Parents can sometimes experience feelings of helplessness when their child is receiving care in the NICU. It’s important to note that as parents or guardians, you are the most important people in your baby’s life and play a very important role in your child’s hospital stay. We encourage you to be with your baby as much as you can and participate in your child’s care as much as possible.
As a parent, you can help support your baby in ways that are completely unique from healthcare professionals on the team. Here are a few examples to help guide you.
Every day, our team of health professionals (neonatologists, nurses, nutritionists respiratory therapists, pharmacists, social workers, residents and fellows) gather to have a discussion about each patient on our unit. These meetings are called Rounds. Rounds take place every day from 9:30a.m. to 12:00p.m. As a parent and member of your child’s care team, your participation is welcome and encouraged, though not mandatory. Hence, we recommend that you get some sleep during the night, at home, to promote milk production and allow your mind to be fresh and focused during your participation in the rounds.
Rounds are a nice opportunity to obtain information about the plan for your baby’s care for the day, to ask questions and to contribute to the discussion based on your perspective about how your child is doing. It’s also an opportunity to get to know the health care professionals, their various roles on the team, and to get to know who might be taking care of your baby that day. During Rounds, there is often a teaching component as the Montreal Children's Hospital is an academic institution.
Questions and discussions can also happen at any other time on the unit, as team members are always available to answer your questions and listen to your input.
We encourage all mothers whose babies are admitted to the NICU to consider breastfeeding if they can and would like to. The unique nutrients in breast milk are important for your baby’s growth and long-term health. Mother’s milk is definitely the best therapy we can give to baby: it is protective and provides the best nutrition. It’s important to note, however, that if you choose not to breastfeed or are unable to do so for any reason, we will support you in any decision you make and will optimize baby’s nutrition with the input of our expert nutritionist.
Many babies in the NICU will not be able to nurse from the breast right away. It’s important to start expressing your breast milk as soon as possible in order to establish and maintain a good supply.
Once your baby is stable, your breast milk will be given to him either (a) through a feeding tube that passes from his nose/mouth down to his stomach, (b) by nursing at the breast, or (c) by bottle. The way your baby receives your breast milk or formula will depend on a number of factors that your nurse or doctor can discuss with you.
The NICU has electric breast pumps available at every bedside for each baby. Should you need any support with breastfeeding, lactation specialists will come to meet and help you. Our team of lactation consultants are here to listen to your concerns and to support you. Your bedside nurse is also a great resource, and can help answer questions or help orient you as needed.
Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your baby on your bare chest skin-to-skin. We encourage both mothers and fathers to do this with their babies. It is a good way to be close to your baby and it can help him in many ways. Kangaroo care can help baby’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing, and can even help weight gain. It also allows for the transfer of protective bacteria (called the “microbiome”) from your skin to baby’s. This practice can help extend periods of deep sleep, or a quiet alert state, and lessen crying. Kangaroo care also helps to improve breast milk production. Talk to your baby’s nurse about the kangaroo care position that would be best for your baby.
Reading to your baby
We encourage you to read books to your baby. Many books! Reading to your newborn will help you feel more involved with your baby’s care, will help him know that you are there and will help him with his development. It is one of the most important interventions to promote language development in babies admitted to the NICU. We know that during pregnancy, babies will constantly listen to their environment (which includes mom’s voice and other surrounding people speaking). Hearing your voice outside the womb is therefore very comforting to your baby.
The hospital has a “Books for Babies” program and offers a free book to every family on the unit during their stay. You are also welcome to bring books from home, from you childhood and in your mother tongue.
Bring things in from home
You can bring your own baby blanket, pyjamas, small toys and pictures of your family. Avoid bringing any stuffed toys (for infection control). You can ask your baby’s nurse if ever you have questions about additional items you’d like to bring into the unit.
We encourage you participate in this part of your baby’s routine. Your nurse will guide you in order to help you feel comfortable, by showing you how to safely give your baby a bath (the different steps, where to find what you need, etc.). Bath time is a great way for you and your baby to spend time together and get to know each other even more.