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Balancing your time at the NICU when you have kids at home

Having one baby is busy enough. Add in the fact that this is not your first baby and your new little one needs to spend time at the hospital in the NICU, and now your world has just been turned upside down. So, how do you balance all you need to do when you are being pulled in different directions? Here are some practical tips for when you find yourself juggling a baby in the NICU and demands from regular life at home.

Plan your time wisely at the hospital. Having a plan for your hospital visits is essential. It’s important to factor in how long you will be spending at the NICU. Be prepared with healthy snacks and water so you can continue to recover from your birth. Get up and walk around often so you don’t become sore or cause other problems with your body. Take advantage of the wonderful NICU nurses and learn all you can from them about caring for your little one. While at the NICU, pump to increase your milk supply and, depending on your situation, learn how to bottle feed and/or breastfeed your baby while the NICU nurses are available to help you.

Find additional hands to help. Take help wherever you can find it! To avoid stretching yourself thin, one of the best things you can do is make sure you are covered with additional help. You may have family and friends available to come to your home and assist with chores, babysitting, taking your other kids to the playground, tying up any loose ends of daily living, etc., or you don’t have family and friends available and may need to consider hiring a professional postpartum doula. Whichever situation you are in, arranging assistance can ease the load. Personal or professional help could also assist with meal preparation, pick up your groceries and put them away, or pick up essentials from the pharmacy for you. With these tasks taken care of, it gives you more freedom and time to be at the hospital and pumping (if breastfeeding) to help with your milk supply or having a nap to catch up on sleep. 

Other services. There are a couple of services you can use to make this time in your life easier. First, consider temporarily hiring a housecleaner. Having someone come and tidy up your home will take one thing off your list and frees up some of your time for more important things. Also, consider using grocery delivery services - another convenience that will save you time and energy you can direct elsewhere.

Time management is key. It is important to properly manage your time because you have a lot on the go. List all the things you need to do and slot in times that these activities will fit into your day. With this list, make a schedule. Things to consider for your schedule are time spent at the hospital, time spent with your other kids, time spent going to appointments, time spent on house cleaning and chores (if you have not arranged a housecleaner), time spent on grocery shopping (if you have not arranged grocery delivery), time spent on meal preparation, time for self-care and rest, time for pumping (again, if you are breastfeeding). 

Also, setting aside time in the evening before bed to get yourself organized for the next day can help you stay on track. The more organized and prepared you are in the evenings, the smoother things will go in the mornings. Consider using a day planner to help you see the big picture and schedule the most important things into your day.

Daycare/childcare. Is your older child or children in daycare or have other childcare arrangements? Often, keeping your family’s routine and schedule the same during a difficult time makes things easier on everyone. If this option is available to you, it may be a good choice to leave your daycare or other childcare arrangements the same during this challenging time. This will give you time while your other kids are taken care of to get things done. And take turns, alternate; one day your partner drops the kids off at daycare/childcare and you drop the kids off the next. This arrangement will allow both of you individual time in the morning to get yourself ready and organized for your day spent at the hospital with your baby. 

If you can, take time off work. Can you and your partner take time off work while your baby is in the NICU? If so, this can make life much easier because your partner can take care of the other kids and finish the practical work at home that’s often neglected while you are busy at the hospital with your baby and vice versa. When you can tag team responsibilities, it takes a lot of weight off the both of you and allows you and your partner to focus on your newborn’s recovery. And taking time off work will also allow you and your partner to spend precious time with your baby in the NICU together. 

Having your baby in the NICU is overwhelming, but if you incorporate some of these suggestions, you may find that you will relieve some of your stress and free up some of your time, allowing you more energy that you can direct at taking care of yourself and your new baby.

Sharon is a certified doula and childbirth educator with over 23 years’ experience and has supported over 1,500 Calgary and area families on their parenthood journey. She is the owner of Calgary Birth Essentials, which offers private and small group prenatal classes, birth and postpartum doula support, and breastfeeding and early parenting education. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit calgarybirthessentials.com

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