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Surviving NICU/SCN at Christmas: A guide to self-care for parents

The festive season can be challenging time especially for families with a baby in hospital. In the count down to Christmas, we are running through our ‘Surviving NICU/SCN at Christmas: A guide to self-care for parents.


Don’t push yourself. If you don’t feel like you can make it to every holiday celebration or can’t find the time or energy to address Christmas cards, don’t do it. People will understand. Take the time you need to rest, care for yourself and visit your baby.


Find enjoyment wherever you can. It is normal to be torn between a desire to participate in family traditions, and a yearning to be in the hospital as much as possible. Parents may feel guilty not only for spending time away from their child, but also for enjoying themselves. Enjoying yourself is okay. However, if you do not feel up to joining all of your family’s activities, enjoy one or two. Then, head back to the hospital.


Make yourself a priority. Practise self-care and mindfulness when you can. Take advantage of any parent support services provided by your hospital. Talk with a chaplain, social worker or support group. Make use of the ‘Little pack of Calm’ with affirmation cards and a journal to help you process emotions and guide you to self-care. If you’re up to it, attend events at hospital that encourage you to meet others and have a bit of fun.


Start new traditions if old ones are no longer as meaningful like reading your favourite holiday classic to your baby – and record it for posterity in a photo or video, Baby’s first mini-stocking or a personalised decoration for their cot.


Make some Christmas memories to share your baby with your friends and family by taking photos or a video to send. Add a baby’s first Christmas hat or bib to the photo if you can to make it even more memorable. Hospitals should have some, but if you’re a knitter we have a pattern for a Santa’s Elf Hat on our website to download here:

Celebrate your baby. Christmas is a great time to select your first family ornament in honour of your baby. Hanging a small decoration for your baby on your Christmas tree can help make it feel like your baby is with you in spirit and when hung on the tree in future years can remind you how far your baby has come.

Christmas in the hospital is not what anyone wants. Remember you are not alone. Use the festive season to connect with other parents in hospital. They’re feeling it too. It may just be the start of a great friendship!


Make it special. Decorate your baby’s cot or bring in a special outfit for them to wear.


Cherish every moment. Life is made up of moments. Baby’s bath, changing their nappy and sharing a smile are all great reasons for celebrate.


Find joy in the little things. Try to focus on the positives, every gram gained is a miracle.


Set yourself up for good support over the Christmas period, make a list of support services in the hospital and community. With good support even the hardest days can be managed.


Celebrate it your way! Bring close relatives to visit your baby. Find out how many people you can have at the bedside, and go open a few gifts with your baby. There is no reason why you can’t do that to keep with your tradition.



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