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What to Bring to the NICU – Things I Actually Used During Our Stay

Everything happened in a blur. One second we were waiting for news to hold our little girl, and the next second, she was being sent to the NICU. When thinking about going to the hospital to have your baby, most parents don’t even consider a NICU stay as a part of it. But, in reality, between 10-15 percent of all babies will need some extra care before going home. 

Having a baby in the NICU can be so hard and overwhelming. When we learned our little one was headed to the NICU in an ambulance after being born at 36 weeks, we didn’t have any time to prepare. We frantically packed everything except for the kitchen sink because we had NO idea what to bring to the NICU.

I crack up when I think about us walking in that night. We were definitely newbies because we had bags of enough stuff to last us weeks. The nurses must have thought we looked hilarious. But, that’s new parents for you! I wish we could’ve prepared or had a little insight on what to expect and what to bring, which is why I’ve compiled a list of 15 things you will NEED for your NICU stay!

15 Things to Bring to the NICU

Depending on your hospital and the situation of your little one, you probably won’t be able to stay the night. We were told we had a private room, but once we arrived, we realized that we weren’t really able to stay. We could visit 24/7, but we weren’t actually allowed to sleep there. So, keep in mind that the items you may need could vary depending on your hospital’s rules and regulations! 

I am so grateful for the nurse that welcomed us into the NICU. When I arrived she gave me the rundown on what to expect. Then she was also kind enough to take time with me and share some advice. Even though it’s her job and she sees parents coming into the NICU all the time, she still understood how scary this can be for new parents like myself, and I am just so appreciative of her! As a matter of fact, a lot of what I’m about to tell you was from this sweet conversation! 

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1. Things to Make it Feel like Home

Even if your little one isn’t expected to stay long, there is just something comforting about making a space your own. Our family made cards that we hung on the cabinets where we kept her clothes, brought some stuffed animals, and tried to bring some items to make it feel more warm and welcoming. It was so comforting to see these, especially since we spent most of our day in this tiny room. It will really make a difference! 

 What to Bring to the NICU for Mom

mom with baby in the NICU

I strongly suggest that you should bring a bag for yourself whenever you come to the NICU. Chances are, you’re going to be coming for long periods of time, and it’s important that you bring things for yourself! Here are some items you should put in your bag…

2. Snacks

More than likely, you are going to be either pumping or nursing while you’re with your sweet baby. That means you are going to have an appetite! Even if you’re not, it’s important that you bring yourself some healthy snacks to munch on during your stay! I always packed a couple of granola bars, chips or crackers, and I was good to go! 

3. Water

Especially if you’re breastfeeding, you are going to need to stay hydrated! Of course, every new mom needs to stay hydrated while they’re with their baby, but there’s just something about nursing that made me feel thirsty ALL THE TIME! Throw yourself a big bottle of water in your bag before you head to the NICU!

4. Breast Pads

Having a baby in the NICU typically means that they are either feeding on a very specific schedule or they can’t breastfeed right away. Either way, that means that you will need to be prepared if your milk comes in or if you experience any leaking from becoming engorged or needing to pump. Luckily, most NICUs will provide mamas with breast pumps if you ask for one, but be sure to bring and wear some breast pads just in case! 

Here are my favorite re-usable Breast Pads!

5. Change of Clothes

Being postpartum means that your body is changing in a lot of ways. You’re breastfeeding, so you may leak breast milk, but you’re also going to be other symptoms, like bleeding, from giving birth that may also cause you to need to change clothes. So, it’s much easier to have an extra set of clothes in your bag just in case than to have to stop everything and run home if you ruin your outfit. 

I’d also advise that you should just wear a nursing bra and clothes that make it easy to pump and breastfeed. It’ll save you a lot of time and discomfort, especially if you are in a partially private NICU room.

6. Breast Pump Cleaning Kit

Like I said earlier, most hospitals will provide you with a breast pump, but it can be kind of difficult to clean all of the parts while you’re there. A breast pump cleaning kit will definitely make your life easier while you’re staying with your little one! 

Here is the Cleaning Kit I purchased!

7. Breast Pump Bra

Most moms-to-be don’t realize that there’s a difference between a pumping bra and a nursing bra! But, a breast pump bra actually allows you to pump hands-free! It’s amazing and helps make pumping a little more comfortable, so be sure to throw one in your bag when you’re preparing to head to the NICU! 

Here is Breast Pump Bra I LOVED!

8. Postpartum Care Kit

In my Preparing for Postpartum post, I shared what all you need in your postpartum care kit, but essentially it is all of the items that you’ll need to take care of yourself while you are recovering from giving birth! Yes, you are there to take care of your baby, but you’ve got to take care of yourself as well! 

9. Things to do

In between waiting for nurses, feeding, and changing your little one, you will need something to do! Bring a book, journal, laptop and movies, or your Bible to keep you busy. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of staring at your phone, but you’d be surprised at how much downtime there will be to waste! Bring something a little more productive and fun to do during the slower times. 

10. Nursing Pillow

If your baby is nursing, a nursing pillow is a game changer! Plus, it’s another thing that you will be using at home so it will make it that much easier if you and baby are already getting the hang of it. 

11. Blanket

Like I said earlier, there will be moments where there is some downtime and you may want to take a nap. Or, the temperature in the hospital may be a little chilly and a blanket will help keep you warm and cozy. Either way, it would never hurt to snag a blanket to bring for yourself while you’re in the NICU with your baby. 

What you Should Bring For a Baby in the NICU

baby in the NICU

As you can see, most of what to bring to the NICU is for the mom, and there’s a good reason for that! First of all, as a new mom whose baby is in the NICU, you find yourself focusing on the baby and not yourself. So, it’s important to remember that you need things, too! But, second of all, the baby already has most of what he/she needs from the NICU. They are providing the diapers, the wipes, the bottles, the medicine, and pretty much everything you can think of. 

But, there are a few things that you will want to bring for your baby that the hospital either doesn’t provide or you’d just prefer for your baby to have his/her own of…

12. Muslin Swaddles

While the hospital does provide blankets, my NICU nurses were so thankful that I brought those big muslin swaddles from home. They actually wrapped the swaddles around the mattress, and I can’t even begin to tell you how that small little act made it just feel so much warmer and like it was our space. It was such a nice touch!

Then, as my baby was taken off some of the wires and she was able to be swaddled, the nurse would swaddle her in those as well! 

Here are some perfect LARGE Muslin Swaddles!

13. Onesies

Some babies are only in diapers, but as they improve or they are allowed to be in clothes, the nurses will start dressing the baby in onesies. Go ahead and bring some cute onesies even if your baby isn’t ready for clothes yet and have them in the cabinet ready to go! 

14. Hats/Bows

I had no idea that I could put anything on my little one’s head until I walked in one day and she had the cutest little hat that an older lady had knitted for her! It was so adorable, and from then on, I started bringing her hats and bows to wear. Again, there’s just something so comforting in seeing your baby in something that is cute and makes things feel a little more normal.

My favorite hair bows that grow with baby!

15. Lotion

Now, your hospital may provide this, but mine didn’t so you may want to bring some lotion just in case! Make sure that when you’re getting lotion for your newborn that you remember that their skin is incredibly sensitive! Look for extra sensitive lotion or lotion that is made specifically for newborns! 

My favorite lotion for sensitive skin!

In Conclusion…

While no mom wants their baby to ever have to go to the NICU, it is a reality for many. It may be stressful and exhausting traveling back and forth while also recovering from giving birth, but I hope that this list of what to bring to the NICU shows you some ways that you can make the best of your NICU stay! 

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