Family and friends

Tips for your family and friends

These tips were written by graduate NICU parents; feel free to share them with people close to you who may want to help.

Are you a family member or friend? You can:

  • Prepare meals and help coordinate meal preparation with others while baby is in the hospital and for those first few months at home.
  • Drive parents back and forth to the hospital.
  • Do laundry, take care of pets, mow lawns, and shovel walkways.
  • Babysit siblings; arrange for special outings and be available for last minute childcare.
  • Respect the parents' wishes about how they want to mark the birth. Some may wish to celebrate. Others may want to wait until the baby is home. It is for the parents to decide and for you to support their wishes.
  • Learn about prematurity, but don't feel the need to share what you're learning with the parents. Be careful about what resources you use, especially if you're researching online.
  • Try not to be offended if parents exclude you temporarily. The NICU can be difficult and some people turn inwards in order to cope.
  • Shop for necessities when the baby is discharged from the hospital.
  • Respect the rules of the NICU. Don't visit if you're sick or if people close to you are sick. Respect the privacy of other parents and their babies.
  • Offer to communicate with other family and friends so that the parents don't have to spend all their time updating everyone.
  • Coordinate other offers of help so that the parents don't need to organize who does what.
  • Resist the urge to compare the new baby with other babies. Please don't make comments on size or weight, and please don't talk about other birth experiences unless you have personal experience as a parent of a premature baby.
  • Keep offering help when the baby is home. The first few months can be isolating and difficult and parents can really use continued assistance.
  • When a baby goes home, remember that preemies, especially during the winter months, are at risk for infections and sickness. Never visit the parents and baby at home if you're sick, and respect their wish to keep their baby healthy. They are not being over-protective. They are being good parents.
  • Follow the lead of the parent. If he or she wants to talk, listen. If she or he wants to be distracted, be entertaining. If you don't know what to say, say, "I don't know what to say, but I hope you know I'm here for you whenever you need me." Sometimes that's what a parent needs to know. Hugs are good too!