What do I tell my other children?

It is best to be honest with them. Provide them with the information they seek. However, give them the amount and detail that is appropriate for their age. Very young children ask simple questions and need simple answers. Refer to the new baby by his/her first name, as for any other member of the family.

What are some common reactions of young children to having a baby in the NICU?

Even very small children can sense that you are upset or sad, and their lives will certainly be altered by your emotional state and the time needed to be with your new baby. Common reactions include:

Should my other children visit my new baby?

Most nurseries encourage the baby's brothers and sisters (siblings) to visit. Studies have shown that children who visit are more responsive to their mothers and to the new baby than those who do not visit and for whom the baby remains a stranger while in the NICU. No negative effects have been identified. Children do not usually show signs of fear or anxiety and most want to, and should be encouraged to, come back again. The visits should be planned with the age of the child in mind. The length of the visit should be appropriate to the child's attention span. Often very young children only want to stay a few minutes. Children over five may need more time to feel comfortable. They are more aware of how the baby is different from full term babies and may need to be encouraged to interact with the baby.

Nurseries have rules/guidelines for sibling visits. Find out about them so that you can plan their visit. Common rules are:

Prepare you children in advance for their visits.

What are common concerns of children while visiting?

Pay attention to your children's comments and emotional reactions during the visit, and help them understand the things that worry them. Common worries include:

After the visit, ask them if they have questions about the baby, about the nursery and how they feel about their brother/ sister. Make them feel that their visit was important for the baby, that how they feel is important to you, and that they are as important to you as the baby is.

My baby is dying, what do I tell my children?

It is important to be honest with your children, don't try to hide everything from them. They will see that you are sad and upset.