Thoughtful gifts for families with children in the NICU
If you are reading this you may know someone who has a child in the NICU and you are racking your brain trying to think of things you can do to help them. If you are looking for thoughtful NICU gift ideas, please read on.
Any parent who has ever had a child in the hospital knows that it is not fun. Having a newborn baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is one of the worst things a parent can experience. Luckily, my daughter only had to spend two days in the NICU when she was born, but many babies are not so lucky and end up spending weeks and even months in the NICU.
Though we were lucky to only have a brief stint in the NICU, we have spent lots of time in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the children’s hospital due to surgeries and infections brought on by my daughter’s medical condition, Vesicoureteral Reflux.
I know that our friends and family meant well during long hospital stays, but they also did a few things to put me over the edge and make the situation worse for all of us, so I wanted to create a list of NICU gift ideas as a way to help those of you who might be supporting people in your life who need to spend a lot of time in the NICU or PICU with their babies.
- Gift Cards to Food Delivery Services – Hospital food has improved a lot over time, but if you are spending days and weeks in the hospital, there is nothing like the comfort of a meal from your favorite restaurants. A gift card to DoorDash or GrubHub is a very thoughtful gift for NICU parents.
- Vitamins and Antibacterial Hand Wipes – Most NICU’s have a pretty extreme handwashing policy. The one at our hospital had a little clock and sinks outside where each entering guest needed to wash with hot and soapy water for 60-seconds. I will tell you that 60-seconds can feel like a lifetime when you are trying to get back to your sick baby. Sick people cannot enter the NICU so if your baby is born during flu season like ours was it’s supercritical that both parents stay healthy so they can continue to take care of their NICU baby. Vitamin C, Multivitamins and Antibacterial Handwipes are things that NICU parents need to stay healthy.
- Personalized Blanket with baby or family name on it – A wonderful NICU gift idea for parents is a personalized blanket. Being in the NICU is difficult and having something personalized celebrating the little one that is fighting so hard is very meaningful. Do remember that most of the time babies in the NICU won’t be able to wear regular clothes given the wires and equipment they are connected to, but a blanket or knit cap would be perfect
- Books or Amazon Gift Card – Although the NICU can be intense at times, there is also a lot of downtime as a parent. And sitting there thinking is not always the best thing for parents. A welcome distraction like a book or amazon gift card that parents can use to download a movie to watch during downtime will come in handy.
- Swaddle blankets – In addition to personalized blankets, during our time in the hospital, I loved having soft muslin swaddle blankets for nursing or wrapping the baby when walking to different floors. Aden and Anais make the softest and coziest blankets. They can be used as swaddles and my 2-year old still sleeps with hers every night.
- Extra Pacifiers – It’s hard to know which type of pacifier works best for each baby. Most hospitals only carry one brand. The brand the hospital I delivered at carried the Avent Soothies, but my kids hated them. They both loved the MAM newborn pacifiers. Tommee Tippee and Nuk also make newborn pacifiers and it’s nice for parents to have options when they are trying to comfort their little one. If you are able to prewash and sterilize the pacifiers and bring them to the hospital, that would be ideal. It can be difficult to get access to boiling water when stuck in a hospital room for days on end.
- Day Pass to a nearby gym or yoga studio – As a NICU parent you feel exceedingly guilty whenever you leave for any reason, but leaving and taking breaks is critical to recovery. Postpartum Mom’s might benefit from a postnatal yoga class and their partners will also benefit from some mind-clearing physical activity. Websites like ResortPass offer day passes and SpaFinder can help you locate spas near the hospital.
- A backup cell phone battery/portable cell phone charger – It can be difficult to keep your phone charged if you are bouncing from room to room and constantly using it to communicate with friends and family on the outside. There were many times I was in the hospital and couldn’t wait for my phone to charge because I needed to have it on me. Sending a power loaded back up charger is a solid NICU gift idea for any parent.
- Removable Wall Stickers or a portable mobile for extended stays Unfortunately some little ones end up spending weeks or months in the hospital. Some cheerful peel and place wall stickers or even a small mobile can be a distraction for baby. Some hospitals have rules, so removable wall stickers are likely your best option unless you check with parents and the hospital first.
While we’re on the topic, there are a few things you should try to avoid giving NICU Parents and additional stress is on the top of that list.
- If they call you for support, be there for them. Do not ask prying questions unless you sense that they are wanting to discuss the details. Sometimes just a friendly voice and I am here for you is all they need.
- Do not try to visit the NICU unless you are explicitly invited. NICU’s have rules about how many visitors are allowed. Some parents may want the support, but others might want privacy to manage the situation they are in.
- If you do visit try not to talk about all the wonderful things you have planned for that evening, that weekend or later that month. Some hospital parents are in it for the long-haul and it can be hard to even think about the next hour when things are touch and go. Instead, be present when you visit and try to offer as much support as possible in the time you are there.
- Do not share information that parents share with you to larger groups of friends and family unless the parents specifically ask you to do so. Each parent and situation is different in how they handle privacy and communication. Sharing information without the full picture can be scary to those who don’t understand the day to day. Instead, let parents share information if and when they are ready, and they will decide the level of information that needs to be shared.
- Do not wear perfume or heavily scented lotions when visiting. Many babies are recovering from surgery or illness and adding strong scents to the mix is not considerate.
If you have read this far, I know you are a caring and considerate person and you really want to support your family and friends. Though they might not have the capacity to express how thankful they are for your gift or visit, please know that you could be giving them the strength they need to get through one more day or week or month in the hospital.