Your Pregnancy Matters

5 unexpected advantages of having a baby in the NICU

Jamie Morgan, M.D., holds her son, Andy, who spent a month in the NICU after he was born seven weeks early.

Having a baby who needs to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be difficult for families. Often, parents don’t have much warning that their child will require specialized care. Perhaps labor started too early in the pregnancy, or the baby developed a medical condition that couldn’t be diagnosed until birth.

I often meet families in this situation, and I know firsthand how scary it can be. In fact, I’ve been there myself. My second son, Andy, spent nearly a month in the UT Southwestern NICU last year after I developed preeclampsia and had to deliver him via Cesarean section at just 33 weeks’ gestation.

Andy’s stay in the NICU was challenging. However, I discovered some unexpected advantages that can come out of this difficult situation that other new parents should know. 

Unexpected advantages of the NICU experience

1. Your baby will have the best caregivers you could ask for

Compassionate, knowledgeable doctors, advanced practice providers, and nurses care for babies in the NICU. These providers are there 24/7, and are available when you have questions about your baby’s condition or care. Additionally, support staff such as dietitians and physical therapists are involved in optimizing the baby’s care.

Hands down, there aren’t more capable and caring people to watch over your baby. So even when you are not there, you can feel relief about their well-being.

2. Parents can have time for recovery and self-care

It’s important for parents of newborns, especially in the NICU, to take care of themselves as well as the baby. We know you want to bond with your newborn as much as you can, but you need to take time to rest and recover, too.

Remember, newborns receive incredible care around the clock at the NICU. If you have another child at home or simply need some time to yourself, make use of this time. No one will judge you, and it can help you reset and feel more energetic. I took advantage of this advantage by spending the night at home with my older son, William. 

However, if you choose to stay overnight at the NICU, you’ll probably have comfortable surroundings. At Clements University Hospital, all our families get a private room that includes a comfortable chair, couch, sink, and TV so you can feel a little more at home while we care for your baby.

3. New moms have easy access to maternal services

New mothers have easy access to a variety of services as well. For example, lactation consultants are nearby and always willing to assist new mothers with breastfeeding tips and extra supplies. Because of support like this, my breastfeeding experience went smoother than after the birth of my first child, who was born vaginally and at full term.

4. Older siblings can get used to the new baby 

Every night, our family sat together at home and watched Andy on the NICU camera system, which offers families 24/7 access to see their babies. Being able to see Andy on screen during that first month helped William slowly get used to his new brother, so there wasn’t a difficult adjustment when Andy was discharged from the hospital.

5. The baby likely will have an established schedule for eating and sleeping

This is just one pleasant result of the structured care newborns get in the NICU. Because of his set schedule, it was easier for my family to get used to having a newborn at home this time around.

Having a baby who needs NICU care can be a difficult and stressful time for new parents. But, I want to let you know there are a few hidden advantages that make the separation easier to tolerate. Remember, your NICU team will provide the best care for your baby, and we’ll give you the tools and support you need to feel confident in your baby’s care.

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