Gift Ideas for NICU Families

I received an email last week from high school friend whose friend just had a micro preemie.  She wanted to know if I had any suggestions for gifts that would be especially appreciated by the family while the baby was still in the hospital.  Every family has different wishes and needs, but I’ve compiled a list of some the gifts we, or people we know, received and loved.  Several of these items would be appropriate for any family who has a loved one that is chronically ill or has an extended stay in the hospital.

  • A personalized blanket:  Even though the baby can’t get bundled in the blanket yet, it can be used in the NICU as an isolette cover.  Isolettes are normally covered to give the baby a dark space to sleep and grow.  We had a few blankets for Owen and I loved it when his blankets were on his isolette versus one of the hospital’s.  Especially when they are really tiny and can’t wear clothes yet, it’s nice to be able to give some personality to the baby and it warms up the sterile NICU environment.  A standard 30” X 40” size works well.  Pottery Barn Kids has a great selection of blankets that can be personalized.
  • Books to read to baby:  With both of our boys’ hospital stays, we loved reading stories as we held them or sat by their beds.  It’s a nice way for the baby to hear his parents’ voices and to build the routine of reading to the baby.  Today when we read Kellen his goodnight stories we always mention if the book we’re reading is one that we read when he was “a teeny tiny baby in the hospital”.
  • Books for siblings:  Kellen was 27 months when Owen was born and the NICU was really hard for him to understand.  He loved the book My Brother is a Preemie (there is also a sister version)  We read it several times a day those first weeks Owen was in the hospital.  Now as he’s a little older, another book that he likes is No Bigger Than My Teddy Bear.  The books helped us give the right words to Kellen to describe what he was seeing and, I believe, helped him feel more comfortable when he visited his brother.
  • A Journal:  Even as much as I share on this blog, I still keep a personal journal.  It seemed most of the moms do some writing to help them cope.  A journal dedicated to this journey is healing in the moment and a nice keepsake for the future.
  • A good luck / prayer item:  Owen was given two beanie babies that we kept on his shelf.  One was a bear kneeling in prayer and the other was a lucky Irish bear (if the red hair didn’t give it away, our boys are Irish).  Kyle and I also had our own personal good luck charms.  For six months, Kyle never took off the wristband the hospital gave him when Owen was born.  I have no idea how it lasted that long, but I’m pretty sure he was protective of it.  I wore and still wear my necklace with charms that Kyle gave me when each boy was born.  Kellen’s is a star and Owen’s is a circle.  We also received a prayer shawl and passed it along to another family when the time seemed appropriate.  A great idea to show solidarity to the family is to have family and friends wear Preemie Power bracelets like those found at Peek-a-boo ICU.
  • Things for mom and dad to do at the hospital:  There is a lot of sitting around when you have a loved one in the hospital.  Books, magazines, music and games are great ways to break up the periods of boredom.  You could give something of personal meaning or give an iTunes card and let the family choose for themselves.
  • Help with Logistics:  The day to day activities like running to the grocery store, making dinner and mowing the lawn often don’t get done or become big stresses for families that are trying to spend as much time as possible at the hospital.  Also, finances are tighter – often people are out of work for long periods of times and the expenses add up quickly.  Here are a few things that can help eliminate stress.
    • Make a meal that’s easily frozen
    • Pre-make several bagged lunches that can be taken to the hospital
    • Give a Gift Card for a restaurant that is near the home or hospital
    • Send an email and let the family know you’re running to Target, Sam’s or the Grocery Store and ask them if you can get the items on their list to be dropped off at their house.  You don’t need to pay for the groceries – it’s about the gift of time.
    • Mow their lawn or shovel their sidewalk
    • Gas cards
    • Pay their hospital parking for a day/week/month
    • Offer to walk their dog
  • Keep in communication and don’t be offended if it’s one-sided:  In most NICUs phones are not allowed so remember, if a parent is talking to you, they can’t be with their baby.  I received many letters, phone call, emails and texts and didn’t always respond individually, but I appreciated every contact.  I especially appreciated it when people said, “don’t worry about getting back to me, I know you’re busy.  I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you.”
  • Volunteer/Donate in the families name for a preemie cause or at the hospital:  Did you know there are people who volunteer to hold babies at the NICU?  There are also volunteers in the other units that can stop by and visit children to allow the parents time to sit outside for a few minutes or grab a bite to eat outside of the room.  Giving, in any way, to the cause is a great way to say you want a part in being the solution to the problems your loved one is facing.  You could also donate blood or plasma and send a small note to the family letting them know you did it because you know families like their needs it
  • Offer to babysit (those in the hospital or siblings):  Baby sitters are expensive and not always easy to find available.  It’s a relief to the parent to know that their child is with someone they know and enjoy and it is a huge help if they don’t have to pay.  Kyle and I were able to take monthly date nights and spend joint time with Owen because of several free and ever ready babysitters.
  • A hug and shared tears:  I’ve talked about this in the 10 Lessons Learned post, but listening is a really wonderful gift.  You don’t need to spend a dime to help someone going through a difficult time.

That’s a small list from some of the ways we were helped.  I’d love to hear from others that have received thoughtful gifts during extended hospital stays (NICU or otherwise) – what would add?

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

6 thoughts on “Gift Ideas for NICU Families

  1. Hi there! I just found your blog via Busy Breathers. It was so comforting reading your story. Our son, Emmett, is 8 months old and still on oxygen. Everyone we read about is usually off of it by this point. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to leave a note. I agree, it’s always good to know of others who are in similar situations. Makes it all feel much less lonely. I’ve met a few moms on FB who have kids on the more extended oxygen plan and it’s always comforting. I wish Emmett all the best and really healthy summer so he can work towards going wireless soon!

  3. When my niece Maera was in the NICU, I designed and made some tiny micro-preemie sized gowns for her. They brought some small sense of normalcy in the simple act of being able to clothe her in something sized just for her. The gowns are a wrap-around style that doesn’t interfere with tubes and wires. It is a privilege to make them available to you and your tiniest loved ones. Check them out on Etsy.

  4. Pingback: Christmas Spirit | Kristy Wolfe Photography

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