When I went to hospital for a routine appointment, I have not expected to give birth 8 hours later. We are first time parents who had no clue what NICU or premature baby meant before our baby boy was born. To top it up, I have not even had my antenatal classes.
After our son was born, the only two questions I knew to ask were: How is my baby doing today? and I need help. Could you please help me?
Maybe you're wondering Why would you ask questions? They are professionals, they know what they are doing. My answer is if you are a parent in NICU, you are part of the healthcare team looking after your baby. You are your little one's voice by advocating for him/her. Trust your instincts and always listen to multiple opinions.
While you ask questions, keep in mind all nursers and doctors (and any other medical staff) are there to help you and your little one, but sometimes, they might not know the answers to all your questions and might refer you to other members of staff; other times, they could be stretched thin and might forget. While they understand how nervous and anxious you are, be considerate when asking questions; you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Here are a list of questions that I ended up asking during our stay in NICU. My advice, print these questions and highlight the ones relevant to your case. Also, don't limit yourself just to these questions, add your own to the list.
- How do I make sure all nurses and doctors have our contact details in case of an emergency?
Visiting & Calling:
- At what time during day/night can I come and see my baby? How about my partner?
- Is there a limit of time I can spend in NICU with my little one?
- I am at a different hospital and not yet mobile, how can I see my baby?
- How many visitors can come at the same time if one of parents is already here?
- Can I choose who can see him/her/them if we (parents) are not around? / Is there a visitor list?
- What is the number I can call to check upon my little one? Can I call any time of day/night (What are the hours I can call)?
- Can I hold my baby? If not - what are the reasons?
- How long can I hold my baby (in one go/throughout a dalily stay)?
- I want to do skin-to-skin; what is the hospital policy on skin-to-skin care? What about regarding my partner? Will they be able to do skin-to-skin as well?
- What is kangaroo care?
- What is my baby's tolerance for being held?
- Who takes care of my baby when I am not there?
- Is there a primary nurse assinged to my baby, a specific team nursers assigned or will nursers change on a rota/different frequency basis?
- Who is the head nurse / the nurse in charge?
- I have not had my antenatal classes and I want to do the daily cares, will you help me? OR What can I do to care for my baby & will you teach/show me how to?
- Why is my baby making this sound/face?
- Can I sit in on rounds?
- What does this term mean?
- Can I bring clothes? What about a blanket or toys such that the baby can have my scent nearby when I'm not here?
- What tests have you already done for my baby (blood work, ultrasounds, MRI, Xrays) and what were the reasons? If the results came back, what were the results? Do you need to perform other tests? What is the plan for my baby?
- What medicines is he/she/them on? What are they for? What are the alternatives?
Can I please be here for ... ?
- baby's first bath
- baby's first bottle feeding
- baby's circumcision
Can I keep ... ?
- baby's first ng tube
- baby's first monitoring wires
- baby's umbillical cord stump
What is this ... for and how it will help my baby?
- I want to breastfeed my baby but he/she/they are using ng (nasogastric) tube - how do I do this?
- I want my baby to only have my breastmilk, what do I need to do?
- I am unable to provide sufficient breastmilk for my little one - what options are available for him to eat? What about for me to help with producing more milk?
General info questions meant to help your stay there:
- Do I have to pay for parking?
- Should I bring my own food or is food provided here?
- Is there a parents lounge / where can I eat?
- Where are the toiletts?
- Where can I pump? Does the hospital have pumps available and free for use? What about storing milk?
- Can I talk with a staff-member about post-partum depression?
- What resources are available for my family? / Could a member of staff provide advice and guidance regarding financial assistance (for meals, gas to hospital, parking)?
- Are there any preemie parent support groups or services I can partake in?
- Can you help coordinate my family life?
How can I reach ....?
- Lactation consultant
If your baby is feeling better it might be possible for him/her to be monitored at a local hospital. However, he/she might need specialist care and the move to a different hospital might be beneficial. Some questions you might need to ask are:
- My baby is feeling better, can he be moved to a local hospital?
- My baby is feeling worse, can he get the treatment here can be be moved to a level 3/higher level of intensive care hospital?
- What does the move imply? Can I go with my baby?
Lastly, don't forget to write down the answers to each question! For daily questions and notes, best use an NICU Diary.