A NICU Mom’s Story

 Kyle spending time with her daughter in the NICU.

Kyle spending time with her daughter in the NICU.

Kyle J Kimpel

The NICU presents a new set of emotions, challenges and changes. There truly is no way to describe the heartbreaking moment when you leave the hospital without your baby.  I've done it twice: once for 77 days, and once for 7 days. Each time was gut-wrenching.

There are a few things you can do for your baby during their stay in the NICU. The most beneficial is pumping or nursing, if possible.  I understand what an overwhelming task pumping can be. It is not a small feat!

The importance of breast milk in the NICU is beyond measure. Breast milk is easiest for babies to digest, protects against infection and improves neurological development.  Since breast milk changes to meet your baby’s needs, your body will produce a higher calorie milk to meet your baby’s needs. I'm always amazed by what our bodies can do.

Your baby is not the only one who benefits from this breastfeeding relationship. There are times when you may not be able to touch your baby, yet you and your baby still need to be connected. It is comforting to know your baby is being nourished with milk that you took great care to provide to them.  There were many times I took solace in pumping, for the simple fact that I felt this was the only thing I could do for my baby right now. It helped me a great deal with my postpartum depression because your body produces oxytocin to release your milk. Along with this mental boost, your risk of ovarian and breast cancer is reduced.

During my daughter’s long NICU stay I became friends with a mother who was going through the same thing as me. We would call each other in the middle of the night to chat while we pumped. Finding the right support during this time is crucial. You should be supported and informed by your baby’s care team, but many times you will need additional support. During this time you may go through a grieving process and will need an empathetic shoulder to lean on. Reach out to the NICU staff to see if there is another mother you could connect with and hire a postpartum doula!

Eventually your NICU stay will come to an end. You will feel the bittersweet joy of finally bringing your baby home. You will make it through this just as I did.

 Kyle and her daughter now.

Kyle and her daughter now.

Christina Hodgen