You know more about bradycardias and oxygen saturation than you ever thought possible. You are celebrating every gram that your baby gains. The car seat test is passed and you know every detail about the NICU schedule. You’re almost done with it all, and it’s time for you to go home from the NICU.
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1. Get outside if the weather permits
The circadian rhythm can be established by exposing your baby to sunlight during the day. While it’s common for days and nights not to follow the NICU schedule, babies will sleep better if they go outside. You may also feel happier.
Open the curtains and let the sunlight in, even if it is cold outside. If you can’t go outside, this daylight through the windows is second-best.
2. Learn to understand your awake time.
In the weeks and days following your return, your baby will experience many developmental changes. It was common for a baby to be fed and then fall asleep in the hospital. For the next 2.5 hours, she was completely exhausted by a feeding.
In the coming weeks you’ll notice your baby getting more awake time. It is important to stimulate your baby’s brain and body after every meal. This will make it easier for them to sleep at night. Here are some suggestions for newborn activities during the night.
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3. Safe sleep is a priority.
If you’re not holding your baby at home, he should sleep on his back in a flat, firm surface such as a crib, bassinet or play yard. You should not place any blankets or bedding in this space. This may seem very different than NICU life, where babies sleep on their stomachs and beds are inclined. These items can be used in the NICU, and are acceptable as your baby is constantly monitored. However, they are not allowed for home use. The safe-sleep checklist is a valuable reference tool for both you and any other caregivers of your baby.
4. Use a sound machine to take naps and nights.
A sound machine can help your baby to adjust to the new environment. The white noise simulates the sound that your baby hears in the womb. It can make your baby feel at home and help him sleep well. Learn more about sound machines by clicking here.
5. Register for the Taking Cara Babies infant class.
This online class is for you. This online class will teach you how to calm a fussy child, read sleepy cues and set your days up for success. I am a NICU nurse and can assure you that this class will expand on everything you have learned in the hospital.
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6. Accept help.
It takes a village. There will likely be many follow-up visits, from the pediatrician to the lactation consultant to occupational therapy and possibly physical therapy. Although we know that you are superhuman, those who love and care for you will still want to help. You don’t have to ask these “helpers” for help.
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7. Give yourself so much grace.
It’s been quite a ride these past few weeks and months. This is probably something you didn’t expect to happen as part of your parenting journey. Remind yourself that you have gone through so much over the past few months. You must be kind to yourself. Although it can be tempting to try and do everything, allow yourself to have fun with your baby while you are in the NICU. You and your baby both deserve grace as you adjust to your new rhythm.