
Please know that you are not alone in this, and that many parents have struggled with those same feelings. We asked parents who have spent time in our NICU over the holidays for some tips, and this is what they told us:
- Be clear and open with your family and friends about what you need and what you can handle. If you feel up to being with people, great! If not, that’s absolutely fine too. Remind people that this is not the way things will be forever; it’s just what you need right now.
- Remember that it’s cold, flu and RSV season. Big crowded events may not be the best choice for you if you’re trying to stay healthy. Also be very clear with anyone who wants to visit you and your baby in the hospital that they must be healthy. Otherwise take advantage of technology (FaceTime, Skype, Facebook chat) to connect with loved ones.
- Find ways to celebrate that are meaningful to you and that feel good to you. In Sunnybrook’s NICU there are many holiday events for families; if you feel like participating you and your family members are welcome to everything. It’s also okay if you don’t feel like participating – our feelings won’t be hurt.
- Let the medical team support you if family and friends aren’t listening to your messages about what you and your baby needs. We have handouts and letters that can help educate, and we are always happy to chat with your extended circle if that helps you. The Canadian Premature Babies Foundation also has some helpful information online about common winter illnesses that you can share with your circle.
- Make memories with your baby, your care team and your family. These first holidays with your baby may not be what you expected, but you can still find special moments to turn into lasting memories. Dressing your baby up in special holiday clothes or with holiday blankets, turning NICU items into ornaments, or singing holiday songs to your baby are all small things you can do to make the holiday season feel special again.
From all of us at Sunnybrook NICU, we wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday season, and a very happy new year!