After going through 3 admissions in as many years (1 NICU admission after birth, and 2 short admissions), I think of things to bring for the next admission and things not to bring for a future admission. I wanted to share my tips and tricks, with the hope that it might help another mom or dad with their packing list when their child is admitted. I am by no means an expert, and this list certainly is not exhaustive. It is a "work in progress," and I'll try to remember to update this often when I discover new things.
Please make sure you talk to your NICU staff about what they permit at the bedside before doing things on your own. Each NICU typically has it's own set of rules, and some will allow certain things while others will not. Some things could also depend on your baby's situation.
* Bring some pictures to put at the bedside: you, your spouse/significant other, any pets, other family members, etc. Even though baby can't focus on them, it can give the bedside and even the isolette a comforting touch.
* You can bring your own clothes for baby to wear, but it's not a requirement. If you do bring your own clothes, label EVERYTHING. Tell the nurses that you want to use your own clothes, and if they don't put a note at the bedside alerting everyone that you're using your own, make a little sign yourself and hang it on the isolette/open crib. If your clothes are labeled and they accidentally get tossed into the hospital laundry, it'll be easier to track them down.
* Blankets are a great way to spruce up and decorate the bedside. A clean, soft blanket from home can be used for kangaroo care, and can also be draped over the isolette for a personal touch.
* If you are planning to try to breastfeed, a nursing pillow can help. One can also help with bottle feeds. Ask if you can keep your Boppy or My Brest Friend (or whatever your pillow of choice is) at the bedside so you don't have to haul it back and forth.
* Ask for Snappis/breastmilk storage containers as often as you can, even if it's every day. Get a couple packs at a time if possible. You go through them fast, especially once your supply is established, and it's a good idea to have plenty of extras around in case you can't make it to the NICU for a day or 2 (or longer).
* Watch what kind of clothing you get. Avoid zippers, because you can't close them completely or easily around monitor leads. Snaps are always the best option as it allows for monitor leads to easily come out of the clothes. Pull over outfits also work well, but ask your NICU team first since some aren't as wild about them.
* Take lots of pictures! You'll be amazed by how much baby changes in a really short amount of time. Grab some videos of baby as well.
* Bring some things to do while you sit at the bedside during times when baby can't be held. Books, portable DVD players, laptops, iPads, scrapbooking supplies, etc. can all help pass the time.
* Pack some snacks and small bottles of water in your bag so you don't have to get them in the cafeteria or from vending machines. It's much cheaper to bring stuff yourself.
Admissions for a Young Child
I'm sure there is some cross over for admissions for other conditions, but since my experience is CF related, my tips and tricks will reflect more of that than anything.
+ = things to avoid if you are being admitted for a GI clean out; don't have them on or in the bed for sure, but you may still need some of these things to go home at discharge
Things to Bring:
+ Favorite blanket(s) for your child
blanket(s) and/or sheets for you
soft mattress topper for bed chairs/fold down beds/cots
+ pillow(s) for your child
pillow(s) for you
+ pajamas and very comfortable clothes (think sweats, cotton pants and tops, etc)
clothes and pajamas for you
books, puzzle books
+ favorite toy/stuffed animal/doll or 2 for your child
laptop, iPad, or phone (or any combination of these) and chargers for all electronics
entertainment for your child (books, coloring books and crayons, etc)
toiletries (toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, etc)
combs, brushes, and other hair supplies that you use regularly
money for food
your own vest system (optional; the hospital may have their own machines you can use)
* As noted in the key, really watch what you bring if you're being admitted for a clean out. Don't keep ANYTHING in the bed that you or your child really cares about, because the odds are incredibly high that said item will be ruined by poop. You can bring blankets, a favorite stuffed animal/doll/toy, etc, but keep it safe on a shelf away from the bed until you're ready to go home. Stick with hospital gowns and not your own clothes (including socks if you don't want to have to buy a lot of new ones) for the same reason, since it will get ruined.
* If you're in for a clean out with a really young child who is still in diapers or is potty trained but will be in diapers as a backup, ask for the heavy duty chucks to line the bed instead of the thinner blue chucks/linen chucks that they lay down. We got big, purple ones to line the bed for our last clean out, and it saved us from changing the linens extra frequently. You may still have some linen changes, but hopefully not as many.
* Ask your hospital if they have the option for a parent's tray to be brought to the room. Our hospital offers one for a cheaper fee than what you could end up paying in the cafeteria. You can also nibble off your child's tray, depending on the diet they're on (that doesn't work as well if they're on clear liquids).
* Don't hesitate to ask the nurses to keep an eye on your child so you can take a walk and get food or just get away from things for a few minutes if you need to. Even a short-ish walk to the cafeteria to get a meal can help give you a small boost of energy.
* Child life specialists can help during procedures, even for something as "basic" as a blood draw or IV placement. If your child has a hard time with these things, ask if they can help offer distractions.
* If you're going to be in for a longer stay, bring some things to decorate your room to make it more homey. I saw a neat tip on another CF blog I read, and the mom decorated her child's IV pole with Christmas lights. Make paper chains to hang, or have your child draw/color pictures to hang up and display.
* Bring some "cooler weather" clothes for yourself and your child if you or they tend to be cold. Hospital rooms are often kept colder, and you can adjust the temperature, but bring some capri-length or long pants and maybe a long sleeved top or sweatshirt if you get cold easily.
* Bring enough socks for you and your child, and possibly slippers (that are easily washed) or sandals to walk around. Everyone has their preferences, but I personally do not go barefoot or allow Judith to go barefoot in a hospital room. Think about it: those floors are nasty, and hospitals are germ-filled places. The floors are certainly cleaned, but yeah. If you're comfortable going barefoot, though, go for it.
* Try to outsource phone calls if you think you'll be constantly bombarded by calls and/or texts. Have a couple contact people that you can give updates to and let them pass the word on, or let people know you'll post updates on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, through a mass email, etc. During our first post-NICU admission, it was getting extremely difficult to field phone calls from tons of people on top of changing many diapers, scheduled tests, and discussing things with the doctors and nurses.
* If a spouse/significant other cannot be at the hospital for whatever reason, even for a visit, Skype or Facetime with them. You and your child can still see and hear them that way, and it can help. You can always do the same for family and friends if they want to visit, but are unable to.