7 Tips for Surviving Hospital Stays With a Baby
Updated: Aug 1
It's taken me a bit of time to get my head around writing this post, reflecting back on some of the hardest moments of the first year of my son's life isn't the easiest thing to do. Not all babies are born perfectly healthy and this can be a really hard, scary time for parents, it was for us. Our tiny human had four surgeries and two other hospital stays in his first year of life and I learnt a lot from the experience. This isn't a post about the details of our time in hospital, those memories are still hard to face, it's about a few things I learnt that help make the time a little more bearable.
Getting through the first year of your child's life comes with a lot of challenges already, their constant growth and development means an ever changing schedule and constantly adapting to your child's new needs as they come. Having to spend time in hospital through all this sends everything you might have in place into complete chaos. Schedules can't be kept, feeding, naps, night sleep, all that goes out the window. Plus you are dealing with a sick child who is likely in pain and hooked up to IV lines and monitors and you have no way to explain to them why. All you can do is comfort them the best you can and make sure they know you are there.
By writing this I wanted to help give a few ideas on things that helped us keep our sanity while we were in hospital (some of which was during the pandemic, some was before). These are things that helped us but also helped my son at different stages of his development as well as helping me. It's a rough time, and honestly nothing in the world will make it easy on you physically or emotionally, but we found ways to cope and survive.
It's important to find ways to help your little one but it's also important to look after the parents too, so I have separated this post into two sections so no one gets forgotten.
Surviving Hospital Stays With a Baby, For The Baby:
1. Bring familiar toys with you to hospital that they love. This helps give them comfort and a sense that their environment isn't as hostile as it looks. We tried to pick out the toys he enjoyed playing with the most. Our son hadn't attached to a particular toy yet but some children will have a favourite that will be a must to have on standby for comfort and the hospitals are very good, generally, about letting them have one to take into surgery with them so they have something familiar when they wake up.
2. Buy them something new and interactive to distract them. Depending how sick they are, they may or may not need this. Early on after surgeries, my son was very ill and on a lot of pain medication and wasn't interested in much at all, but as he healed and the pain killers made him less sleepy, he became more interactive again. Having something new we could show him was great to distract him. For one of his surgeries we chose a book that sings nursery rhymes as you turn the pages. He loves books and turning pages and he loves music so this really was a winner for him.
3. Bring familiar blankets or from home. Again, it's about making the environment less scary and more familiar. No one is going to be getting much sleep but small things like this can help maximise what little you do get. That and the blankets in hospital have been washed a million times and aren't always that comfortable. Don't rely on being able to use your usual sleeping bag from home as these really aren't compatible with all the monitoring equipment they are likely to be hooked up to while they sleep.
4. I know this goes against a lot of advice out there but bring your iPad. I don't mean for them to play on, but to have some of their favourite shows downloaded. After surgery and while they are healing, it's important to not let them move around too much and do any damage to the work the doctors have done. This can be really hard to manage with a tiny human who's just learnt to crawl or stand and wants so badly to be on the move. I know the advice out there says no television until two, but for us this was a lifesaver. Even if it only kept him distracted for half an hour at a time, it was time his body was resting and healing and his wounds weren't being given a workout.
Surviving Hospital Stays With a Baby, For The Parents:
5. If you are going to be staying in hospital with your baby overnight (which I did every time), there are a few things I would recommend you take with you for yourself.
Kindle - the nights can be extremely long and you don't want to be turning a light on that might disturb your tiny, sleeping human, so the Kindle worked great for me. It's backlit so you don't need lights on, and in the moments where I couldn't sleep for so many different reasons, but I didn't want to lay there listening to my own brain, it was a life saver. Worth every penny!
Pillow - they may provide you with a pillow if you ask for it and I did make the mistake of using theirs. The pillows provided have a layer of plastic to make them easy to clean so they are noisy and uncomfortable to sleep on. If you want a hope of getting any real shut eye, bring your own.
Blanket - again, I used theirs but they are rough and not the most comfortable to sleep with. The sleeping arrangements are already extremely uncomfortable so it's worth trying to do what you can to help yourself make it as comfortable as you can. You need rest because your tiny human will need your strength to help get them through it.
6. If you have a support person outside of the hospital coming in to visit (rules keep changing because of COVID), get them to bring in fruit for you and other healthy snacks. I was breastfeeding during every hospital visit and I was not provided any food, so it was a huge help for me having people bring in healthy food that meant I didn't spend a fortune buying all my food everyday from the cafe. It helped me keep my strength up and was one less thing I had to stress about so I could focus on what I really needed to. My mum was an absolute lifesaver with this and kept me healthy and sane.
7. Use Facetime or Skype or whatever you have to connect with family and friends. This has become even more important since COVID hit and there are now restrictions on visitor numbers to hospitals. It can be very lonely and isolating sitting in hospital caring for a sick child. You are busy looking after your tiny human, but the days can feel very long and lonely with little adult interaction other than the nurses buzzing in and out. By connecting with the people that care about you and your little one when you can won't only be a lift for you, but your baby also gets to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices which will be a comfort to them as well.
Whatever happens, these hospital stays will be tough on everyone. Sleep will be all out of whack for everyone and it will take time to get back into any sense of order once you get home, but you will get there. You'll be exhausted and worried about your little one, so any little thing you can do to make it slightly better has to help make life a little more bearable.
I hope this has provided at least a few people with some helpful advice and if you need this advice, I hope your little one gets through it OK. My little man is strong and healthy in almost every way now and we hope our time in hospital is in the past. Thank you for reading and please don't forget to subscribe below.