We continue to hear there is much greater risk for postpartum depression in mothers, as well as depression in fathers of premature babies, in comparison to those who have babies born at term. This makes sense to us! It is highly likely parents going through the experience of having a premature baby living in a NICU have never experienced such an emotional and physically draining situation up until the point their premature child arrived.
Parents are suddenly thrown into a world they very likely never realized existed. Things move so quickly and it is quite common for parents to say they feel like they are in a sudden “whirlwind” of new experiences, and sometimes it takes the time for parents’ minds to process and catch up to their new reality.
You can never really fully prepare for the realities of prematurity.
This is why it is so important to stop and remember to take a breather. Take some time away from your baby’s bedside in the unit to decompress. Try to focus on yourself for a few minutes and give yourself some much needed self-care. Remember your baby is in excellent hands while you step away for a little bit, and you don’t need to go too far to get some much needed time for yourself.
Whether you’re in the NICU for a few days or several months, here are some tips we recommend you try to apply to take care of yourself:
- Take a daily coffee break. Just get away for 15-20 mins and enjoy something yummy. If your partner is there with you, consider taking some time away to get some needed one-to-one time and call it your ‘date time.’
- Once a week before you head to the hospital pack a cooler bag of healthy snacks to keep in your cupboard by the baby’s bedside (if the unit permits) or use one of the hospital family lockers or fridges to keep your snack stash there for the week. Ensuring you are looking after your diet will help you mentally and physically, which will in turn make you feel more confident and alert when speaking with medical professionals and when caring for your baby throughout the day.
- Get some exercise – you don’t have to take up running if that’s never been your thing, but you can take a walk a couple of times a week outdoors through the hospital campus, which often have beautiful gardens and scenic routes. Move your body and get some fresh air and you’ll feel much more alert.
- Speaking of being alert – make sure you get proper rest each day, whether it’s a power nap to make up for some lost sleep or leaving the hospital a bit early once in a while to go home to get a full night’s sleep. Remember your baby is a phone call away and you need your rest to take good care of yourself and your baby.
- Try to make a weekly dinner date away from the hospital, whether that is with your partner or maybe you can call up your best friend. It can certainly be difficult to leave your baby for an evening; however, you don’t have to be gone for long and you don’t have to go far. The nurses are your best resource to ask where the best restaurants are, so tap into their knowledge and get out and try a new place you may never have encountered if you were not at this place at this time.
We are confident these 5 tips can help you feel much better about your situation and help to re-energize your body, mind and spirit. And you know what? These tips apply once you are home, too. Take care of yourself!
Thank you to preemie mom, Leigh Mouck, for sharing some of her ideas on this important topic.