My first three months as a mom was spent being a NICU mom. This meant I basically lived at the hospital, and for us at least, far from home. Today I want to share my mama must haves for surviving NICU life.
Breast pump | Because our son was born so early, he was unable to breastfeed right away. As most professionals will tell you, breast milk is the best option for babies (if possible), especially NICU babies. After my son was born I immediately started to pump that first day. I was pumping 8-9 times a day for the first few months to help feed him in the NICU and to keep my supply up until he was able to breastfeed directly. After I stopped using the one the hospital let me use, I started using the Medela Pump In Style which I love.
Hands Free Pumping Bra | Let’s be real. Spending 3-4 hours a day hooked up to a pump sucks! Pun totally intended. One thing that really helped me keep my sanity was a pumping bra. For the first few days I was holding everything up while I pumped, but decided to splurge on a bra that would hold everything for me so I could have my hands free. It really helps you be more comfortable and do more than if your hands were tied up. I purchased one at target, but here is a similar hands free brestpump bra.
Netflix | Pumping is maybe the most boring thing ever. You’re stuck in one spot unable to move around for the most part. For the first few weeks, I was wide awake while pumping at night. That faded soon after that I would start falling asleep during my middle of the night pumps. Netflix was my best friend. I won’t even tell you how many hours a day I spent watching movies and TV because it’s hard to do much else when you have giant bottles hanging from your chest.
Journal | NICU life can be overwhelming at first. It’s a good idea to take a daily record of your nurses, your babies changes in size, feeding amounts, etc. I use a stone paper journal from target (similar) because it’s water and tear resistant.
Oatmeal & Gatorade | I don’t know that I can officially confirm that these really helped me, but I think they did and I’ve heard good things from others. I was drinking the fruit punch gatorade. I don’t know that it’s helped my milk supply much because I haven’t been the best at recording my consumption, but it kept me hydrated. When you’re pumping out several ounces of milk an hour, you’re bound to need more hydration! I didn’t chug it all day, but I did try to drink a bottle a day. Oatmeal is hard for me to choke down because I’m not a huge fan, but when I did I usually see a small increase in my supply.
iPhone | My phone has become so useful to me lately. I was already carrying a bunch of stuff with me so I could easily use it as a camera. In addition, since I always had it with me, I downloaded the app Pump Log which helps me track when I last pumped and how much! I highly recommend it for anyone who is pumping milk for their baby.
Robe | A comfy robe is great for skin to skin time with baby. I would just throw this on, put our little guy on my chest and wrap it around him. It was our favorite thing to do from the beginning. This is also nice for if you need to pump in the NICU to cover your back and shoulders so you aren’t totally exposed. I recommend a comfy cotton robe.
Lotion | All of the hand washing involved in visiting our son (3 minute scrub) had my hands and forearms extremely dry and itchy. To fix that I was putting on lotion at least at night before bed when I know I wouldn’t be going back to the NICU for a little bit so that it had time to soak in.
Grab & Go Snacks | I can’t tell you how many times I went until almost dinner without eating. Make sure you have snacks that are easy to grab and eat while you’re walking into the hospital. Snack bars were really helpful because I would literally just grab one and eat it on the way so that I had at least a little something to eat.
Comfy sandals | Obviously these are good for life in general, but you’ll often be running late for feedings or, if you’re like me, you’ll want to slip them off to sit more comfortably with my legs folded in the rocker. Not to mention the standing for hours and staring at your baby if he or she is born really tiny and you can’t interact yet. I don’t know what I’d do without my sandals. While my son was in the hospital I really needed a comfortable pair and bought a pair of Wellrox sandals for my terrible flat feet and they made such a difference.
Yoga pants | Not only are they comfy and easy to wear, I started unfolding the waistband to cover my belly when I have to have my shirt lifted or off during pumping or breastfeeding. It makes me feel a little less self conscious and makes it easy for me to sit all day comfortably unlike tight jeans.
Many of the items on this list have to do with pumping breastmilk for my son. Honestly, that’s about the only thing I was able to do to help when he was born. When they’re so little and fragile it’s really up to then nurses to take care of our babies and it’s up to us to do what we can, even if it’s not much. The NICU life is hard, but these things have really helped me make it a little more manageable.