This piece was published on The Mighty.
New parents spending time in the NICU can feel particularly sad and isolated during the holidays. They may have supportive friends and family who want to visit them in the hospital but are prohibited from doing so because of flu season regulations. To help, I’ve developed a list of 10 thoughtful gifts designed to let your favorite NICU family know you are thinking of them this holiday season.
1. “The Force is Strong with This One” Preemie Onesie
Just because the parents may be too busy to see the new Star Wars flick, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring a bit of the movie magic to them. My only complaint about these onesies is they do not come with lightsabers — but any creative NICU nurse worth his or her salt could create one out of a sterile swab and a marker!
2. Gift Card for Meal Delivery Service
Let’s face it. Eating hospital food day in and day out can lose its novelty pretty quickly. Help the family switch it up with a gift card to GrubHub, Seamless, UberEats or whatever local meal delivery service is most prevalent in the area.
3. Every Tiny Thing “My NICU Family” Poster
Created by a NICU nurse, these posters are a fantastic way to remember and honor those who supported a baby while they were in the hospital. The care team first signs their name on the poster which can later be framed and hung in the baby’s nursery. While there are many aesthetically pleasing options to choose from, my personal favorite is the elephant with multi-colored balloons.
This modern take on a memory box is an excellent gift for the trendy new mom. No NICU parent has the time to scrapbook, so this is an easy way of stashing those memories for later (no need of a hot glue gun). The box will live on the bookshelf and can hold papers or precious keepsakes such as hospital wristbands, first clothes and cute signs made by nurses. It also comes in three fresh colors.
5. “Juniper: The Girl Who was Born Too Soon” by Kelley French
There are a few great memoirs out there about the experiences of NICU parents, but this one is by far my favorite because it is both well researched and exceptionally written by journalists Thomas and Kelley French. The book describes the tale of a 23-weeker named Juniper and her extended NICU stay.
Spoiler: the story has a happy ending.
6. Platypus Media’s NICU Support Coloring Books
This DC-based company provides excellent educational resources for preemie families, including the children’s coloring books “Rich and Creamy for Our Preemie” and “Come Home Soon, Baby Brother!/Come Home Soon, Baby Sister!” series. Highly educational, these coloring books make for a fabulous stocking stuffer or Hanukkah gift for a sibling who may be grappling to understand what is happening to their baby sibling.
These sizeable and chic tote bags are made of sturdy, vegan leather offered in two colors. As a bonus, they also come with a small cross body purse. And the best part? Sales benefit Miracle Babies, a nonprofit in California that helps other NICU families through advocacy, financial support and education. I rock the Tiffany Blue tote around town, but I also love the Dove Grey version.
Sometimes life in the NICU can be a bit… well, boring. For those times, it is handy to have some fast-paced and wholesome entertainment. Enter Monopoly Deal. It’s a card game that is simple enough everyone in the family can play and is quick so parents can make it in time for the doctors’ daily rounds.
9. Little Crochet Octopi
These crochet octopi are both a sweet and useful gift for the premature or medically fragile baby. The tentacles are comforting as they remind the baby of an umbilical cord in the womb. If you are the crafty sort, the Octo Project has a pattern that you can use to crochet one. If you are more craft-challenged like me, you can buy one on Etsy where they have so many cute options to choose from. Here are my favorite holiday octopi created by SweetSeeley Etsy Shop.
10. Make a Meaningful Donation
We all know someone that it is impossible to buy gifts for. In those cases, I recommend donating in their name to a charity like Miracle Babies, Hand to Hold, March of Dimes, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and the National Perinatal Association.
What are your favorite holiday gift ideas for NICU families?
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Getty image by MychkoAlezander