Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Ideas for a NICU Care Basket

Many family members and friends of those who have new preemie babies want to provide help and support but aren’t quite sure what is needed or what would be the most appreciated.  Especially during the first difficult weeks or months while the baby is in the NICU, a gift basket is a great idea!

I have been watching many conversations on the subject and would now like to provide a beginner’s list of what NICU parents themselves have said they would appreciate and what would help them the most during their preemie’s NICU stay.  Of course, individual circumstances will be important to consider, so pick and choose the best options if you’re preparing a NICU gift basket, or even let NICU parents browse through the list and tell you what they would like the most!  Here goes:

Food & Money: Gift cards to the hospital cafeteria, gift cards to fast food or sit down restaurants, cash & rolls of quarters for vending machines & pay phones, fresh fruit, juice, a reusable water bottle, cash, jamba juice gift cards, and more food!

Record-Keeping: A journal and pen, a specialized NICU or preemie journal, a disposable camera for baby’s bedside, gift cards for digital prints, a pre-made baby scrapbook (just insert pictures), stamps and stationary.

Pampering: Nice lotions & travel-sized lotion for NICU visits, a pampering kit, money or gift cards for a massage, manicure, or pedicure; thoughtful cards and flowers, a pumping bra, an electric breast pump, breast milk bags (freezer safe).

Entertainment: Books to read, magazines, a Netflix subscription, movies, theater or concert tickets, tickets to ball games or other events, books about preemies, and crocheting/knitting/cross-stitch supplies (if the mother spends time sitting by the baby’s bedside and enjoys such activities).

On the Go: Gift cards for gasoline, money for a car rental, a nice compact bag to carry pumping supplies, a camera, journal, wallet, water bottle, etc.; maid service for the parent’s home.

For the Baby: Stuffed animals for baby’s bedside, a cute hand-made name sign for the crib, personalized baby blankets to drape over the isolette or crib, preemie-sized hats or socks, preemie clothing (only if you know the baby can wear clothes at the time) with snaps not zippers (for tubes and wires access), a mobile for the baby’s crib (be sure that the baby is in an open crib first), a small music player with gentle music to play at the baby’s bedside, a soft doll or toy that can be in the baby’s isolette or crib with her, books to read to the baby, a frame for a family picture at the baby’s bedside, cute hair bows and some water-based lubricant to place them on the baby’s head (nothing that wraps around the head or applies any pressure).

Specialized:  Inspirational quotes, thoughts, or poems; religious items or symbols for the baby’s crib.

Now, this is not a complete list because every circumstance facilitates different needs and wants, but this list is a good start!  I would love for you preemie parents to contribute more ideas to this list in the comments below.

Some things you should consider before you put together a gift basket are:

1.  How early is the baby and is there a chance she won’t survive?  If so, be very careful and don’t give baby clothes, nursery decorations, or anything that would emphasize the loss if the baby passed away.

2.  Is the baby in an isolette or a crib?  Some NICUs don’t allow clothes on the preemies while they’re in the isolette.  Baby’s in an open crib can wear clothes and hats and possibly booties or socks.

3.  Do either of the parents spend a lot of time at the hospital with the baby or do they work or have other children?  If they spend a lot of time in the NICU they will appreciate having things to do there like journaling and reading books.  If they have very little time there and have busy lives then they will not need time-fillers.  Either situation will really benefit from maid service, quick meals, cash, etc.

Preemie parents, what else would you add to my list?

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.


  1. lupe lucero says:

    the tel number to their local ronald mcdonald house they helped me so much. i lived in az and my son was in vegas. they had a roof over my head plus they had volunteers cook diner for the families. they are a amazing organization.

  2. I would add a disposable camera. In March I went in for a routine appt not realizing that I was going to be induced right after. Luckily a family member had a camera that we used to document his first day.

  3. If your little one can wear clothes then a great place to find them is http://www.avababys.com Beautiful selection of clothes for preemies as small as 1 lb.
    If they aren’t allowed to wear clothes, AvaBaby’s has some other nice items for preemies that you will more then likely be able to use. They have a really nice little blanket, perfect preemie size. Softest thing you will ever feel. Preemie tested too.

    They also have a CD of piano music compiled by the mother of a 23 weeker who is a known piano soloist. It was noticed that her little one and others in the NICU benefited while listening to her music. http://www.avababys.com/Music-for-Preemies-in-the-Hospital-NICU_p_1009.html
    Lots of beautiful things at AvaBaby’s.

    • Thank You for this information . My great nephew Patrick was born last week at 25 weeks. He is almost 2 pounds now. I have been in prayer ever sense.This information will be shared with those that feel powerless. Thank You again Lucy

  4. If there are other children at home, offering an afternoon of babysitting would mean more than any physical gift. My daughter was in the NICU while I had a 3 year old at home and a husband working full time. I felt like I was a burden on everyone I knew, and I couldn’t go to see my baby more than once or twice a day due to lack of childcare. All I really wanted was to go be with my baby girl.

  5. If you’re giving them food (actual prepped meals), make sure it’s freezer and microwavable safe and preferably disposable or at the very least, it doesn’t matter if the container is returned. The Glad or Ziplock containers are good choices.

  6. Melanie Blakeslee says:

    A good fragrance free hand lotion would be very appreciated!! Our NICU required 3 minutes of hand washing every time we came to see our daughter, & we typically went in & out 12 times in 24 hours. It is necessary, but our hands were so dry! Also, I agree that money & food gift cards are a good gift. Our NICU was over an hour from home, so we had to eat out every meal while we were there.


  1. […] If you want to give a gift to the parents or the baby while in the NICU, consider the ideas listed in Ideas for a NICU Care Basket. […]

  2. […] Ideas for a NICU Care Basket […]

Speak Your Mind