When a baby is born prematurely and needs extra care in the NICU, the baby’s parents often need a little extra love and care, too. But what kinds of gifts are both comforting and helpful, supportive and respectful? To find out, we went straight to parents who have spent time in the NICU with their babies. Below, we’ve listed 30 thoughtful gifts for NICU parents.
Check-In Text or Email
Sending a text message or email to parents with a baby in the NICU is a free gift, but it goes a long way. Said one mother we talked to, “It was so nice to know people were thinking of us.” Your message doesn’t have to say much: you’re thinking of them; you’re excited about the new baby; you’re willing to help in any way the family may need. Just make it clear there is no rush, or even need, for the family to respond.
Gift Cards for Food Delivery
One thing is for certain when you spend as much time in the hospital as does a NICU parent: hospital food gets old! Give the gift of a good, healthy dinner on the parents’ schedule by gifting them a gift card to DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates, or another food delivery service. These will give them plenty of restaurant options that can be delivered right to their home or the hospital.
On a related note, NICU parents can never have enough snacks. Fill a bag or a basket with a mix of non-perishable protein and sweet treats. Some universal favorites include beef jerky, chips, and candy bars.
Rolls of Quarters
In addition to, or in lieu of a basket of snacks, a roll of quarters will be helpful when mom or dad needs a trip to the vending machine.
Seeing one’s baby in an incubator and hooked up to myriad tubes and wires is enough to fray anyone’s nerves. A gift of tissues provides NICU parents with something that they’ll surely need and use. It’s a very thoughtful gift that shows understanding and compassion for this current life stage.
Help a NICU mom or dad pass the time with some fun books of crossword puzzles, sudoku, search and finds, or search and finds.
A Good Book
For a mom or dad who loves to read, a good page-turner would come in handy for the many hours spent waiting in the NICU.
For parents with a baby in the NICU and other children at home, an offer of childcare can be a helpful gift of relief. Offer to take the other child(ren) to school or daycare, pick them up, feed them dinner, or even have them spend the night.
Some Help Around the House
In addition to childcare, offering to help around the house is another way to take some weight off of a NICU parent’s shoulders. Do a bit of cleaning, or pay for a temporary cleaning service to come in and make the house ready for the new family to come home. Take the dog for a walk, or offer to feed the pets each evening. You could also leave a home-cooked meal for the family to come home to after spending the day at the hospital.
One dad we talked to mentioned there were a lot of rules about no sleeping in the NICU rooms. Unfortunately, the often-overwhelming emotion that comes with having a new baby in the hospital is exhausting. Help mom and dad stay awake by gifting caffeine pills or energy drinks for the times they need to be at their child’s side.
Driver Fatigue Alarm
While most people wish to give the gift of sleep to new parents, the opposite is true for NICU parents. In addition to the caffeine pills, a driver fatigue alarm like this one can be helpful when it comes to staying awake long or inconvenient hours.
Of course, NICU parents are allowed to sleep at some point, though whether that point is comfortable is a mere hope only. Make things a little more comfy by gifting a NICU mom or dad a blanket. Plus, hospitals are cold.
To go with the above blanket, an eye mask makes it easier to get some rest even during the day time. We like these NICU-specific eye masks available on Etsy.
Sweatpants, Slippers, and Other Comfy Clothing
Long hours spent in the hospital warrant comfortable clothing, and what’s more comfortable than sweatpants and slippers?
Gas Station Gift Card
Driving to and from the hospital gets expensive. Help take the financial burden off of parents with a baby in the NICU by gifting a gas card. It will surely be appreciated.
Very few people actually plan for their baby to be born prematurely, and so most of a baby’s new clothes are for sizes newborn (seven pounds) and up. A few onesies or little outfits in preemie size make a nice gift for a smaller baby.
A Gift Card for Some Pampering
Giving birth is hard enough. Giving birth, then watching one’s baby fight for its life in the NICU is absolutely harrowing. Help a NICU mom relax with the gift of a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Take her out to the spa to enjoy a day together, or offer a gift card so she can go on her own time.
NICU Mama Affirmation Cards
Lift up a scared, defeated feeling NICU mama spiritually by gifting her these NICU Mama Affirmation Cards from Fourth Trimester Mama. The set of 10 positive affirmations will remind a new mom that she is stronger than this tough first phase of motherhood.
NICU Warrior Mama Mug
Remind a NICU mama that she is a warrior with this mug made especially for her by Shop Row Baby. The mug is available in 11- or 15-ounce capacity, and is sure to remain a favorite both during the hospital stay and once the family has gone home.
NICU parents are encouraged to speak and read to their child. Thus, gifts of children’s books meant to be read aloud make great gifts for NICU babies. Go with an inspiring classic like Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Place You’ll Go!, a sentimental favorite like On the Night You Were Born, or a book written specifically for NICU parents to read to their preemies, like Small But Mighty.
“Look But Don’t Touch” Carseat Sign
Perhaps the only place scarier than the NICU is the outside world. All the germs! Parents of preemies are sure to appreciate receiving a carseat sign that encourages people to look at the baby, but not to touch. There are lots of options on Etsy, like this one or this one.
Little Socks and Hats
Preemies have a harder time regulating their body temperature than do babies born full term. If you’re looking for a thoughtful, yet useful gift for baby, consider purchasing a few pairs of socks and some hats. Some, like this hat from Etsy, are made just for preemies.
Scent Bonding Hearts
NICU babies and their parents often miss out on the early snuggles that help with bonding. For this reason, a gift like these scent bonding hearts is very thoughtful. The NICU mom or dad wears one heart on their person throughout the day. Then the next time they are in the NICU, the heart is put with the baby to smell its parent’s scent. The bonding hearts come in a set of two so that baby and parent can always have one.
Finn the Panda
Finn the Panda was developed specifically to comfort babies in the NICU, and to help bond baby to parent even when they’re separated. Finn is made of antimicrobial cashmere, and is therefore safe to use in a hospital setting. His cotton heart detaches for the parent to use as a scent catcher, while an internal recording device even allows mom or dad to record a greeting in their voice for their child to hear.
NICU Baby Journal
Many parents we spoke to mentioned sitting in the NICU and feeling like they wanted to move past this life stage and forget all about it. They yearned for normalcy. Then, years later they wished that they had written down some memories or had more photos. After all, the NICU is a big part of many children’s life stories. Help a NICU parent to slow down time and capture the journey by gifting them a baby journal designed especially for a baby who has spent time in the NICU.
A Session With a Professional Photographer
Along the same lines as the NICU baby journal is a session with a newborn photographer. While newborn photos are something most parents plan on purchasing, families who end up in the NICU too frequently push the thought aside.
Clean Touch Ink Pad
Don’t let a new parent miss out on documenting just how tiny and precious is their new baby. An ink pad like the Pearhead Clean Touch Ink Pad provides a clean (the baby’s skin never touches the ink) and lasting way to obtain a baby’s footprints and handprints.
Preemie Tote Bag
This preemie tote bag from the Etsy shop Preemie Junction makes the perfect gift for any NICU mom who finds herself traveling back and forth from home to the hospital.
Preemie Milestone Cards
Milestone cards are a favorite for capturing photos of a growing baby. But because preemies have their own milestones, a typical set of developmental cards just won’t do the [full] trick. Gift a set of preemie milestone cards like this one or this one so that a NICU parent can document their child’s journey, too.
Happy Baby Wrap
Babywearing is one of the best ways for a parent and new baby to bond. Gift a NICU mom or dad with a wearable wrap, like this super soft one from Happy Baby. While some will be able to be worn in the hospital for skin-on-skin time, others will have to wait until they’re released to be worn. Either way, a NICU parent is sure to appreciate receiving the gift of closeness that comes with a baby wrap.