What is Peer-to-Peer Support? When you are the parent of a NICU baby you can feel very alone. Unless they have had a NICU stay of their own, family and friends may not understand what it’s like. It’s nice to talk to someone who does. Fellow NICU parents can be a great source of comfort. They are there to listen, offer support, and share what worked for them – giving you both practical advice and new insights into your own feelings.
Are there different kids of peer support? Every family is unique and every parent will need a different kind of support. It’s important that you find the type of support that is right for you. Fortunately, peer-to-peer support can take many forms. Keep in mind that your needs will change over time too. That’s another reason why we’re fortunate to have so many ways of connecting with each other. Read a Comparison of Types of Peer and Family Support to get ideas about what might be right for you.
How do I find a peer mentor or support group? Some of us are fortunate enough to already know someone who has gone through the NICU journey, but most of us will need to actively seek support. Let people know what you need. Talk to you NICU social work. Ask about local support groups. Search online for “NICU Parent Support.” And follow the recommendations of reliable websites like this one. You will be surprised – and comforted – by how many people care about you and want to offer help.
What can I expect from peer-to-peer support? Peer-to-peer support is a special kind of therapeutic relationship. Peer-to-peer support is not professional counseling. Peer mentors don’t tell you how you should feel or what you should do. Your peer mentor is someone like you who has shared similar experiences and can be a companion to you on your journey – offering understanding and encouragement.
See our document Starting and Sustaining a Peer Support Program for NICU Parents to get started, then see additional resources for starting a support group here.
Learn more about Peer-to-Peer Support and the positive impact it can have on NICU families. Read just the Recommendations for Peer-to-Peer Support from the Workgroup on Psychosocial Support of NICU Parents or read the full article from Journal of Perinatology. Or use these resources to find out what others families say… and join the conversation.
Videos – This series of videos was produced by members of the Preemie Parent Alliance. We asked parents, “What would you tell other parents about why it’s so important to seek psychosocial support? And what would you tell professionals about why it’s so important to provide psychosocial support to NICU parents?”
Blogs – Whether you are looking for answers or just want to hear from other parents, bloggers provide an insight into our shared experience and give us a way to connect with families like our own.
Books – Sometimes reading other parents’ stories can help you gain new insights and perspectives into your own journey. There is a growing library of books written by – and for – NICU parents.
Apps – Support is just a click away. Download these apps and access resources from your smart phone or tablet.
Glossary of NICU Terms for Parents: There is a whole new language to learn in the NICU, and this Glossary will help you begin to learn it.
Classes – Being on bedrest during pregnancy or having a baby in the NICU can be overwhelming, scary, frustrating and isolating experiences for many families. Patient + Family Care offers courses designed to create a supportive and comfortable community for families to offer time for refection, sharing stories, learning from others, and having the chance to ask any question you have to a neonatal nurse who has worked in this field. Register for a class and join this community to get education, find inspiration, and be empowered to be the best NICU parent you can be.
We know that peer-to-peer support offers unique and powerful benefits for parents. But don’t take our word for it. Hear from parents about the difference peer-to-peer support has made for them.
Why You Need a Support Group by Kathy McClelland at Preemie Babies 101, Hand to Hold’s blog written by parents for parents
Parent Testimonial on Finding Support, a parent education video produced by Pebbles of Hope.
The Joys of Kangaroo Care, a parent education testimonial video produced by Pebbles of Hope.
Medications and Harmful Substances While Lactating, a parent education video produced by Pebbles of Hope.
Pumping for Your Preemie, a parent education video produced by Pebbles of Hope.
What the World of Psychology Can Learn From the NICU Parent Support Community by Kara Wahlin, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at NICU Healing
Where to Get Support and Questions to Ask in the NICU, parent education video produced by Pebbles of Hope.
Welcome to the NICU Parent Club by Erika Goyer for Life After NICU
Taking Care of Yourself a resource by the Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation
The Elephant in the Room: The Reality of Preemie Dads’ Guilt by Joel Brens at Papas of Preemies
VIDEO Parents Share the Power of Peer Connections Hand to Hold shares testimonials from several mothers of preemies who share their experiences having a child born early in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the benefits of connecting with a peer who has shared similar experiences.
Whether you’re searching for support, want to give back, or just need to connect with other parents like you there are dozens of organizations created for – and by – parents to help.
Graham’s Foundation – “Peer Mentor Program focuses on providing resources and peer support to parents during and after their child’s NICU stay. Each of our volunteers has experienced the preemie journey and is available to chat by email or phone.”
Hand to Hold – “Hand to Hold carefully matches seasoned parents (Helping Hands) with a parent in need of support. These one-on-one relationships inspire hope and offer the chance to ask personal questions and receive support from someone who is uniquely familiar with the experience of preterm birth, life in the NICU, a child born with a special health care need, loss of pregnancy and/or infant loss.”
NICU Helping Hands – “NICU Helping Hands is pleased to provide support to families through our One-on-One Mentoring Program. Our organizations wants you to know that you are not alone during this difficult time and that we have former NICU parents who are trained and want to support you on this journey. Your mentor can offer hope and encouragement as well as answer questions that you may have now or in the future.”
Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation – “The Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation has a network of seasoned preemie parents available to connect with you one-on-one in a manner that is most convenient for you.”
Are you interested in having someone speak to your staff, organization, or network about best practices in peer-to-peer support? Click on the icon to go to our Speaker’s Bureau page to learn more about these speakers.
Jennifer Beatty, MSW, Program Director for Hand to Hold
Tawna Burton, March of Dimes Family Support Program Coordinator
Erika Goyer, National Perinatal Association, family advocate
Lisa Grubbs, Founder and President, NICU Helping Hands
Sue Hall, MD, Neonatologist
Becky Hatfield, Parent Support Specialist, Parent to Parent Program
Kelli Kelley, Founder and Executive Director, Hand to Hold
Donna Ryan, DNP, RN, Nurse
Keira Sorrells, Founder and Executive Director, Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation and Preemie Parent Alliance