Being in the NICU for baby's first Christmas can be unsettling. Families have traditions that may be interrupted, travel plans that have to be cancelled and family that may not be able to gather together for the holiday.
However, baby's 1st Christmas can still be special and memorable, even when in the NICU. Staff and parents just need to do a little planning, and magic can be around all season long! We have 10 ways that families or staff can help make the holiday brighter!
(for even more ideas, hop over to our Christmas/Winter Pinterest board HERE)
1. Hang a Stocking
A stocking can make a hospital space more festive and personalized. Hang baby's stocking on their crib (or isolette), the wall or any where else that would hold a cute and festive sock. BONUS: Take time to fill the stocking with small gifts for the baby as well! Friends and Family will LOVE to opportunity to buy gifts to honor baby's first Christmas!
2. Make an ornament
A common tradition is to buy a baby's first Christmas ornament. With a baby spending their first Christmas in the NICU, you can take the time to make a very personalized ornament that will capture the memory of their NICU stay. Buy a clear bulb ornament and paint their name and the year on it, stuff it with items such as their first baby hat, name band or leads, or try getting their footprint on the outside.
3. Get Santa Photos (or Christmas Photos)
Does your family typically get photos with Santa? See if the NICU is bringing Santa or his elves to the unit to capture that first Santa photo in the hospital. If that isn't offered, then dress baby up in a cute Christmas outfit and take your own holiday pictures. Parents should dress up too and ask staff to take a family picture! Need ideas of where to get adorable preemie baby Christmas outfits? Look no further. We have put together a list of great sites for you HERE.
4. Sing Christmas Carols
Quietly sing Christmas songs to babies, or softly play Christmas music near their bedside. Music is soothing to baby's, so let them enjoy some classic holiday favorites. BONUS: Singing or listening to music can help calm parents and staff too! It will bring joy and peace to what is typically a stressful environment.
5. Create a baby's first Christmas card
Do you typically send out holiday cards? Do you like creating ones that are filled with family photos from the year? Take the opportunity to both create your cards but also announce baby's first Christmas! Maybe include an ultrasound photo, their birth day photo and a current photo with the whole family! What better way than to celebrate their arrival and their first holiday at the same time?
6. Decorate a mini tree
If the space in the NICU around the baby allows, buy a mini tree and create a holiday feel for baby and for parents when they are there visiting. Unfortunately many times it is a safety hazard to have anything plugged in, so look for battery operated light strands so that the tree can be lit up and stay safe!
7. Read Christmas stories
They know that early literacy improves when babies are read to. That includes babies right at birth! Find some fun holiday books that can be read to baby throughout the season. There are classics like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf and The Night Before Christmas, but there are also hundreds of other fun stories to chose from. Visit a local book store or visit the local library!
8. Make Christmas crafts
When spending time at a baby's bedside, there is lots of downtime while baby is sleeping that could be filled up with Christmas craft making! There are many craft kits to be found on-line or at a local craft store, and usually a bedside table is plenty of room to lay out the materials and put together easy holiday projects. BONUS: If you make several items, you can donate them to other babies in the unit that may enjoy a holiday decoration to brighten their spirits.
9. Attend a Christmas Eve Service
The beauty of technology is that people can attend church services without ever physically attending church! If you celebrate Christmas as part of a religious belief, then attend church services virtually, so you can participate from the comfort of baby's bedside. If you don't attend a church regularly, or if your home church does not transmit their services on-line, there are MANY choices available on church websites or even facebook live! Find one that sounds right to you~
10. Put together a Christmas time capsule
Time goes by so quickly, and once children come into the picture, time seems to speed up even more. Capture all that you can from baby's first Christmas by creating a time capsule so that years down the road, you can reflect back on where baby's journey began. Consider a newspaper, a list of popular things (songs, TV shows, movies, etc.), the price of every day items (milk, eggs, cheese, fuel, etc.), an outfit or hat that they fit into, a handprint or footprint and a letter written about all of the fun ways the holiday was special, even though they spent it in the hospital!
Do you have other suggestions?