A stay in the NICU can be fraught with fatigue, distress and worry, and a myriad of other emotions. Between sleepless nights, information-packed meetings with doctors and nurses, and a general sense of being overwhelmed, even the smallest conveniences can make the world of difference.
In honor of September being the Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness (NICA) Month, we sat down with new parents Josh and Britt. Twins Reagan and Cooper were born on July 21, 2019, weighing in at 3 lbs. 15oz. and 4 lbs. 15oz., respectively. Their early arrivals—and slight weigh-ins—reserved them a spot in the NICU. Reagan would stay for 22 days until able to eat all meals outside of her feeding tube. Cooper would follow 17 days later once he was breathing consistently on his own.
Their days began to look like some version of this: leaving for the hospital every day at 10am to make it to the babies’ 11am feedings, where they’d stay until 6pm—for 22 days straight. Once Reagan came home, Britt took charge of Reagan in the morning, arriving at the hospital for Cooper’s 11am feeding, and coming home to feed Reagan in the middle of the day before headed back to the hospital for Cooper’s 5pm feeding. Evenings were used to recharge from the emotionally draining days, but also to prepare for the next full day of feedings and hospital runs. And their bags, packed every morning for such visits, carried some version of this:
Cell phone chargers. Seems like a no brainer, but the days are long and sometimes the best thing to do is scroll through the 500 pictures you've already taken of them.
ToteSavvy Deluxe. If breastfeeding, the cooler pocket makes transporting stored milk from home to the hospital easy, maintaining cooler temps needed for milk to be accepted.
Snacks. You can't eat in the room itself, but hospital food gets old. Some hospitals provide snacks M-F in the parent lounge, but on the weekends you’re on your own. Think about packing a lunch and snacks every day.
Sweatshirts and comfy clothing. Some days it can be really cold and other days warm. Again, it's also about being comfortable. There is a lot of sitting around in silence and being comfortable makes things that much easier.
Baby clothes. Once your baby is in an open-air crib you can bring your own baby clothes with you.
Notepad, binder, and journal. You will receive a ton of packets (welcome packets, lactation suggestions, discharge info, etc.) and this helps to keep it all straight. The journal helps chart their milestones, which is important in the NICU.
Pen. You have to label everything; all bottles of breast milk must be labeled with the date, time, and medications. Plus, something to jot down notes in the journal and notepad.
Camera (phone or other). Being able to stare at those photos later makes the nights away that much easier.
List of doctors. Ask the hospital for a list of on-call doctors so that, when you get a random phone call or someone steps in to tell you how your baby is doing, you know who it is.
Chapstick and lotion. The hospital is dry and you are constantly washing with soaps that have bleach in them. Your hands get super dry and uncomfortable. (Think winter in the middle of summer.)
Milestone blocks. Just another way to feel like you can capture milestones, just like everyone else
Pump parts. If you're pumping, washing the pump parts at home, rather than in the NICU, allows extra time to be with babies.
Insulated jug with a straw. All water must have a top and a straw, and it’s the most important thing for breastfeeding.
Nail clippers or nail file for the baby. The hospital generally doesn't cut them, so make sure you bring your own.
Despite it all, having an organized bag really kept things together. With a ToteSavvy on hand, they were able to spend less time thinking about what they needed to bring, and what could fit in their diaper and hospital bags. Instead, they were able to keep their focus on their two precious babies—and exactly where their attention was always meant to be.
Thanks to all the doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to aid the babies and parents spending time in the NICU. This September, and always, we honor you and send you our biggest appreciation.