How to help a NICU mom

Do It Yourself

If you haven’t ever had a baby in the NICU, or maybe you aren’t a mom yourself – it can be hard to know how to help a mom who now finds herself trying to navigate life with a baby in the NICU. But having myself experienced a 6 week stay in the NICU with our youngest son, I decided to put together a list of options together. From what chores you can do for them to what I found to be the most helpful gifts – we are going to go through it all. And honestly, even if the new baby isn’t staying in the NICU, these would all be great gift ideas!

Here are some of the gifts that I found the most useful:

1. Preemie sized sleepers that are snaps or magnetic snaps. NICU babies typically have a lot of wires and cords to deal with so zippered onesies and sleepers wont’ work. In all reality, more often than not Fox didn’t wear any clothes because of all the medical interventions but once we could start putting him in clothes, the magnetic sleepers were my favorite.

2. Grab and go snacks! I never wanted to leave the NICU – not even to eat – but food isn’t allowed inside. My favorite things to have in the family area outside of the NICU were protein bars, gatorades and waters and lactation cookies. You can find one of my favorite lactaion cookie recipes below.

3. Personalized gifts with the babies name. For those parents who can’t stay with their baby in the NICU as much as they would like, a nice reminder of them that they can carry with them such as a neclace with the baby’s name is a much appreciated gift.

4. Immune boosters are a great gift. Drop off an immune boosting smoothie and you will be very appreciated.

5. While I wasn’t really great at creating baby books for my older two children, with so much happening so quickly it was important to have a place to track everything and also a place to write my feelings down – even if I wouldn’t be able to process them until later. Here is a link to the preemie baby book that I loved. It was especially nice because it had sections for medical information, positive messages and a medical glossary.

6. If you haven’t seen the handmade cuddle octopi yet, you need to. I had a friend crochet an octopus for fox. Studies show these octopi can help improve babies stats by calming them. I slept with mine before the baby was born so it would smell like me and often babies will wrap their hands around the tentacles because they remind them of the feeling of the umbilicle cord. You will find a crochet pattern for an octopus below.

Lactation Cookies

Yield: 20 to 22 cookies


  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons brewers yeast
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips/chunks


  1. Preheat the oven the 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, yeast, flaxseed, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and coconut oil on medium speed until creamy. Add in the sugar and beat on medium to high speed until fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add in the egg and egg yolk, beating until combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract and beat until combined again. Gradually add in the dry ingredients, beating on low speed until just combined and mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula until they are evenly dispersed.
  4. Scoop the dough into 1-inch rounds (I use an ice cream scoop so they are fairly uniform in size) and place on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the bottoms are just golden. Let cool completely before storing in a sealed container.
Ashley’s preemie Fox with his crocheted octopus

Crocheted Octopus for Preemies

Note: A small hook produces a tight finished product and no stuffing will show through the stitches (and no small holes for tiny fingers to slip into).  The tentacles are just the right length–long enough to be fun, but not too long for an octopus for preemies!

With worsted weight cotton yarn and a C hook, make a magic ring.

R1:  6 sc into ring (6 st)

R2:  2 sc in ea st around (12 st)

R3: *sc in next st, 2 sc in next st, repeat from * around (18 st)

R4: *sc in next 2 st, 2 sc in next st, repeat from * around (24 st)

R5: *sc in next 3 st, 2 sc in next st, repeat from * around (30 st)

R6: *sc in next 4 st, 2 sc in next st, repeat from * around (36 st)

R7-12: sc around (36 st)

R13: *sc in next 4 st, sc 2 tog, repeat from * around (30 st)

R14: sc around (30 st)

If you are using safety eyes, now is  the time to attach them.  Using 9mm safety eyes, attach between rows 12 & 13, allowing approximately 5 stitches in between, or whatever distance looks good to you.  If you are embroidering the eyes for an octopus for a small child, do so after the octopus is stuffed and completed.

R15: *sc in next 3 st, sc 2 tog, repeat from * around (24 st)

R16: sc around (24 st)

R17: *sc in next 2 st, sc 2 tog, repeat from * around. (18 st)

R18: *sc in next st, sc 2 tog, repeat from * around (12 st)

Stuff the octopus.  Now you will work the next row in the front loop only.  Later you will come back through on the underside to grab those back loops and finish off the octopus.

R19:  working in the front loop only, *sc in the next st, sc 2 tog, repeat from * around (8 st).

Now make the tentacles as follows:

*ch 50.  sc in the 2nd ch from hook.  2 sc in ea chain across.  When back to the body, sl st in the next stitch.  Repeat from * 7 more times to make a total of 8 tentacles.

Arrange the octopus so that the tentacles are overlapping the body/head and the open end is up towards you.  You will be working in the free loops from row 19 which are now on the underside of your octopus.  They can be a bit difficult to see, so just do your best and sc 2 together around.  Fasten off yarn and then weave the yarn through the remaining stitches and pull tight.

Watch more of our segments from Baby Week!!

  • If you haven't ever had a baby in the NICU, or maybe you aren't a mom yourself – it can be hard to know how to help a mom who now finds herself trying to navigate life with a baby in the NICU. But having myself experienced a 6 week stay in the NICU with […]

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