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Gifts Ideas to Help Parents with a Baby in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Our daughter in her incubator.

Our daughter in her incubator.

Early Arrival

Having a child is a wonderful gift. Sure, there are costs involved, but oh, the wondrous perks that come with it! When there is a problem and baby ends up in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the cost suddenly starts to climb. There are so many things that can nibble away at your finances like little mice; gas money, parking, food … All of these unexpected expenses can be stressful.

For friends and family members who want to help, but don’t know how; here is a short list of things that my husband and I desperately needed when our daughter was born premature and ended up in the NICU.

Happy, hungry and exhausted ...

Happy, hungry and exhausted ...

Note from One Parent

"I would have loved it if someone would have brought us a bucket of KFC."

I'm sure this doesn't need explaining :-)


We were exhausted and on the go almost non-stop. When we did stop, we were so stupid-tired that we didn’t have the energy to make food.

Pre-Made Meals

Having something on hand that was ready to eat or microwaveable to reheat was a blessing. We thanked whoever provided it for us with every sleepy bite. Meals that could be easily packed to bring with us to the hospital were also a great boon since the cafeteria was so expensive.

Meal Replacement Bars and/or Drinks

Sometimes, we didn’t have a chance to stop for a meal, so having a supply of meal replacements on hand kept us up-right and mobile. We found that Glucerna was our favourite. It is lactose and gluten free and their flavours are delicious.

Healthy Snacks

Between meals or in the middle of the night when a full meal would be too much, we turned to healthy snacks such as:

  • Trail Mix;
  • Sesame Snaps; and
  • Dried fruit.

They were easy to keep in my purse for travelling, as well.


Gift Cards

I recommend a Walmart Gift Card simply because they carry just about everything for a reasonable price when a NICU parent has to run out and get affordable baby things or supplies for themselves. Here are three reasons we loved Walmart:

  1. We were from out of town and made several trips to the nearest Walmart to get hygiene and other supplies we'd forgotten to pack. This saved us from having to make a 2 hour drive home (and then another 2 hour drive back);
  2. This was our first baby and with her early arrival, there were still a lot of baby basics we hadn’t bought for her yet;
  3. When we had time to make food, we were so tired that we lived off of Hungry Man dinners, rice crackers, cheese and lunch meat all from Walmart.

Other gift cards that would be of use:

  • Visa gift card for incidental purchases;
  • Gas card, especially if the parents need to travel a fair distance;
  • Phone card to save on cell phone costs;
  • Gift card to whatever fast-food restaurants are located in or near the hospital.

If the parents are from out of town, a gift certificate or pre-payment to the motel the parent's are staying at is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Although the hospital staff was wonderful enough to find ways of letting us stay at the hospital a few days longer, we still had to find somewhere affordable to stay in town until baby was released. Someone generously covered 4 nights at the Rotel for us and it saved us a lot of stress knowing that we had somewhere to sleep near the hospital. By the end of that time, we knew we only had to foot the bill for 3 more nights in town before we could take the baby home. That was a lot less stressful financially for us and we are still extremely grateful to the person who covered our Rotel stay.

Hospital Parking Pass

It can get extremely expensive paying for parking at the hospital. We had to cough up $13 a day for 11 days which was huge strain on our budget. We weren’t familiar with the hospital, so we didn’t know they sold week and month passes until we’d been there almost a week. Since we didn’t know how long the baby was going to need to stay in the hospital, we were reluctant to buy a pass ... but it sure would have been wonderful to have get one within the first few days of our arrival.

If a group of family members or work mates chip in for a parking pass, a huge burden would be removed from the parents.

Christmas morning just before we woke her up to open her presents.

Christmas morning just before we woke her up to open her presents.

Hand Lotion

We washed our hands over a hundred times each in that first week. The hospital soap dried out our skin so much that my husband’s hand split and bled on the second day. Mine held out until the third day before cracking. One of the nurses told us that the same happened to most of the staff at the NICU. One of the nurses at the desk was kind enough to give us a bottle of hand lotion to help us survive. Something non-greasy with no perfume - it was perfect.

Laundry Service

Having clean clothes to wear made a big difference in how we felt, so when my mom arrived at the hospital with a bag full of laundered clothing, we were extremely grateful. Having clean undies and fresh-smelling socks helped us feel normal and calm, even though so many things were uncertain. You'll be amazed by what freshly laundered clothing can do for a person's emotional balance.

More Gift Ideas

To see gift ideas for those who don't have an extended stay in the NICU, you can read:

Gift Ideas to Help New Parents


Gifts Ideas for a New Mom In the Hospital

© 2012 Rosa Marchisella


Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on January 20, 2013:

(((Thank you!))) and congratulations, Auntie :-)

ExpectGreatThings from Illinois on January 20, 2013:

These are wonderful ideas! My nephew will likely be premature, and I can't wait to bless his parents with your ideas. Pinning this - thank you! And your daughter is adorable!

Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on July 29, 2012:

Thanks so much!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 29, 2012:

This is a brilliant hub. Many people are stumped as to what to get parents of preemies so this will come in handy. Voted up and useful. Socially shared.

Your daughter is absolutely precious.

Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on July 28, 2012:

Thank you, Sherry :-) You've made a good point and toiletries are a bonus for sure! LOL We had a few nights of staring through the closed doors of the hospital cafeteria and ended up raiding the NICU stockpile of PB, jam and crackers. One night, someone had pity on me and let me have the meal of someone who'd gone home. And you're *so* right - cash is a big winner, but some folk feel weird about giving (or receiving) cash. Thanks for sharing. Hope your friend's son is doing better!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on July 28, 2012:

Congratulations on your beautiful baby, I'm glad she's OK. You've made a good list, a similar list is good for anyone with a loved one in the hospital for any reason. When a friend of mine had a teen-aged son fighting for his life after a car accident she was very grateful for care packages of toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc.) as well as prepared food. During the crisis such things were often forgotten, then suddenly at midnight, when the cafeteria was closed, everyone was starving. Cash is always a winner too.

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