Going into the NICU is a journey that is tough for any mom. I’m sharing my favorite way to give back to NICU moms with a DIY NICU survival kit filled with essentials sponsored by AdventHealth for Children in Orlando. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
We spent two terms in the NICU. One with Trevor and one with Tristan. Both times were completely different experiences. When Trevor was born, we spent our time at AdventHealth for Children in Orlando. Though our stay was significantly shorter than it was with Tristan, I struggled through it just the same as the first time around. The biggest difference during our second time around was that I was more prepared. I had already spent 6 months in a NICU before with Trevor’s older brother so I knew a little bit about what I would need to make it through. I had a “survival kit” this time around that would help me through our journey.
Why I Created NICU Survival Kits
Becoming a parent is hard enough. Once you add being a NICU mom to that, it’s an added layer of stress and tasks that you add to your checklist every day.
A NICU survival kit is something that is so simple to create. It’s something that I truly believe can make a mom’s journey a little easier. You can fill a kit with essentials that you might not even think a mom would need while their baby is in the NICU. The truth is that when our babies get rolled into that NICU, our lives change. The way we dress, the scents we wear, how we wash our hands, the food we eat. So much about our lives change after we become NICU parents and it’s a big shock.
My goal with creating a NICU Survival Kit was to essentially create a “go bag” for moms that would make traveling back and forth to the NICU easier for them. I spent so much time trying to remember what things I would need on a daily basis when going to the NICU to visit my baby. More times than not I would forget things. The Survival Kit hopefully eliminates that need for moms to remember what essentials they need every day.
NICU Survival Kit Essentials
A NICU Survival Kit can be include literally anything you want. The base for the kits should be a durable, reusable bag. I prefer to use backpack diaper bags. They’re perfect for daily use and once the baby comes home, the family can continue to use the bag. Toiletries are something that always have to be included in the kits. I think that the one thing that we as moms tend to forget about when we’re in the NICU is ourselves. We’re so focused on our baby, our spouses, our other children that we rarely have any time left for ourselves.
Think of things like deodorant, dry shampoo, mouthwash, makeup wipes. I love to include things that I would use ordinarily on a daily basis. Sometimes we’re rushing out of the house to go visit baby. Other times we just need to freshen up after spending hours in the hospital. Including toiletries in the kits means that moms have one less thing to worry about during their baby’s stay.
I took crazy notes during both of our NICU stays. There was so much to document and remember, and I didn’t want to forget anything. I watched other moms that were room sharing with us. What I noticed was that often times they did the same thing. We used things like apps on our phone, notebooks and loose sheets of paper to keep track of everything. Journals and notepads are great additions to the kits because moms take all the notes.
Here’s a list of other things that are great to include in a survival kit:
- Art supplies (coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, sketch pads)
- Journals (lined or unlined)
- Pens + pencils
- Pre-packaged snacks
- Refillable water bottles or tumblers
- NICU Mom Journal keepsake
- Baby’s first preemie outfit
- Hair spray
- Dry shampoo
- Food or gas gift cards
AdventHealth for Children Level III NICU in Orlando
The AdventHealth for Children Level III NICU in Orlando was our home with Trevor for a short time. I chose this NICU to give back to because it holds such a special place in my heart. Everyone there did so much for me while Trevor was in the NICU. I never had to worry about whether or not Trevor was being well cared for and keeping me informed. The nurses and doctors always made sure that they were on top of his care. Creating the best care plan for him and getting him home as soon as possible was their first priority.
I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons why they were named the Best Newborn (NICU) in Florida by US News and World Report for the second year in a row. It really is a well deserved title. Not only do they make sure that their babies are cared for but they make sure that their families are cared for too. AdventHealth for Children has 6 convenient NICU locations throughout the state of Florida and every one of them provides an amazing level of care with their state-of-the-art programs and services.
Why It’s Important to Give Back to NICU Moms
Giving back to other NICU moms is something that’s important because I feel as though we’re overlooked. If you’ve never experienced having a baby in the NICU or know someone who has openly talked about their experience then there’s a lot you probably just don’t know what it’s like. Before we had Tristan, I had no idea what the NICU even was. The trauma they experienced or the obstacles they have to overcome was something I knew nothing about. I only had 1 child previously and she was a healthy, almost full-term baby that didn’t require a NICU stay. I was lucky enough to bring her home with me just a few days after her birth.
With Tristan and Trevor, I wasn’t so lucky. When I had Tristan and was introduced to the NICU a whole new world opened up for me. I was thrown into this place with my baby and had to learn so many things so quickly while recovering from a traumatic birth. I felt all alone in such a big space with so much to learn and carrying so much inside.
My husband and I had to figure out everything on our own as we went along. There was no handbook or survival guide to get us through it. Getting through that first NICU stay was rough but we made it through. There was never a day where I felt at ease. I developed anxiety, postpartum depression and PTSD from our first stay and it’s stuck with me for a long time. Some things carried over into our second NICU stay.
Did you know that mothers of preterm babies are 40% more likely to develop postpartum depression (PPD) and are at risk for long-lasting mental health challenges? NICU moms are 70% more likely to develop postpartum depression than moms with full term babies (read the study here).
After our second stay I promised myself that I would become an advocate for NICU moms and do anything that I could to give back. They say moms are the backbone of the family but sometimes it seems as though when things get hard for us, there’s no one there to support us or lift us up. The survival kits I’ve created are just a small piece of what you can do to give back.