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

The Emotional Impact of Different NICU Configurations

The NICU at Community Hospital in Missoula, Montana, was in the very beginning stages of building a new, separate NICU building. So, while we were there, there were roughly eight to 20+ babies in two very small rooms. The incubators were pushed up very tightly next to each other. There was no privacy and I had to pump, and try to breastfeed in front of other parents. It was hard to bond with my sweet girl when there was so much commotion going on. With so many people in one area, they were very strict about who could come into the NICU. My husband and I were the only ones allowed, except for a one time pass for the grandparents.

My parents meeting Kylie for the first time

Even if he was gone for weeks working, I couldn’t have another ‘support’ person. Another thing that still bothers me to this day, is that to get to the NICU, we had to walk through the nursery; where beautiful, chubby, healthy babies were getting cleaned up to go home. It was very difficult to keep from being envious of those families. I would be going into the NICU and would run right into a dad excitedly wheeling his new bundle to his wife’s room, while I had to go back to the NICU to give them two CC’s of pumped breast milk that I’d worked SO hard to express. It was hard to leave those feelings at the door and walk in with my head held high, ready to take on a new day in the NICU life, but I did. The NICU in Missoula has built their new beautiful building and it is nothing less than fabulous; with private rooms and the works! I think of how much easier it would have been for me if I would have actually been able to BE with my baby ALL the time; sleep there, eat there, everything. I have seen pictures of other NICUs and see that a lot of them are this way.How was your NICU set up? Were you on a set NICU schedule? Was privacy a concern to you? How many people were allowed with you to visit your baby?

Dani Curliss About Dani Curliss

Dani Curliss (TX) is the mother of two, Kylie and Austin. Kylie was born 10 weeks early, weighing 2lbs. 10oz., and Austin was born at 37 weeks. Both babies were born early due to preeclampsia. Kylie is now three and has no lasting complications from her prematurity. Dani and her husband have made their life mission to raise awareness of prematurity and preeclampsia and she shared Kylie's NICU journey on her personal blog. She learned a wealth of information during their six-week NICU stay, and finds healing from their experience by helping and encouraging others with their story. You can find Dani on Pinterest, or email her at d.curliss@outlook.com.


  1. I had 28 week twins this year. We started at a NICU that was set up with a long hall with incubators on both sides. I loved it because your nurse was right there, just a few steps away. I was pumping, but there was a separate, private room, but outside of the NICU. We were transferred to another NICU because one of the twins had a spontaneous bowel perforation. This NICU was set up like a big U shape, with each baby in its own room, ours in a twin room. There is more privacy for pumping and just quiet time. But the nurses (some of them) were never at their desk. That was hard if something was wrong you had to walk down the hall to get someone. We never had more than 4 plus my husband and I in the room at one time. I do wish the NICU was set up with web cams. We live over an hour away from the hospital, so it would have been nice to see that they were ok.

  2. My baby came at 36 weeks. I know theres parents that had babies a lot earlier than mine but we did spend a week in nicu. Ours was a very large NICU. Each baby hsd their own private room with sliding glass doors and privacy curtains for breast feeding and pumping in the room. You could bring whatever you wanted for your baby like clothes, decorations blankets. One baby had a tv set up and had veggie tales and disney movies playing. We were never rushed out of them room. We were always welcome to come and feed her at every feeding time even not during visiting hours. We were allowed 2 people to come in with us anytime as long as they were over 14. Each nurse never had over 3 babies. Always encouraged us to be hands on with our baby. Also the way their computers are designed if a nurse is in one room and something is going on with one of her other babies she will see it on the screen in the room shes in. This was a great NICU with very knowledgable staff. If i have another baby it will be at this hospital.

  3. Kellyann Novak says:

    We were a 33 weeker. We spent one month in the nicu. We where in a small level 3 nicu. IT was one large open room with the nurses in the center and the babies surrounding them. We had large spaces between the incubators. We also had privacy curtains . So when i pumped i could do it private. But how the nurses were positioned they could see my babies monitors and keep track of him. I loved it. We could have two people in at a time. Since we were small they often allowed for more. I loved the configuration. We decorated his area and we also could bring cloth and blankets. He had several drawer and storage areas to keep things. We kept a disopsible camera that the nurses used when were not there to catch important moments or our son looking cute. I loved how it was. I got to know the other moms near us and as we sat and pumped we could talk through our curtains.

  4. My twins were born at 29+5 weeks. Our NICU didn’t have private rooms. Our twins were in two separate bays, kept apart for the first month of their lives. I felt torn in two directions. Before they were reunited in the feeders-and-growers bay, I never spent much time in the NICU. I felt guilty for being with one and not the other. I am very shy, plus I had a bad case of the baby blues, and the heat and stress of the NICU regularly made me faint. It was very uncomfortable for me. On top of the discomfort, it toom ocer a month to find a nurse that cared about ME as a parent, not just my babies. Before I found her, it was hard to find someone to help me hold my babies. I didn’t get to do kangaroo care until my twins were 5 weeks old.

    I would have loved a private room. I would have loved for things to be different. I try not to think about it too much.

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