NICU essentials

Posted in: Immune Support    NICU    Nutrition    Pediatrics    

There are lots of subtleties and individualized elements to NICU life, but some of what I found through my experience and through speaking with others over those pivotal few months are summarized below.  For the most part I’m speaking to my fellow mamas because that is what I know best, but there’s no denying that the NICU impacts the dads and extended families too. Please don’t feel left out dads!  Maybe one day I’ll be able to twist my hubby’s arm into jotting down his own lessons learned for your benefit.


Nutrition (SO important)

  • Stock your locker with good quality bars that will sustain your energy when you choose a kangaroo cuddle over eating lunch.
  • Omega 3 fats are well researched for their benefit to preemies and infants in general.  From brain and eye development, to immune health, to inflammatory balance.  They are also useful for hormone balance and mood regulation…think avoidance or management of postpartum depression! and therefore also really good for the mama bears.  Your milk is their only source of omega 3 fats so a fish oil supplement is a very good baseline supplement.
    • TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition – the IV drip that supplies nourishment until they are able to get enough goodness through their feeding tubes) contains omega 6, one of the essential fats but not omega 3, so the only omega 3 that they will get is from your (or donor) breast-milk.
    • Look for fish oil liquids that are molecularly distilled and in triglyceride form.  The cheat sheet is:  Botanica Omegalicious (delicious and very easy to take, even if you don’t like fish!), Ascenta/NutraSea, Karleans, Genestra.



Immune health (so SO important!)

  • Your hands will never be so scrubbed as they are during the time you spend in the NICU, and for good reason.  Keep a little bottle of hand sanitizer around as well.  I like CleanWell for the ingredients.  You get used to smelling like thyme 🙂 but at least there’s no potentially harmful compounds like triclosan in it.
  • If you’ve never used a neti pot now might be a good time to pick one up and keep it in the shower.  A quick saline rinse of the nostrils from time to time to wash away viruses is easy.
  • Get those loving and supportive friends and family of yours to make soups and stews that are predominantly veggies with yummy spices such as garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, rosemary, chili, and turmeric.  There are good medicines in a well stocked spice rack!
  • I can put together a custom tincture for you of herbs that can be used in low doses for illness prevention, or ramped up at the first sign of sniffle.  Of course, all herbs chosen will be breast-feeding friendly!



Milk making

  • Hydration!  Most lactating mamas produce between 700-900mL per day which means that you need an extra litre of water (not coffee, not pop, not juice) every day.  The NICU has a good water station so get your pretty refillable bottle and keep drinking that water.
  • There are a few herbs that support milk production but like all herbs they have multiple uses.  You can try some of the pre-made teas available (Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk, Earth Mama Angel Baby Milkmaid tea) but if they aren’t enough for you then don’t despair!  There are stronger (but still safe) options that may be more specific to you and your milking needs.  That’s where I can help.
  • Do yourself a favour and make a hands-free nursing bra.  I made mine from a cheap bra from Costco that was already in my drawer by putting it on, poking my index finger beside my nipple, marking the outside with a pen, and then snipping a cross through the fabric.  Tah dah!  It made time in the pump room more useful by giving me my hands back.  I actually made two and kept one in my locker at the NICU and one at home for night pumping.
  • If you can donate milk then PLEASE DO!!

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