The #1 Resource & Support Network for Parents of Twins

The #1 Resource & Support Network for Parents of Twins

Tips to Ease Your NICU Stress and Anxiety

Tips to Ease Your NICU Stress and Anxiety

NICU stress and anxiety

Last updated on February 14th, 2024 at 05:09 pm

If you are like the majority of Twiniversity families, you may have spent some time in the NICU or may even be there now. If you are there now, I’m sure you might feel overwhelmed by the experience, and we understand. Over 86% of twins are born prematurely (under 38 weeks) and twin moms and dads are no strangers to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Today we’re going to give you some of our best tips to make your time there as stress-free as we can.

Before we jump in, we want to tell you that everything will be okay. Personally, my twin boys were born at 34 weeks gestation and spent 2 weeks in the NICU. I know how you feel, a lot of us do. Seriously, trust us, you will be ok.

babies in the NICU, which cause stress and anxiety

Do Not Compare – Not All Preemies Are the Same

It’s VERY important to remember that each baby admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is facing a range of medical issues that require specialized care that can range from minor to major. Not one story is the same in the NICU. So, it’s important that you refrain from comparing your baby (or babies) to anyone else or to each other.

Personally, my babies were born at a low birth weight (under 5 1/2 lbs), which automatically got them a first-class ticket to the NICU at my particular hospital. Twiniversity families have NICU stays for many, many reasons. Some even get brought there for observation. So please remember that every hospital has its own set of criteria regarding the NICU and you might want to speak to your doctor about the rules in your particular situation.

So remember, if/when you’re in the actual NICU, try to stay focused on your baby(s) and do not allow your mind to spiral. Don’t think about different hypothetical scenarios that other babies might be experiencing around you. Your babies are right where they need to be. They are being taken care of by some of the most skilled hands in the hospital.

what to do when you're breastfeeding too ad

Worried about breastfeeding twins? What To Do When You’re Breastfeeding Two is an on-demand online breastfeeding twins class made just for YOU! This course was created by Twiniversity in partnership with Judy Teibloom-Mishkin, IBCLC. Click here to learn more…

Not All Motherhoods Look the Same

I used to think that adulthood was the scariest of “hoods”, but then I entered motherhood! Add a side of twins and some NICU stress and anxiety and the “mother” of all the “hoods” wins!

A new mom with NICU stress and anxiety

Try not to compare your early parenting experience with your mom’s, your friends or any parents. You may feel inadequate and lonely if you do. You might even feel depressed, sad, anxious, and stressed. NICU babies are not uncommon, but you may be the only one in your group of friends to experience it.

If you find comfort in your aloneness, that’s okay. Feel free to establish a boundary, especially at first, so you can get comfortable with your current life status. There are plenty of life experiences that no one will truly understand until they go through it and for you, this may be one of them. But don’t stay disconnected for too long. If your friends and family can’t relate to your experience, seek out the help of a social worker in the NICU who might be able to introduce you to some other families there. Heck, consider making friends yourself with a person visiting their baby(ies) right next to you. Many Twiniversity families have made lifelong friends in the NICU.

Personally, during the NICU stay with my twins, the pump room (where I pumped breastmilk for my kiddos) was often filled with other NICU moms. Although all our stories were different, we were all chapters in the same book. I shared my story or sometimes just listened to theirs, I found a lot of comfort there. If your hospital doesn’t have a communal room, consider joining the Twiniversity gang during the monthly meeting. You’ll find plenty of NICU parents there.

Your Babies Are Where They Need to Be!

You might have uncertain feelings about not having your babies come home with you right away, or you may be in the hospital yourself recovering from a C-section or another medical condition. Remember your babies are in the NICU and being looked after day and night by qualified nurses and doctors. They are in good hands! They are getting the care that they need and can not be provided at home.

 At least for now.

newborn twins being cared for by a happy doctor

Nurses Are Your Friends

Use this time in the NICU to pick the brains of the nurses and let them guide you! If you are spending hours there anyway (breastfeeding, pumping, and just spending time with your babies), observe the nurses. Watch their techniques, especially their swaddle abilities. Take notice of the products they are using (during diaper changes, baths, etc.) and the routines they keep.

I was always impressed and grateful for how comfortable the nurses were with my babies. The same babies who were so little and fragile, even I was afraid to hold them. They gave me the confidence to be the best mom I could be.

twin pregnancy timeline week by week

If you just heard that second heartbeat for the first time, or you know it’s been two for a while, you need to read our twin pregnancy week by week timeline to help you learn what happens week by week with twins. Click here to learn more… and while you’re at it, check out our expecting twins classes and twin parent coaching services.

Speak up and Ask Questions!

As their parent, you have all the right to ask the nurses and doctors any questions you might have! Make sure you are getting updates on your baby’s progression in height, weight, and any other medical issues they are dealing with.

In my experience, the nurses usually changed shifts every 12 hours, and my babies were seen by the perinatologist each morning. Because I knew the schedule, I knew when I needed to be there if I had questions or concerns to be answered. Pay attention to the schedule and know when to call or when to be there to speak with the doctor! Prepare questions. Keep the communication open. You want to know exactly what is going on with your babies. And, I honestly believe, no question is off limits, as long as it pertains to the care of your babies!

babies in the NICU

You Just Might Grow Attached to the NICU

I was so shocked and worried about my babies being sent to the NICU that I did not expect to grow attached to them being there. But I did. I came to depend on the NICU to properly take care of my babies. So much, that I actually fantasized about them staying longer. I think this stemmed from a fear that I wouldn’t be able to provide the same level of care for them at home! 

Depending on how long your babies end up staying in the NICU, you might become accustomed to having them there. Regardless if you are there or not, your babies are being cared for twenty-four hours a day.

So it’s not surprising that the idea of taking your babies home becomes scary. Luckily the staff in the NICU recognized my fear and gave me the little push I needed.

Having babies in the NICU creates a lot of stress and anxiety

One of my babies was smaller and appeared fragile. I got it into my mind that he was still too small for me to hold, (I was already holding my other baby). One of the nurses gave me some tough love (which in hindsight, I definitely needed) and said, “He’s a strong one, a real fighter! Don’t treat him like he’s different. Hold your baby!” And then she passed him to me to hold for the first time. I will always be grateful to her because she saw my apprehension and helped me overcome it.

When the time comes to take your babies home from the NICU, it will be because they are ready! You might not feel ready, but you’re more ready than you realize!

NICU stress and anxiety is not uncommon. But, if you follow these tips, you just might be able to enjoy the experience a little, and reduce your stress and anxiety a lot!

Written by Aleksandra Gold.

Aleksandra Gold, LCSW lives with her husband and twin boys in Brooklyn, New York. She immigrated with her family from Ukraine at age 5 and was raised in Brooklyn and Long Island. She is proudly bilingual in English and Russian. Aleksandra Gold completed her MSW at NYU Silver School of Social Work and is a licensed mental health professional with experience in both inpatient and outpatient mental health and substance abuse. Aleksandra Gold produces content using observations from her life experiences and knowledge of mental health and human behavior. She is a contributing writer for The Mighty.

All content on this website, including medical opinions and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Latest Twiniversity Articles

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

/ /

Staying Informed

Recent Posts