Once a mother gives birth, all the pain and discomfort she experienced during labor and delivery goes away. Mom now has her baby in her arms as she anxiously awaits to take baby home. And, as beautiful as this moment is -- and can be -- sadly, not every mother is able to experience this instantly.
With an estimated 15 million babies born preterm each year, there's a pretty good chance someone you know will give birth to a premature child. Parent of preemies are often bombarded with tons of questions and emotions, as their child's well-being isn't always certain.
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Here are some ways to help mommies with a child in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).
1.) Offer Meals. Food is truly good for the soul. Sometimes, parents with a child in NICU spend so much time by their LO's side that they might miss the hospital's cafeteria hours. Delivering a home-cooked meal their way, or ordering food that can be delivered, is often a godsend.
2.) Offer Care basket. Speaking of food, there's nothing wrong with packing snacks, along with a journal to write down thoughts, favorite magazines, books, travel-size toiletries, and words of encouragement.
3.) Gift a streaming subscription. Modern technology now makes it easier to watch your favorite show or movie on the go. Should a NICU mommy look for something to help pass the time, a streaming subscription -- like Netflix or HULU -- isn't a bad idea.
4.) Nursing materials. Even if a mother isn't able to nurse her child at the present time, that doesn't mean Mom won't want to in the future. Breastfeeding supplies like a pump (this can get pricey but is greatly appreciated!), nursing bras, freezer-safe storage bags for breast milk, nursing pads, and nursing covers are all wonderful options.
5.) Purchase gift cards. Sure, you might think these are impersonal, but gift cards certainly help make the world go round. These are a great option if you aren't exactly sure what a mother needs, or want to empower her to get what she wants.
6.) Run errands. It's the little things that can make a huge difference. All of us have something we need to get done, but most NICU moms don't want to leave their child's side. Helping your friend or loved one by running a few errands is such a lovely gesture.
7.) Offer transportation. Remember, mom just had a newborn; she might not be cleared to drive just yet. Offering to give a mom with a baby in NICU a lift to and from the hospital helps remove physical and emotional stress.
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8.) Do laundry. With the amount of time a mother spends with her child in the hospital, you can only imagine how quickly the laundry pile adds up. Should you be stumped on what to do, dig into a dirty load.
9.) Help with pets. Hopefully you aren't allergic to furry animals as they need some lovin' too. If you're unable to take in Mom's household pet, consider checking in during the day. (A dog will definitely need to go out to take care of business.) Another option is to help pay for pet boarding.
10.) Spend time in the hospital. So many people overlook this sweet gesture. Sometimes, all Mom needs is someone to talk to -- or just be there for her. Talk about her feelings, allow Mom to vent, or just sit in silence. You being there is what matters most.
11.) Help with other children. Should a NICU mommy have other kids at home, it goes without saying, she's going to need help -- and a lot of it. Whether you lend a hand dropping off the kids or picking them up from school, or staying at Mom's house until she gets home, this is a huge blessing.
12.) Pay for parking. Some hospitals charge a daily rate to use their garage. Needless to say, that bill can quickly add up. One thoughtful gift you can give a mother with a child in NICU is to help pay for the cost of parking.
13.) Offer to visit baby. Let's face it, between running back and forth to the hospital and trying to keep up with the daily hustle, sooner or later, Mom will feel burned out. Should she be physically (and emotionally) tired to go back to the hospital, with her blessing, consider offering to visit LO in NICU on her behalf.
14.) Be a point of contact. At some point, mommies of preemies might get tired of answering the same questions to the same people -- and there's nothing wrong with that. Even if you don't have a background in public relations, there's nothing wrong with offering to be a point of contact, so you can provide loved ones with updates.
15.) Keep the words of encouragement coming. No matter what you decide is the best way to help your friend, do everything in love. Mom needs encouraging words to help her during this time, so please, keep them coming.