*Trigger warning: images of a premature baby in NICU ahead*
I thought I’d do a list of gift ideas, for a new mum/mom, who has found themselves in NICU with their baby. Of course, kind words, time and patience, and lots of love, are the best gifts you can give. However, if you want to send something too, but are a bit stuck, in regards to what that should be; the following might help inspire you. Many will also be welcome gifts for a new mum/mom, in any circumstance. But, I can only write from experience.
Obviously, muslin cloths are useful for parents and their new babies, in all situations. However, I found them of particular use and comfort, in NICU. When Rex was in an incubator, there was very little I could do to personalise his surroundings; this was difficult, because all I wanted to do was nest for him. The nurses encouraged me to sleep with a muslin and/or a Miniboo (more on that, here). This was so that Rex could sleep and recover, surrounded by my smell, and they were softer than hospital sheets and bedding.
I’d take two fresh muslins into NICU each day. One, as mentioned, was for his bedding. The other, was for when we got to have some skin-to-skin time, or kangaroo care; a soft muslin cloth is the perfect blanket or cover size, for a tiny baby. It’s also light in weight, so it didn’t interfere with all the tubes and wires, linking baby to the machines. A couple of people sent me beautiful muslins, and I still use them today, 9 months later (they’re ideal for spillages of all kinds).
Because we’d get through so many in a week, I started investing in my own; I loved bold prints so that the hospital wouldn’t mistake one of our muslins, for one of their own, and chuck it-in with the rest of the washing. These are still some of my favourites.
I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of hand-washing I did in NICU. Every single time I entered and left the intensive care room, I did a full disinfectant wash, followed by hand sanitiser (quite rightly, of course). So, it really takes is toll on the skin on your hands. Along with the hospital air con, they become dry and rough, very quickly. Therefore, a tube or pot of hand cream was a necessity.
A friend bought me a lovely pot, which smelt divine. I enjoyed slathering it on my hands during every tea break, when I was in the expressing room, having my meals, and right before bed. The cream softened my hands, and the scent took away some of the strong disinfectant/hospital smell, that tends to linger, even after you’ve left the hospital.
Reminders that she’s loved, and, awesome
Words and sentiments are always my favourite gifts (aside from food). I received some of the most thoughtful and beautiful messages, during our time in NICU. Receiving a postcard or a card, that just reminded me that I was being thought about, was so special; I’ll treasure them forever.
I also received a bracelet from one of my best friends. It was physical morse code that said “brave and beautiful”; I really didn’t feel like I was either of those things at the time, but, the fact that I knew somebody was thinking of me in that way, made my heart burst. Jewellery and watches aren’t allowed in NICU; however, wearing things like this, during the moments I had away from the hospital, brought some normalcy back into my life.
And, I couldn’t wait to wear them when we were home for good. Etsy is a great place to start, if you want something personalised and thoughtful, that can help a mama feel special.
I mentioned this in my article on how to help new parents in NICU; distraction and escapism were so welcome. Days on the ward are extremely long, and preemies sleep, a lot. So, I would say a book would be a great gift. There are some beautiful books about life in NICU, hospitals, babies, babies in hospital…personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to read them whilst in the thick of it all. However, everyone is different, and you’ll know what the mum may, or may not like.
Books for baby
Okay, so technically, it’s a gift for the baby. But, actually, it’s a gift for the mum/mom too. As I’ve said, there are long days ahead for her. And, parents are often encouraged to chat, sing, and read to their little ones. Taking a book to read to my boy every day, became part of our little routine. I’d do a couple of pages at a time, and describe the pictures alongside each sentence.
We were sent so many books for him, and it brings happy tears to my eyes every time I think about it. He has so many now, and they’ll all be enjoyed throughout his childhood. So, if you’re going to pick a children’s book, and send it to a new mum in NICU, don’t forget to tell them why you’ve picked it! I loved reading that it was someone’s favourite when they were little, or that their kids loved it; the sentiment behind the book, makes it even more special.
One morning, I opened a box that I’d received in the post. It was full of Toffee Crisps; the chocolate bar that I’d been going-on about, on Instagram. My friend had sent it, and I was unbelievably grateful. Not only was she saving me money, because I didn’t need to use the vending machine for a week, but, it just made me feel really loved, every time I sat and ate one, during a tea break.
Again, a mini escape every now and then, from the intensity of NICU is crucial, to keep going. For me, solace was often found in a book or magazine, a cuppa, and a tasty treat. Anything in packets and wrappers are great; there’s not always room in the common room fridge, and the food is likely to be transported in a bag, and kept in a locker. I’d just bear that in mind, before you send a fresh cream cake or anything with a short shelf-life.
New mum/mom-specific things
Even though I’ve always been 100% a “proper” mom, since my baby was born. I sometimes, didn’t feel like one, when we were in NICU. I couldn’t do all the normal parent-stuff, whenever I wanted, and I had to leave him every night. So, my mum/mom-confidence, was as low as it’ll ever be, I think (I’m sure there’s plenty of time for this to happen again, sigh).
So, when a friend sent me some products, that were specifically designed for new mums, whilst I was still in NICU; it gave me a real boost. It was comforting to know that everyone still saw me as a “proper” mum; it was a reminder that I really needed at that time. The gift was tea and protein bars, packed full of ingredients to help with energy and milk production, aimed at new mamas. I was so touched, and needed all the added energy I could get. Anyway, mama-specific items, that can be utilised at the time (we all still had to eat, wash, sleep etc), will be welcomed.
If I was doing my boy’s cares, then reading to him, then having some skin-to-skin; I could be in one place, next to his incubator, for between 5 to 7 hours, especially if he was having a bad day. I just wanted to take my shoes off, which was absolutely fine, as long as your feet are clean and you wear something over them.
Looking back, I should have got some slipper socks. Cosy socks for my feet, while my legs were up on the chair, as I cuddled my boy. And, the grips would have been perfect to keep me steady on the shiny floor, as I popped him back into his incubator, or went to grab something for his cares. If someone had sent me slipper socks, with a note explaining that they were so I could be comfy, during skin-to-skin; I’d have loved it. It’s one of those things that I would have bought myself, if I’d thought about it in time.
When I say ‘easy’ clothing, I mean; stretchy, comfy, easily washed, easy to remove and put back-on. Basically, lounge wear, or PJs for the daytime. Jersey tops, with buttons/poppers down the middle, would be ideal. When I took my top off for kangaroo care, I was often there for a good 4 or more hours, with my arms out. So, I ended up wearing all sorts of things that would undo, allowing my baby to rest on my chest, but, they’d still keep my arms worn. My husband’s shirts were often an option.
I didn’t buy anything new (I wish I had), because I knew it wouldn’t be an item I’d wear, once we left NICU. Therefore, I think it might be a nice gift for a new mum/mom, in that environment. Adding-in that message, as to why you’re sending it, will ensure that they feel the warmth, both practically and emotionally.
Right, I’ll leave it there. I’m so tired. If you could give sleep vouchers, I’d have asked for all of them. Let me know if there’s anything you would add to the list, and I’ll happily pop it on (saying it’s from you, obviously).
Peace, love, and clean hands, Fay x