Yes, we’re talking BABIES today! Well, more specifically, NICU babies and their sweet parents. My friend, Megan, approached me with the idea to share a gift guide for parents who have a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, and I was totally on board. For many families, having a preemie and dealing with all of the emotions of parenthood, child’s health and well being, and life itself can be so overwhelming. For people who want to help, they sometimes don’t know where to start. I was certainly in this group as I tried to support Megan the best I could from afar. I’ll let Megan take it from here 🙂
Hi!! I am Hilari’s friend, Megan, and my son, Ben, weighed just three pounds when he was born almost 2 months early. I had preeclampsia and had to have an emergency c-section when we discovered the baby was in distress. The day after he was born, I was finally cleared to meet him for the first time. My husband wheeled me into the NICU, showed me how to complete a surgical scrub up to my elbows, introduced me to the nurses who had been keeping my son alive, and showed me how to “hand hug” our tiny baby without irritating his thin skin. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks. I had been a babysitter, nanny, daycare worker, and camp counselor, but in this moment, I had no idea how to care for my OWN son.
Soon I realized, though the excellent doctors and nurses were tasked with keeping Ben alive and thriving, I was uniquely qualified to provide two things for my baby: breastmilk and connection. In the days and weeks that passed, I found certain products helped me fulfill my important new roles as milk-maid and comfort-giver. When parents-to-be daydream about their first few weeks with their child, they never imagine being in the NICU. Registries don’t include carefully curated preemie clothes. It can be difficult for friends and family members to know what NICU parents need during this time. They may not want visitors at the hospital (visitors may even be restricted due to hospital rules), they may not be home enough to enjoy home-cooked meals or Edible Arrangements. However, it is still so meaningful to know that friends and family members are rooting for their new little family. For this reason, I have compiled a list of gift ideas for NICU parents based on products that made our time in the NICU a little bit easier.
- Emily Ley Baby Book with NICU Page Pack – While I was on bed rest before Ben was born, I had A LOT of time to search for the perfect baby book. I loved the clean lines and modern styling of the Emily Ley Baby Book. After Ben was born I was so excited to find that I could order additional NICU pages! Day after day, I sat in the NICU writing in his beautiful baby book. Now he has pictures of all his super hero nurses and reminders of his NICU milestones for us to treasure forever. They also have add-on pages for other non-traditional starts including infertility, foster care and adoption, and heavenly baby.
- Carter’s Precious Firsts 3-Piece Converter Gown Set – It can be difficult to find preemie clothing in stores, and even then not all preemie clothes are created equal (Tip: Burt’s Bees preemie clothes were huge and didn’t fit Ben for months). Also, steer clear of zippers because it can be difficult to run wires, leads, or tubes through them. These 3-piece sets (found at Target) are an awesome feat of engineering. The playsuit can be snapped into a gown, for easy diaper access, or pants. The set includes booties and a hat that actually fit my tiny baby (at 4 pounds). Ben’s going home outfit was one of these sets! Don’t worry about gender, gowns are totally appropriate for all newborns!
- Mum & Bub Soothing Ointment by Aden + Anais – All NICU visitors have to complete a full surgical scrub each time a visitor enters (including if you just run to the car or cafeteria). This consists rubbing and scrubbing harsh chemicals and hot water onto your hands and forearms for at least 3 minutes. This is important to protect the immunocompromised babies, but it wreaks havoc on skin. My sister gifted me this Mum & Bub ointment and I would rub it onto my hands and forearms. It is nice and thick, so it lasted until the next scrub. It is all-natural so I used it on cracked nipples as well. Heck, I used it on everything (including my c-section incision)! Once we got home, I used the ointment on Ben too. It works great for diaper rash and chapped cheeks. Also, it smells delicious! One of my nurses said it smelled like cookies (I shared it with them because they have to wash their hands a million times a day).
- Aden + Anais Silky Soft Swaddle – My cousin had a baby in the NICU who was born just before Ben 3 months early. When Ben was born, I reached out to her for fellowship and advice. She recommended I bring home the blanket Ben was swaddled in each day and lay it on my chest so that I could smell his delicious newborn smell while I pumped. Y’all… it TOTALLY worked! I will never smell anything sweeter than Ben’s newborn smell. It can sometimes be hard to get milk to let down, especially when the baby is MILES away, but smell is a strong sense and it worked like a charm. These bamboo swaddles are so soft, easy to wrap tightly around teeny preemies, and they held the new baby smell way better than plain cotton muslin. I had a few of these and I would bring one home every night, sleep and pump with it, wash it, and bring it back. Doing laundry to bring to him in the NICU gave me a sense of normalcy.
- NuRoo Pocket Skin-to-Skin Babywearing Shirt – Skin-to-skin time is called kangaroo care in the NICU because the baby is being treated while benefiting from the heat and connection from family members. There is evidence that kangaroo care reduces rates of mortality, illness, and infection and shortens hospital stays. It was also great way for my husband and I to bond with our teeny preemie. This handy shirt has a pocket to slip the baby right into for kangaroo care with a little extra warmth and modesty and it can double as a carrier for baby-wearing once baby is home. Unlike most carriers, there is no lower weight limit.
- NuRoo Nursing Scarf – Unsurprisingly there’s not a lot of privacy in a NICU. We were fortunate enough to have a private room, but here was still a clear glass wall and doctors and nurses coming in and out all the time. Whether I was pumping, nursing, or doing kangaroo care, this scarf provided some modesty. The snaps make it really versatile and it is so soft and washes well so I could keep it clean for my immunocompromised little guy.
- PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag -My husband and I traversed the road from our home to the hospital hundreds of times. We were always either bringing breastmilk for the baby or snacks to keep my milk supply up. I discovered these genius lunchboxes that are totally freezable and stay cold up to 12 hours. It was a game changer! To a new mom there is nothing sadder than spoiled breastmilk and these lunchboxes stay cold all day! I also used them for my own snacks. I could only eat so much fast food, but we weren’t home long enough to eat a sit-down meal. They come in lots of different sizes. I recommend the “baby bottle” or “lunch” sizes for breastmilk and “picnic” size for grownup food. Maybe you could leave it on their doorstep fully stocked with healthy snacks and a note that you’re rooting for them! (Note: If you are providing snacks, oatmeal is good for milk supply!)
Megan and Ben – aren’t they adorable?!
The most important thing you can provide to NICU parents is a sense that they are not alone and you are cheering them on. If your love language is gift giving (like both Hilari’s and mine) you will want to show your support by providing gifts. I hope this gift guide is helpful! Let us know if you have any preemie questions or other gift suggestions in the comments. Happy gifting!