Bringing home your little one from the hospital is one of the most exciting experiences a parent can go through. You’ve been preparing for months, and even if you feel a little overwhelmed, chances are you have everything ready for your baby. However, things can feel a little different for parents bringing a baby home from the NICU.
Babies stay in the NICU for different lengths of time. Your child might have been born prematurely, or they might have had to battle a severe illness or another ailment that made it impossible for them to go home right away. No matter how long your baby has been in the NICU, the day you bring them home can feel joyous and overwhelming.
While most of your attention will be on meeting your baby’s needs, it’s just as important to be aware of your own mental well-being. So, how can you handle the mental health implications of bringing a NICU baby home?
Rely On Your Partner
Your baby might still need extra care, even at home. While you might want to be at their side every second, you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s vital to prioritize adequate rest and sleep, so you can give your baby the care they deserve.
Consider taking shifts with your partner for a while so you can both get some sleep. If they need to get back to work or cannot give as much of their time, ask a close family member to stay with you for a while to provide you with the support you need. It’s not selfish to prioritize rest. Doing so will keep your stress levels low and allow you to be more present and alert when you’re taking care of your little one.
Find Time for Yourself
Self-care isn’t selfish, either. It’s okay to take some time for yourself each day to do something you enjoy or something that relaxes you. If you’ve been with your baby in the NICU for a while and you’re still stressing over their well-being, you can feel like you’ve lost your own identity. You’ll feel better about things by doing something every day for yourself. - no matter how small that thing ends up being. It could be something as simple as exercising, journaling, or cooking a healthy meal.
Lean On Your Support System
Not everyone will understand the stress that comes with bringing your baby home from the NICU. However, family members and friends will likely be eager to help in any way they can. While your partner should be your first source of support, it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people willing to help. Don’t be afraid to accept meals, offers to babysit or run errands, or anything else people want to offer. Now is the time to lean on the people you love, even if it’s just to talk and get some adult interaction every day.
Accept Your Anxieties if You’re Struggling
Whether you were prepared for your child to spend some time in the NICU or not, it can take a toll on parents. It’s hard to see a defenseless little one look so frail and wonder if they’re going to be okay. Even if bringing your baby home is a good sign that things are going well, it’s perfectly normal to have some lingering anxiety and stress. Don’t ignore those feelings or try to push them down.
Instead, acknowledge them and consider reaching out for professional help if you can’t seem to get them under control. By prioritizing your well-being, you’ll be a better caretaker for your child, and you’ll show them as they grow that it’s important to take care of yourself and practice healthy habits from an early age.
If you’re really struggling with how you are feeling after bringing your baby home, you’re not alone. Therapy can help you understand these feelings and learn ways to cope and manage them now that your little one is in your arms.
Feel free to contact me if you need someone to talk to about those concerns. Together, we can work through effective ways to cope with both the uncertainty of what’s to come and how to handle your anxiety in the meantime.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum
periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.