Having a baby in the NICU is emotionally challenging on a regular day, but add the holidays into that equation and it might be too much to handle.
My daughter spent 121 days in the NICU following her micro preemie birth at 23 weeks gestation. Since then I have made it my mission to help other parents who are struggling through their journey with prematurity.
Many of you may be wondering how you can get through this holiday season when your baby is in the NICU and not at home with you.
It won’t be easy, but you can do it.
Below are eight ways to help you celebrate the winter holidays with your NICU baby.
1. Hand write your Christmas cards and use them as thank you cards
Whether your baby is spending most hours in an isolette or a crib, you will have plenty of time to write. This is a great opportunity for you thank people for their kindness. Some might have dropped of food, done your dishes, babysat or just left you a supportive message.
2. Decorate your baby’s isolette or crib
Hang some ornaments or a wreath (not real pine!) over the isolette/crib. You could also decorate with some garland and tape up a few holidays cards. Why not take a picture of your home Christmas tree or Menorah and tape that to the wall also?
3. Skype away!
You could arrange Skype sessions with your family so that they can see your baby on Christmas or Hanukkah. You may need permission from the nurses to do it, but it might be fun to have your family sing Christmas carols to your baby or just wish your baby a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah.
4. Read your favorite holiday classic to your baby
Babies love to be read to and studies show that it helps their brains develop and relaxes them so that they grow faster. Who wouldn’t want their Mommy or Daddy to read them a holiday book? This will also help you feel more in the holiday spirit.
5. Decorate preemie-sized onesies for your baby to wear
If you have children at home, go buy a few preemie sized onesies and a few fabric markers at Toys R Us and decorate them. It’s a great way for siblings to give a gift to their new baby brother/sister and they will also feel included. If your baby can’t wear clothes yet, make them anyway so that your outfit can be the first one they put on!
6. Open gifts
Bring a few of your baby’s gifts to the NICU on Christmas Eve/Morning or on each day of Hanukkah and open them! There is no reason why you can’t do that to keep with your tradition.
7. Bring some cookies/dreidels/latkes for the NICU nurses and doctors
Whether you just met the NICU staff or have known them for months ― they are your baby’s parents when you can’t be there ― and they will be there for you too. Wouldn’t it be nice to share the giving season with them and bring them some cookies or something else that shows how thankful you are for them? Plus, you will get to celebrate with them and participate in one of your holiday traditions.
8. Celebrate New Year’s at noon
Bring some party hats and noisemakers to the hospital but don’t blow them! Put them next to your baby in the isolette/crib and take some pictures. These photos will be cherished for years to come. Plus, they represent a new year full of possibilities and promise and that’s what all NICU parents need. Then do your own New Year’s Eve countdown at NOON.
For more information and resources involving premature births and life with a preemie, please visit www.micropreemie.net.
Happy Holidays and hang in there!
HuffPost Parents offers a daily dose of personal stories, helpful advice and comedic takes on what it’s like to raise kids today. Learn more