Parenting in the NICU is an intense journey. Parents struggle to build intimacy with their child amid complex emotions and medical uncertainties. They need to rapidly adapt their vision of parenthood to the realities of intensive care. The psychological impact of this journey can have important effects on their psychological health. For parents of sick older children, “good parent” beliefs have been shown to foster positive growth. This concept is also essential for parents of infants in the NICU, although their path is complex.
We write as clinicians who were also families in the NICU. We suggest parents need to hear and internalize 3 important messages that overlap but are each important: you are a parent, you are not a bad parent, and you are a good parent. We offer practical suggestions to NICU clinicians that we believe will help NICU parents cope while their infant is in the NICU and afterward.