The days surrounding your baby’s birth should be full of joy and excitement. Yet when your newborn has a medical problem, or is at risk for developing a disease or disorder, those joyous feelings are often replaced with fear, sorrow, and even disappointment. You might learn that your baby will not be able to come home from the hospital as soon as you hoped. Your newborn might be covered with tubes and probes, instead of being the healthy cherubic infant you imagined. He or she might be kept under special care in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) or face surgery or special medical treatment. It’s absolutely normal to be confused and overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you during this challenging time.
- Remember that almost all hospital nurseries will allow parents to visit their newborns 24 hours a day. You and your partner should visit your baby to touch and hold him as often as possible. It is very important that both mother and father develop a healthy bond with their infant. Studies have proven that newborns who are held, spoken to, and treated lovingly are more likely to thrive.
- If you intended to breast feed your baby, do not give up on that notion. You should be able to use a breast pump and store milk with the support of hospital staff. Ask someone on your baby’s health care team about what steps can be taken. Breast milk is the healthiest choice for your baby. However, if you are not able to breastfeed, don’t feel unnecessary guilt. Ultimately whatever must be done to ensure you and your baby’s well-being is what matters most.
- If you are confused about what is happening to your child, or if the diagnosis is unclear, ask the doctor or someone on the health care team. You and your partner may want to write down all of your questions so you will be sure to have them answered. If terms are being used that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Remember that the medical staff may not have all the answers yet. But you have the right to know what they believe the problem may be and what course of action they intend to take. You may also wish to write down the answers you receive, or any medical terms so that you can remember them later. This may also allow you to look up information on the internet or in books to further educate yourselves.
- At the hospital you should be assigned a social worker who can help your family gain the support and assistance you need. If you have not been assigned a social worker, ask for one. A good social worker can help you sort out what needs to be done to prepare for bringing this special new child into your lives.
- Before you bring your child home from the hospital, make sure you understand any special care instructions. Write them down if need be. You should rehearse any medical procedures with a nurse or doctor to be sure you are clear about what you need to do. Having another family member there while instructions are given can help you to remember the steps.
- This can be an exhausting time as you adjust to your new baby’s routine and deal with your own, often overwhelming, emotions. Do not be afraid to ask family and friends for help. Often they want to do something, but don’t know what. If you need someone to baby-sit an older child, or if you need some help with laundry or errands, kindly ask. You may also want to consider joining a support group with other local parents who are dealing with similar issues with their new baby. These connections with people in a similar predicament can be very comforting.
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