7 Tips for Surviving Your Child’s Hospital Stay

7 Tips for Surviving Your Child’s Hospital Stay

No parent is prepared for a child to be hospitalized. Here, seven tips to get you through.

By: Laurie Sue Brockway

For many moms, the experience of taking a child to the hospital is highly stressful. Seeing your child in an emergency medical situation, or taking that child through invasive medical tests and surgical procedures, can be traumatic. That’s why it is so important to be prepared.

In a crisis, it is likely all your mom instincts will kick in and help you figure out what to do, but here are some tips on how to help your child while keeping yourself together:

1. Be prepared . Ask in advance which hospital your pediatrician is affiliated with, so you have the information, and also check on the nearest pediatric emergency room in your area. This way you will not have to search frantically if there is an emergency.

2. Stay by your child. Unlike adult hospitals where you see your loved ones only during visiting hours, a mom or dad usually needs to stay, especially for small children who cannot speak for themselves. Most pediatric floors have foldout cots or sleeper chairs for parents. “Stay with your child 24/7,” says Theresa Kledzik, RN, infant developmental nurse specialist. “Ask a grandparent or other beloved of the child to relieve you, but I would recommend that the child not be left alone.”

3. Become an expert. The more you know, the less frightening it is. “Educate yourself about the child's condition,” says Kledzik. She recommends finding out what you can from medical professionals and independent research.

4. Advocate and ask questions . Patty Gatter, a breastfeeding specialist and mom of two experienced in dealing with kids and hospitals, says it is important to speak up. “Always trust your instincts and don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions, even if it starts to annoy people -- which it will,” she says. “Fight for your child and keep going. Always start out nice, but if that doesn't work, I say let it rip.”

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5. Take care of your own needs (as best you can). Linda Rice, CNM, is a nurse midwife by profession but also knows from personal experience how overwhelming it can be. Her son was in the hospital at 5 months old, and her daughter had several hospitalizations and a surgery in her first year of life. “It can be so upsetting to have a child in the hospital [that] you're not thinking that you may need anything,” says Rice. “My daughter’s first admission was at 3 weeks old, and I had a cesarean section. I wouldn't have thought to ask, but the pediatrician thought to ask for a hospital bed for me so I wasn't sleeping on the foldout.”

6. Don’t go it alone. Sometimes you have to reach out for help, and even ask the hospital to bend the rules to make it possible. “During my daughter’s first admission, I had one night where I was very upset,” Rice recalls. “The rules were that only one caregiver could stay. I didn't want to leave because I was breastfeeding, but I didn't want to be alone. When I spoke to the nurse, she made an exception and my mom stayed that night.” 

7. Make sure you eat. Try to keep nutritious snacks handy and have people bring you meals. Melissa Schreiber Blackmon’s daughter Sophie had severe health issues the first year of life and ultimately required two liver transplants. Blackmon lost seven pounds during one six-week hospital stay and required a nutritionist to help her keep her lactating. “They put me on [nutritional] and vitamin drinks, she recalls. “Eating was so hard when you just feel sick to your stomach at all times. I had to force myself to eat and drink throughout the day because I was still pumping breast milk for her.”


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The rest of life sometimes must be put on hold when your child is hospitalized -- and your other kids may have to stay with relatives -- because a mom’s presence is crucial.

“For the child, it provides a sense of comfort knowing that their parents are there and ultimately feeling that things will be OK,” says Ashanti W. Woods, MD, attending pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. “For parents, it allows them to observe the process of their child receiving care to improve, and allows an opportunity for parents to be involved in the care of their child. For the staff, the parents being involved is a big help as the apprehensive child has a support system to relieve all fears.”

“This allows the medical care team to focus on the medicine, while the child and the parents are able to focus on one another,” he says.

How did you get through your child’s ER or hospital visit?

Laurie Sue Brockway is a journalist and author who has written extensively on love, marriage, parenting, well-being, and emotional health. Her work has appeared in hundreds of print and online publications, including Everyday Health and The Huffington Post.

Image ©iStock.com/JLBarranco

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