My twins were premmies and we spent almost 4 weeks in Neo back in 2015.
Everyone is unique so I offer these tips not as gospel but as things I found useful or wish I'd known as a NICU mum...
1. Wear layers - NICU is hot!
2. Ear phones - if you want to express ear phones mean you are free to talk on the phone, listen to music etc whilst you double pump in the Neo expressing room.
3. Milk it like a cow - You can buy special pumping bra's so you are hands free (click here for more info). This is something I wish I'd had at the time - yes perhaps it makes you feel more like a cow being milked but for free hands - I'll take it!
4. Breast pumps - You can hire (sometimes with a special hospital discount - ask the ward) double expressing machines. Click here to find out more.
5. Remember to eat & drink! Especially if you're a mum trying to express - eating maybe the last thing on your mind but you need to be nourished to be there for your baby.
6. Call whenever you want - We'd spend 7am to 10pm in the unit - we were luckily able to do this: Tom's work were great and we didn't have any other children to look after. Leaving the unit every evening was horrid. Yes we knew we could call the unit day or night but I'd feel guilty about disturbing the unit, the nurses. But in the middle of the night when you can't sleep and your baby isn't where they should be (by your side), it was lovely to be able to speak to the unit. I wish I'd called more. Don't feel guilty. Pick up the phone!
7. Allow the emotions. I was sad, scared, angry. I grieved the birth I never had, the newborn cuddles I missed out on. I wanted the twins home so desperately but was terrified of leaving NICU. Having a premmie or a baby in NICU comes with an avalanche of emotions. I swallowed them, went into survival mode. Little did I know this would come back to bite me - I wish I'd spoken about how I felt, allowed the emotions, accepted the support of friends, family and professionals. Please get in touch if I can support you. Bliss also offer brilliant support for parents of babies born too soon or sick.
8. Write a journal. For us so much of the first couple of years were a blur and this started in NICU. We look at photos, with scenes we don't remember. We wrote a daily diary whilst in NICU. Just a few small notes every day. We still have the book and one day I'll share these with the twins - their amazing start in this world. Yes it may not be what I imagined, or would ever have wanted but it was incredible - they were incredible and, although I may not have thought so at the time, now I want to be able to remember it, to share with them just how amazing they were and are.
I'm sure there are many more tips from many more parents - if you have any let me know. 80% of NICU parents experience some form of mental health problem as a direct result of having a child in NICU (source: Bliss, 2018) - wouldn't it be great if we could support parents and see this stat lower.
And yes, I do also want world peace! Well I can dream can't I?!