How to Create the Ultimate NICU Care Package
So, you've got a friend or loved one with a baby in the NICU, and you want to give them the best gift possible? You've come to the right place.
Today I'm excited to share all of my favorite care packages ideas for every type of NICU parent! We'll start with the basic care package ingredients, and then look at a whole bunch of other fun ideas to make the gift super fantastic!
(For simplicity, I'm going to say the gift is for "mom" throughout, but please know that all of the care packages will work great for either mom or dad!)
The basic NICU care package
Your most basic care package will probably include the following items, because they're the things every NICU mom needs.
Water bottle (Please make sure it has a lid, and it should be double-wall insulated so it doesn't sweat all over the NICU counters)
- Tote bag (Something to carry her stuff back and forth to the NICU in that will make her smile)
- A Journal (A blank journal works fine, or Our NICU Journey from Every Tiny Thing is ideal for preemies)
- Gum and Snacks
- Hand lotion (All that hand washing really dries out the hands!!)
When you want to give something just a little more indulgent, consider adding one or more of the following goodies to your care package to really make it a gift to smile about
- NICU Milestone Cards - 48 NICU-specific milestones to celebrate with these adorable photo cards
- NICU Crib Art - Inspiring quotes and adorable illustrations that are NICU-approved ways to decorate baby's bed
- Support bracelet - anything works - prayer beads, charm bracelets, even this purple Lokai bracelet (purple is for preemies!)
- Kangaroo Care shirt - Holding a preemie skin-to-skin can be tricky, so gifting a shirt designed just for this is perfect
- NICU Family Poster - Preemie parents love these keepsake posters on which all the nurses and doctors sign their names and leave little notes of encouragement
- Kickee Pants preemie clothes - they are my personal favorite brand (read why here), and they have tons of options in preemie sizes
- A Boppy Pillow - they're great for any time you're holding your little one - for kangaroo time, for breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
- An Extra Phone Charger - so moms won't run out of power while they're at the NICU, and they won't have to remember to take the one from home every day!
In addition to the basic care package, the NICU mom who loves to read will totally appreciate receiving any of these books. They're all memoirs written by mothers who experienced prematurity. They're well written and are sure to comfort a NICU mom who is feeling lost and alone in preemie land. You will definitely get bonus points for giving a gift that's so perfectly in line with her experience!
- Preemie - Lessons in Love, Life & Motherhood
- Juniper - The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon
- Anchored - Finding Hope in the Unexpected
- Girl in Glass - Dispatches from the Edge of Life
- Half-Baked - The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn and How We Both Learned to Breathe
- Ready for Air - A Journey Through Premature Motherhood (You can read my review of this book here)
It's hard having a preemie, and it's nice having yummy snacks. So go to the grocery store and stock up on yummy indulgences to add to your care package. Is your friend a health nut? Or does she have a major sweet tooth? Choose accordingly.
The sibling package
Having a preemie is hard on older brothers and sisters, too, and they deserve some love. So if you want to put together a sibling care package, you'd be wise to include:
- A stuffed animal
- A fun card or print (this downloadable from etsy is very reasonable at under $5)
- Something sweet - candy's always a hit!
- Sibling T-shirts (so big brother or sister can wear that preemie pride all day long!)
- Children's books about prematurity (My favorites include Go Preemies, Peanut, Soon, and My Sister / Brother is a Preemie)
Is your NICU mama one of those who loves everything hip? Well, the NICU is often a big disappointment, so help her feel at home with her preemie with a few fun additions to your care package:
- Adorable hip preemie onesies - From Mini to Moose has some of the greatest out there right now
- Crocheted Octopus - these little dolls are all the rage because preemies tend to love grasping on the the tentacles
- Hip swaddle blankets - Even if baby is too small to be wrapped in swaddles right now, the NICU often will use blankets like this for bedding
- Adorable handmade preemie booties - why not have a little fun? These are perfect for that lumberjack preemie (he probably needs a mustache pacifier, too!)
What if the new preemie mom you want to send a care package to is a shopper? Or perhaps you know that a little spending cash for necessities (gas & groceries) or some small indulgences (lunch out, or a nice warm latte?) will be just the right thing. Grab a handful of gift cards to add to your gift basket! They may seem boring, but they rank way up at the top of the list of the gifts preemie parents really appreciate.
The Going Home Care Package
Maybe you're feeling lame because you waited too long to give a gift to your preemie mama friend or loved one? Fear not, it's never too late! This "going home" care package won't include the basics (a NICU journal won't be much use at this point), but you still can put together an incredibly thoughtful bundle that will surprise and delight. Most preemie parents are feeling a little forgotten by this point of their NICU journey, so a going home care package will really make her smile.
- Formula - If you know the exact kind they'll need at home, it makes a wonderful gift
- Hand Sanitizer - Preemie parents never can have too much! (consider getting a travel size for the diaper bag, too!)
- Nose Frida - this snot sucker may seem gross, but moms love it because it really works!
- Disposable face masks - for those guests who show up with "allergies"
- Please wash hands first car seat sign - your preemie mom friend will thank you for it!
- A white noise machine - surprisingly, NICU are so much louder than homes that preemies don't know what to do with all the quiet. So an inexpensive noise machine helps make the transition smoother.
Make it look Great
Finally, consider how you deliver your care package. If you're delivering in person, I'm sure you'll find a beautiful way to wrap your gift. But if you're sending it in the mail, I'd like to suggest you copy some of the most fantastic care-package-makers ever - military spouses. When these spouses send care packages to their loved ones far away, they do it right! Check out how they decorate the inside of the boxes to make the treat that much more wonderful!