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Saving Memories of your Preemie Baby in the NICU

By Kristie McNealy

Anyone who’s been there will admit that there’s nothing “normal” about having a baby in the NICU. It’s a difficult journey, one many parents may wish they could forget. But, the fact is, this is your baby’s beginning, and it is one that your preemie or their siblings, friends or even you will want to remember. Like any child, preemies love to hear their stories, so here are some tips for making memories while in the NICU.

There are many ways you can record your NICU journey, including journals, photos, videos, memory boxes, scrapbooking and keeping a special NICU baby book. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but having a variety of choices is probably best. You may think you’ll never want to see the photos or remember how you felt on a particularly hard day, but you might surprise yourself in the future. Plus, while your baby will only be this small once, you’ll always have the ability to throw things away if you decide you don’t want them in the future.

There are no rules to keeping a NICU journal. You can jot down your thoughts or ideas in a small notebook or diary, or buy a special NICU journal designed just for this purpose. Many parents find journaling is a helpful way to sort out feelings as well as record details from conversations with medical staff and questions they’d like to ask in the future. A journal is also a great place to record weights, test results and milestones you might want to scrapbook or put in a baby book in the future.

NICU Baby Books:
Sometimes a regular baby book just doesn’t cut it for a preemie or NICU baby. If that’s the case, there are a few alternatives made just for your situation. Preemie baby books include special places to record important NICU milestones like coming off a ventilator, moving to an open crib or getting to full feeds.

Photos and Video:
Many people shy away from photographing their baby in the NICU because of how they look. Some people will be shocked by your baby’s appearance in photos, or may just be too afraid to look because they don’t know what to expect. However, photos and video are a great way to keep family and friends connected with your baby’s progress in the NICU. They can be especially helpful for siblings, who are often kept out of the NICU. Many NICUs have a Polaroid on hand, but if not, keep a disposable camera at the NICU, and ask nurses to record any firsts you may miss while you’re away from your baby. One day these photos and videos will be a great reminder of just how far you and your baby have come. You can also hire a professional to take and retouch photos of your baby. If the medical items in the photos continue to bother you in the future, there are artists who can make sketches from your pictures, leaving out things like IVs and monitors. Photos can also be retouched to remove some of these items, soften lighting or remove the background.

Memory Boxes:
You’ll gather many mementoes of your NICU stay, including tiny hospital bands and hats, crib cards, name tags and cards from well wishers. Other things you might want to save include a preemie diaper, a first outfit and other tiny items which will never cease to amaze your child as they grow bigger. Together with mementoes of your pregnancy like ultrasound photos, these items will make up a treasured collection that you and your child will enjoy going through in the future. Keep them together in a special baby memory box, plastic container or chest for years to come.

Many NICU support groups host scrapbooking nights as a way to bring parents together to discuss and record their babies’ NICU journeys. Whether or not this happens at your NICU, creating scrapbook pages can be a fun and creative way to record your memories of the NICU and your baby’s milestones. You can be as creative as you want, but if you aren’t the craftiest person in the world, have no fear. Special preemie scrapbook pages and stickers are available from specialty retailers.

Regardless of how you choose to record memories in the NICU, rest assured that you and your preemie will treasure these mementoes well into the future.

Kristie McNealy is a preemie mom and the creator of Preemie Expressions and Homecoming Announcements. Visit her website at http://www.nicu101.com

Surviving the NICU - Premature Baby
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Keeping a Preemie Baby Diary
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Every Preemie Parent Needs to Know
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