When I saw Leeann’s video on how to pack your NICU Hospital Bag, I knew I wanted her to write a blog post. So often we plan for months for our children, but it doesn’t always go as planned. Being one of those moms, but in a different way, I thought her story could help moms in so many ways. Below is her post and describes a few items to include in your NICU Hospital Bag.
Hi everyone! My name is Leeann, I’m 27 years old and I’m a micro preemie mom. I’m beyond flattered that Amy reached out to me to guest blog from the perspective of a NICU mom! I love educating people about premature birth, my personal experiences with it, and all that it entails!
You’ve most likely heard of a baby being born premature.
A preemie is a baby born at or before 37 weeks of gestation (babies are typically carried to 40 weeks to complete a term pregnancy). A micro preemie, then, is a baby who is born at or before 26 weeks of gestation, OR a baby born weighing less than 1 lb 12 oz (800 grams). At 26 weeks and 1 day, I gave birth to my son, weighing in at a “whopping” 2 lbs 6 oz. By size, they considered my son very large, but they still considered him a micro preemie based on his gestational age at birth.
I always looked forward to pregnancy with anxious anticipation.
I waited to experience all of the stages, if you will, with my husband with excitement. We love babies, and I always wanted to be a mom. I just never anticipated becoming a mom in the way that I did. On a Saturday during my pregnancy, I woke up, the exact day of my 26th week of pregnancy, in excruciating pain. I figured maybe it was just the way I was sleeping, so I had some water and laid back down in bed. When it got worse, after multiple phone calls to the doctor, they told me to get to the hospital immediately.
No time to think just go!
I went with just the clothes on my back, my wallet, keys, phone, and of course my phone charger. No one expects to have a baby just 13 hours later with absolutely nothing you need or want. I didn’t even have my own toothbrush or a fresh change of clothes!
Inevitably, I spent the next 112 days in the hospital. I stayed in the hospital for 6-16 hours each day, or consecutive days straight through, as I often spent the night. Since I didn’t have my hospital bag for labor and delivery, I quickly figured out exactly what I needed to make the NICU experience a little more comfortable for me. Our friend gifted us a Zack Pack from a wonderful, local organization called Zachary’s Mission. They donate book bags full of toiletries, food, accessories, literally ANYTHING needed for parents in the NICU. A friend of my husband purchased one for us and from that point on, it became my daily NICU hospital bag.
As I just gave birth (completely naturally, to some degree of surprise), I still needed things for self care.
After having a baby, pads and breast pads are essential, as well as a change of undergarments just in case. I didn’t want to leave to get clothes, as I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my son. And I didn’t exactly live right next door to the hospital, either.
My pumping journey started later in the morning after having my son, so a hands-free pumping bra (or two) became a lifesaver! I spent so much time attached to the pump, that I at least wanted to have my hands free. Plus, for those of you mamas with longer drives to your NICU, you can even pump in the car! Not necessarily the easiest task, but it definitely helped me better manage and maximize my time! I also purchased a nursing cover that I could toss on if, while I pumped, a male physician came in to speak to me. The physicians are always very respectful of the moms’ privacy. Never turn them away! They’re very busy, so take their time when they can give it!
Another essential – deodorant.
Postpartum hormones are CRAZY, and since I pumped, I never wanted to smell badly. So, I always kept one or two sticks of deodorant in my bag! I also kept an extra set of hospital grade pump tubing. My NICU provided a hospital grade pump in each pumping moms’ room, as did my work. At work, they required me to use my own tubing for cleanliness. I utilized my same NICU hospital bag at work so I didn’t have so much to carry.
I also kept lots of extra NICU-approved bottles for breast milk storage, as well as the labels they required. This way I could package it up before I got there and save myself time later. I always needed extra steam sterilization bags, too! You find them in lots of stores, but my NICU provided me with some. The NICU also gave me some of the baby heel heating pads to utilize for pumping. These helped with my flow when I placed one in my bra. Oh! And don’t forget a water bottle!!! Most NICUs will allow moms to bring reusable water bottles to stay hydrated and healthy!
Most of my other NICU hospital bag essentials just kept me entertained.
In the NICU, you usually can’t hold your child as much as you’d like to. In the earlier days, weeks, and sometimes months, holding your child is only allowed once, MAYBE twice, a day for as long as the baby tolerates it. For the first few weeks of my son’s life, he only tolerated being out of his incubator in kangaroo care for 30 minutes to 3 hours once a day. Eventually, an alarm event triggered (decrease in heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation all simultaneously). When too tired, which we couldn’t anticipate, I put him back in the incubator for the day. It’s a lot of work for those babies to be outside of the incubator. It is their makeshift version of the womb with temperature and humidity control, that early on in their life.
So, after I held him for the day, I sat next to him and held his hand, did his changes, his weekly bath, and helped with cares until I went home that night. I brought myself a book, a phone charger, a coloring book, and some markers. I often read to my son, or played him some quiet music throughout the day as I spent time with him. When he slept, I colored, read, or scrolled through social media because it does get quite lonely sitting alone, and often times in the dark.
My last, but certainly not least, essential item for your NICU hospital bag, a journal.
Unfortunately, I did not have a lot of continuity of care aka I didn’t have the same nursing staff throughout our stay. By day 99 we still had “new-to-us” nurses. It got frustrating, but writing down and keeping track of plan of care initiatives as well as feeds, progress, oxygen levels for that day, alarm events, etc. became therapeutic for me. Keeping track of these things allowed me to more effectively function as the point person for my son’s care interventions. This way I made sure everyone stayed on the same page day-to-day.
So, to the mom in the NICU reading this right now, being a NICU mom is a big responsibility.
It’s tough, mentally and physically. You have great days, and just as many terrible days. But, ultimately, remember that you are witnessing a miracle happen right before your eyes. It is hard, and will possibly be equally if not more difficult for you, to see it in the moment. But, looking back, I cherish those extra 14 weeks. I bonded and built a relationship with my son, and thankful it worked out extremely positively for us.
But no matter what, please remember to take care of yourself, too.
Your child or children may be your world, but you are also theirs. They need you healthy and well, in your best mental and physical state to function in this high-stress environment. Please try not to be hard on yourself. Key word – try. You can’t control what happened, but only what happens from this point forward. Take each day as it comes, good or bad, but always find one positive thing that happened that day to reflect on, no matter how small. You can and you will get through this! You’re doing great!
I want to thank Leeann for writing this post on what to pack in your NICU hospital bag. Having to stay in the hospital with your newborn is never something you expect to happen. Knowing what to do when it does, can be a lifesaver! I hope you found this helpful, if so, let me know that I can bring more articles like this to the blog!