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Tips for NICU Dads

Tips for NICU Dads from three new fathers who have been there.

Dad Aaron of 26 week twins, Sean and Patrick, now home

Being a NICU dad is your challenge. You can be the support that your partner needs but you may need support also. Family, friends, hospital staff and your partner are all good for listening to your story. Visiting may be currently restricted to parents or 1 parent only, so time may be limited. Some of the best tips from personal experience of 90 days in hospital are;

  • Visit when you can for as long as you are comfortable.
  • Be involved where you can.
  • Take time away from visiting if you need.
  • Keep a progress log, or even just make time to talk to your partner about how baby is/babies are progressing.
  • Take photos to look back on for your family memories.
  • Read to baby and talk to them whenever you can.

Barry, dad of 30 week twin girls, Renee and Aurora, now home

Our girls ended up staying at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital for just over 2 months, which meant they went home around the time they would have been full term. Renee did return to hospital and stay overnight when she had an enguinal hernia operation a week after discharge.

The COVID restrictions made our stay difficult. being limited to only mum and dad visiting gets hard during an extended stay. After weeks of daily visits, some grandparent support would be very helpful.

My advice after our experience would be not to attempt frequent lengthy visits without breaks. Babies can happily sleep through the noise and drama of the hospital, but visiting parents are put on edge which makes visits far more exhausting than they should be. In particular our girls were very prone to bradycardia and every time a monitor alert went off in the room we compulsively checked it wasn’t our girls. Even if you can just leave the room for a short break, it helps enormously.

I used an android app called “child growth tracker” to record and graph the girls weight and measurements as recorded daily by the hospital. I found the graph, which can be overlaid with WHO guidelines, made the information more meaningful to me.

Josh, is Dad of 32 week Patrick who is now home.

Pace yourself. You don’t know how long bub will need to be monitored for, mum’s recovery will have ups and downs, and the general uncertainty of it all will take its toll. You’ll be bombarded by friends and family constantly asking how bub is. Over-committing yourself will cost you your sleep, your patience and your health very quickly.

Set a routine early. Once mum comes home, it will likely be lots of time spent going to and from the hospital, and sitting and watching (without much reciprocation). Decide if you’re both going to be there, or take shifts – and what that means for chores at home.

Trust the midwives and nurses. They will be totally calm and collected, because they are super highly trained and do this day-in, day-out. This will be new for you, and it’s easy to be disconcerted when they don’t go sprinting to every O2 alarm. They’ll tell you when there’s something to be worried about.

Get involved with the cares. Get involved as much as you can, when you can with things like nappy changes, baths, bottle or tube feeds. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and for second time parents just understanding how your baby’s smaller size and/or medical needs changes these things (such as frequency of feeds).

Share your story

Have you found comfort in reading other parents’ stories? We get lots of grateful feedback on how reading these personal stories help new parents to cope with their own experience. Every family has a unique and important story to share. Share your journey and celebrate your story below.

Rebecca Strahan


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