Many different conditions can lead to a baby having to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit. These specialized units can take care of the tiniest newborns, some of whom have serious health concerns. As a parent of a baby in the NICU, you have to be your baby’s advocate.
There are many points that a NICU parent might have to stand firm on when they have a baby in the unit. Without a parent as an advocate, there is a chance that these tiny babies will get substandard care. Here are some important points for parents of NICU patients to remember:
Find out what is going on
Just because your baby can’t speak doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t have rights. You are the person who is going to have to make sure the baby is getting everything necessary to thrive. This includes proper medical care. As the child’s parent and legal guardian, you have a right to know what is going on. You should be given the option to consent to or decline procedures. You must be told your child’s status and condition. There isn’t any reason for you to be left in the dark about what is going on with your baby.
Know the routine
NICUs thrive on routines. Make sure that you know your child’s routine. This will likely include care times and feeding times. These are the times when your child will get one-on-one care from the nurses. Beware, however, that babies on feeding tubes aren’t always held when they are fed. Instead, the feeding tube is usually placed and the syringe is hung to feed the baby. Your baby might not get to be held or get human interaction very much if you aren’t there. If possible, spend as much time as you can at your baby’s side. Try to learn the care techniques that are used and don’t be afraid to take care of your baby using hands-on methods.
Ask questions about everything in the NICU. This can include the type of formula your baby is on, what specific medications are for, what types of testing your baby is going through and similar questions. Babies in the NICU have a large team caring for them, which can make continuity of care difficult. Make notes about what you are told. If you see any deviations, refer to your notes to see who provided the information and find out why there was a change. Never worry about upsetting someone with your questions. Nothing is more important than this new little life!