Each year as the holiday season falls upon us, I find that I am constantly thinking of the many families that will be celebrating the winter holidays with a new baby in the NICU. While the holidays are often times filled with traditions, celebrations and gatherings.... NICU Families find themselves in a balancing act of trying to maintain some level of normalcy while also spending time in the hospital supporting their fragile child.
However, the holidays can still be special and full of wonderful memories! And during Thanksgiving, what better time to concentrate on the many things to be thankful for!
HOW TO MAKE THE NICU A PLACE OF THANKSGIVING:
1. Create craft turkey's and write everything you are grateful for on their feathers, or design a tree and write your items of thanks on the leaves that decorate it! Thinking about the things you are grateful for, and physically writing them down, can really improve spirits!
2. Join together with other NICU Families and have a holiday meal together. You don't have to have the meal ON Thanksgiving, but enjoy it together a day or two before/after. Spend time getting to know others and supporting each other through the holiday season together.
WHAT TO BE THANKFUL FOR:
What else are you thankful for?
New and improved Parent Support Community!
Patient+Family Care is excited to share the launch of our new and improved NICU Parent Support Community. While our previous community was successful and received great reviews, we are always looking for ways to improve our customer experience. We decided to collaborate with many of our previous participants and we asked them what it was that they wish they would have seen included in the community. We also asked what information they would have found to be helpful if it were included in the program to help them feel even more supported while they were in the NICU. Overwhelmingly, participants all said mental health, self care and preparing for discharge.
These participants not only offered up these topic ideas, but they also offered to help create the content so that new participants would truly hear exactly what parents want to hear. The common goal the parents and Patient+Family Care both had in mind was to create a safe community where current NICU families could join and could learn how to not only survive the NICU journey..... but would THRIVE!
What are the benefits of this unique and engaging community?
There are many benefits to our community, and they of course will differ for every individual. However, the basics can be summarized in the graphic below:
We are happy to be offering this engaging community to parents so that they receive education, information, resources and connection all while having access to a NICU nurse who will teach them how to be an advocate for themselves and their child(ren). More importantly, this community will empower parents to become better prepared to know how to anticipate the roller coaster of emotions that typically accompany the NICU experience and will truly normalize the psychosocial side effects that rarely get discussed.
In my many years of NICU nursing, I was asked countless times from families if they could take me home with them! And I heard families ask my co-workers that same question time and time again.
Families, while in the NICU, especially when they experience a lengthy stay, grow accustomed to having a medical professional looking after their fragile infant 24/7. That brings a level of comfort and when parents are facing the reality of finally taking their child home, the excitement of leaving the hospital can often times be overwhelmed by the fear of not having immediate help near by if something were to go wrong.
The answer to their question unfortunately was/is always no. Nurses can't go home with parents. HOWEVER.... there is a little bit of good news! Parents can become their own N.U.R.S.E. to ensure they are taking care of themselves so that in turn they will be able to better care for their child when outside the hospital walls.
Implementing the N.U.R.S.E. care model is most beneficial if families can begin utilizing the tool while still in the hospital. This provides the opportunity for parents and family members to get used to how the tool works and can utilize the NICU staff as supporters of their plans. Once home, families will be better equipped to continue the practice of N.U.R.S.E. self care and can transition to relying on other family and friends for support.
What is the N.U.R.S.E. care model?
It is simply a way to create, carry out and stick to goals that focus on self care! The individual will create daily goals in several categories, and do their best and meeting those goals to improve and/or optimize health.
Each category signifies an area of focus that if addressed, can help improve an individual's psychosocial support.
N: Nutrition Making a goal related to eating right and having healthy foods/snacks is so important! Think of a goal that will help you get in healthy foods for fuel your body.
U: Understanding Having the information you need to understand what is going on with you and/or with your child will help calm nerves and/or anxiety. It's important to know where to go for appropriate information, as the web can provide inaccurate information that is not applicable to YOUR situation. Ask questions of the medical professionals involved in your or your child's care.
R: Rest & Relaxation Being a new parents is exhausting and overwhelming. Being a parent of a NICU graduate can be even more exhausting and overwhelming due to many complexities of care and worries. Getting plenty of rest is KEY! And finding ways to allow yourself to relax will help you not only feel better, but will help you be more equipped to care for your baby.
S: Spiritual Not everyone believes in a higher power, or a God. So spiritual goals really need to be customized to what spirituality means to you. Is it spending time in prayer? Reading scripture? Meditating? Being out in nature? Finding ways to connect to what is important to you is what this is all about!
E: Exercise Healthy movement and exercise is good for everyone.... especially stressed new parents. Find a way to work an exercise goal into every day. Maybe it's to get out and talk a short walk, to participate in yoga at home, to walk on a treadmill, etc. But setting a goal where you will get some type of exercise every day will be good for everyone!
Download a N.U.R.S.E. template form now and start setting self care goals today!
Most people don't think of the NICU as a place to play games and have fun. It's a scary, overwhelming, isolating and high intensity environment. Who would be playing a game when babies are struggling every day and fighting for their best chance at life?
Well, we are thrilled to be showcasing and releasing our latest product that will get parents of NICU babies playing a game! Because we know what a stressful and exhausting experience the NICU is for many families, we know that a little fun can go a LONG way! And why not have fun doing things that are healthy and helpful for a parents' physical and mental health?
We have created a NICU Parent Bingo game, inspired by Postpartum Internationals Postpartum Bingo game, that is designed especially for NICU families and helping them find a way to focus on their self-care during their child's hospitalization. A neonate's health and overall well being can be dramatically improved when their parent's psychosocial and physical health are in harmony, yet typically NICU families have a difficult time prioritizing themselves when their baby is in the hospital.
We encourage neonatal staff to provide families with a BINGO card early on in a NICU admission, and then find ways to provide incentives for when they complete a traditional Bingo or a full card Bingo. Reward families for making themselves a priority and caring for themselves when they likely want to do everything but that.
Purchase the cards and laminate them to use them over and over again with long term families, or provide a single card to families to hang at their baby's bedside if they have a shorter stay. Get creative on how you present rewards, celebrate parents who are able to participate and use the card as an additional teaching tool to remind families what self care is important to focus on.
For this inaugural NICU Mental Health Awareness Week, we are going to give a way two sets of our brand new Bingo cards! Enter into our drawing, and watch social media on Friday to see who wins!
Spending time in the NICU can be stressful, overwhelming and very emotional. When looking at spending time in the NICU during the holidays, all of those feelings and emotions can be extremely amplified!
Having a baby in the NICU brings a disruption to family traditions, holiday plans and holiday cheer.
Many parents imagine their child’s first Christmas to be one of joy and peace. Many parents get a photo of their child on Santa’s lap, spend quality time cuddling their baby next to a tree full of beautiful twinkling lights, hold their newborn as their baby’s first Christmas ornament is hung on the tree and/or are surrounded by loved ones as they celebrate the magical holiday. However, families who have a baby in the NICU for their first Christmas often find themselves torn as to how to celebrate the holiday, especially if there are other siblings in the family.
Questions that often overwhelm NICU parents:
Over the years of working as a NICU Family Support Specialist, I spent a lot of time meeting with mom's and families who were in the hospital in the family birthing unit on high risk pregnancy bedrest. During my visits with them, I regularly heard them share feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and isolation. Those feelings were typically escalated when the family had children at home; children that needed their mom and all of a sudden had a LOT of questions about why she wasn't at home.
Providing psychosocial support to families experiencing pregnancy bedrest was a very rewarding part of my work, and I have created a safe on-line community to bring families together so help reduce the fear, stress anxiety and isolation that many of them feel. (visit our Families page to learn more). But one area that was always a struggle was helping families navigate how to manage life with other children at home. I desperately wished I could give them a tangible tool that would help them explain to the young children in their family what was going on and help them better grasp the reason why mom had to be in the hospital. There just wasn't a good product out there to use though.
That is until the book "Stuck in Bed: the pregnancy bed rest picture book for kids.... and mom" came along! This book, authored by Jennifer Degl and Angela Davids is all about pregnancy bedrest written from a child'd perspective. The main child in the book asks questions to their mom who answers questions with optimism and hope, while highlighting that while things will be different for a while, there are still fun activities the two of them can do together.
What I love about this book is that it also provides great reassurance and survival tips for mom! It truly is a resource that benefits both mom and child, and really any family member that reads the book. It helps the reader look at bedrest in a more positive light.
The book has brought such comfort to so many families since I have been able to provide this as a resource to them, and I have loved watching the discussions it has started between moms and their children. This book would be a GREAT resource for any hospital to have available to give antepartum patients that have children, or it would make a perfect gift for any mom that is placed on bedrest during her pregnancy that already has children. We can't recommend this book enough!
Purchase your copy here.
For several years I was a family support specialist in a level III NICU and spent countless hours planning, preparing for and hosting parent hours and family events. I had read the abundant research that was available stating how important peer-to-peer support was for NICU families and I wanted to ensure that our unit was offering plenty of opportunities for families to connect with one another, especially once we had transitioned to a a single room unit design. I understood quite well that the long term physical and mental health outcomes of the neonates we were caring for relied heavily on the mental health of the parents while they were in our care during the NICU journey.
Yet despite careful planning and doing all I could to make accommodations to ensure the majority of families could attend, we had terribly low attendance to every event we offered. I would find myself getting so frustrated and so many times I wanted to give up. Why continue to go to so much trouble of planning and hosting events when no one would show up?
Well, instead of giving up....... I realized I had to just get creative!
When a baby winds up in the NICU, parents and families often feel overwhelmed with emotions and questions.
The list of what's and how's are endless and are so stressful for families and as a NICU nurse, I have always wanted to have a simple resource to provide families that would give them answers to all of their biggest questions in one place. Yet there are so many things that I have never been able to find a comprehensive source that has felt supportive and beneficial.
That is until I found this............
I absolutely LOVE finding great resources on line, especially ones that are easy to read, fun, factual and even bring a little humor into the subject.
Let's face it.... when it comes to parenting and motherhood.... things can be difficult and not always pleasant. I know for me, when I first started looking things up on line when I found out I was pregnant, I was not happy to learn things such as:
And this was all going to happen before I left the hospital!!!! This was no beautiful birth miracle that people made it out to be! Fast forward to the massive diaper blow outs, your kid's vomit that you catch in your hand because you can't stand the thought of it getting on the carpet one more time, you peeing yourself jumping on the trampoline at your kid's 5th birthday party and the way you obsess over every bowel movement everyone in your house has!
Google becomes our best friend. You look up everything and you constantly are looking for articles, information and stories on line that will help you make sense of all the chaos and unknowns parenting is throwing your way. You desperately want a manual to this new life...... but there isn't one!!!!!
momlovesbest.com is the closest website to a one stop shop for new mom's that want to find blog posts and pinterest posts from everything related to pregnancy all the way through childhood. With easy to read infographics and entertaining blog stories, every mom is sure to find useful and beneficial information that will help calm some nerves and/or answer a nagging question that is lingering in the back of her mind.
MomLovesBest was created by Jenny Silverstone who is a professional writer, editor and who has been a mother for the past 7+ years. She found herself searching the web looking at various sites trying to find a comprehensive location that could help her do her best, but she felt overwhelmed! So, she created a place that was non-judgemental and safe to help other women transition into the journey of motherhood where they could come and get all the information they needed, or just a second opinion, in a community of other women.
Thank you Jenny! And I am happy to share this great resource with my followers as a resource as well, to find helpful information as you grow with your child out side of the NICU!