NICU Families Northwest (NFNW) is a not-for-profit organization established in 2015 to build a community for NICU parents
to find practical, ongoing, social and emotional support through peer-to-peer, and near-peer relationships.
Our local focus is Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington while select programming is available outside this region.
Our services are designed to support parents anticipating a NICU birth or currently in the NICU,
as well as “graduate” families with children no longer in need of inpatient care.
NICU parents are the central force behind healthy infant development, and their needs exist on a continuum
that begins with pre-term diagnosis and lasts long after discharge. NICU Families Northwest begins a dialogue with families
through outreach initiatives that reinforce hospital goals such as healthy parent-baby bonding and self-care. The dialogue continues
online for parents who seek to connect with peers in an environment that facilitates opportunities to share experiences.
If you're a NICU parent or someone you care about is facing a NICU stay with their child, we'd like to help you understand
the unique needs of NICU families and become better educated about the impact of infant hospitalization.
NICU Families Northwest is a 501(c)3 organization and offers many opportunities for individuals, businesses, and community groups to support our projects.
Despite the fact that just under 8% of Oregon births and just over 8% in Washington are premature, most parents never imagine a NICU stay for their newborn.
If you've experienced a premature, unexpected, or otherwise complicated birth that resulted in a NICU stay for your baby,
it's important that you know you're not alone and we're here to help you navigate this experience.
Our pocket-sized brochures help facilitate comfortable, convenient, hands-free pumping of breastmilk for mothers of newborn(s) in the NICU.Read More
NICU Families Northwest has created a positive environment online where parents feel comfortable sharing their experiences in order to heal and build community.Read More
The Littlest Reader Project (TLRP) provides beautiful children's books to NICU families free of charge to promote parent-baby bonding and foundational family literacy habits.Read More
No one knows the NICU like a parent who's been there. Our We Care Packages create personal connections between NICU families to combat feelings of isolation.Read More
NICU Families Northwest is proud to offer support independently to any family in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA region with a portion of our programs available in Bend, OR.
We are honored to be able to offer our services directly to patient families through partnerships with select hospitals that support our mission and programs.
In a study of mothers of infants born at very low birthweight (less than 1500 grams or 3 lbs., 3 ozs.),
According to the National Center for PTSD, “symptoms can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving,” which may have adverse effects on the quality of parenting behavior, as well as on their child’s development. It can also compromise a NICU parent’s ability to maintain and nurture close family relationships or friendships which can foster feelings of isolation and depression.
According to a study focused on how the NICU experience impacts the development of maternal identity,
Even when told by the nurse they could touch their babies, only 22% of the mothers touched them on the first visit and all the remaining mothers voiced concerns that they were afraid of “hurting” or “breaking” their babies by touching them, even when the nurse demonstrated the proper technique.
One study that focused on Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), the form of traumatic stress that is experienced in the first weeks after a traumatic event (and is considered to be a precursor to PTSD), indicated
Researchers evaluated parental stressors using categories such as: Sights and Sounds of the NICU, Infant Behavior and Appearance, and Parental Role Alteration as well as Staff Behaviors and Communication. The study showed participants whose coping style tended toward suppressing or avoiding emotional responses or negative feelings about their NICU experience were more prone to manifest PTSD symptoms.
Despite a national movement toward Family-Centered Care, the focus of most hospital policies, practices, and services remains exclusively infant-focused which neglects to address and treat the lasting effects of unresolved family trauma. The emotional stability of parents is critical to a child's continued healthy development, and a lack of ancillary services to help them heal from the NICU experience can compromise long-term family stability.
The hardest part of being in the NICU was feeling that I had failed my daughter before I even had a chance to hold her— I felt that I had failed as a mother and as a woman. Through NICU Families NW, I met other women who had been through similar experiences. We are often harder on ourselves than those around us and hearing their stories really helped me realize that sometimes no one is at fault, things just happen.
~Mom of baby girl born at 30 weeks, 6 days
Being able to share my story makes me feel less alone in my NICU experience. I struggled for a long time to find peace with the lack of understanding I felt among friends and family and would often hold back from them emotionally because of my inability to relate. The advice wasn’t applicable, and it was exhausting to have to regularly explain why we made the choices we were making. I feel like only other NICU parents can really understand that time in my life, and it helps me heal to reach out to people struggling with the same experiences. Those are my people.
~Mom of baby girl born at 26 weeks, 4 days
It has made me realize that I’m not the only one in this situation… we all have the same feelings, the same fears, the same joy when our child does something new that a term baby can do. It has made me become a better parent and a better person, and I think that has to do with the support from others.
~Mom of twin preemies
Every voice is important, every question counts, and the hopes and fears are real. We believe sharing your story
is central to the healing process and empowers families to celebrate all they overcome.
These are the experiences of some of our NFNW members. Their stories matter. Every story matters.
In honor of Mother's Day, we asked graduate NICU moms to write a letter to themselves as if they were still in the hospital. We wanted them to share the courage, strength, and hope they found within themselves through the NICU experience.
We rely on families, hospitals, doctors, service providers, and local business leaders to help us strengthen and support our NICU families.
Please take a moment to see if you can make an impact in our community today.
Share our organization with a NICU family in your social circle and allow us to introduce them to our peer-to-peer network of amazing NICU parents.Send a Message
Share our organization with a NICU family in your social circle and allow us to introduce them to our peer-to-peer network of amazing NICU parents.
Complete this form and a referral email will be sent on your behalf. The email will contain a short description of our organization and its services and will encourage your contact to visit our website for more information.
Are you a former NICU parent looking to give back to the community? We can help you put your talents and experience to work helping others.Get in Touch
NICU Families Northwest thrives with the support and strength of its members, volunteers, donors, and Board of Directors. If you’re looking for ways to give back to the local NICU community and are willing to donate your time to help us further our mission, we would love to talk to you.
-Sharing your story on our site to help educate the public about the NICU experience
-Preparing and/or delivering The Littlest Reader Project books to area hospitals
-Preparing and/or delivering We Care Packages to area hospitals
-Tabling an event as a representative of NFNW
-Join our Board of Directors to help steer the organization