What is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit? Learn More About the NICU
Sometimes when baby is born, they require special care after birth.
There are many different things they may need help with, and there are many different reasons why. But usually if baby needs medical support after birth, they will go to the neonatal intensive care unit, also known as the NICU.
If baby is in the NICU, it is natural to feel worried about baby’s health and overwhelmed by the experience. But if baby needs medical support, the NICU is the best place for them to be. They will receive 24/7 care by specially trained healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers. Not all hospitals have a NICU, so baby may need to be transferred to a different hospital so they can receive the care they need.
Why would baby be in the NICU? There are many different reasons why baby may spend time in the NICU. If baby is born early, or if they have other health issues at the time of their birth, doctors may recommend time in the NICU. In fact, most babies admitted to the NICU were born premature. This is so they can receive the best care while they grow and become stronger!
Can I still help baby’s development in the NICU? Yes! Every baby’s needs will be different, but there are still so many ways to help baby while they are in the hospital.
- Just by being present is so helpful for your baby! They can smell you, hear you, see you and feel you! Ask your nurse or therapist what the best ways are for you to help your baby.
- When your baby is able, there are alternative ways to do Tummy Time in the NICU.
- You can also bond with baby and promote development with Massage+ 30, 10, 5. Holding baby skin-to-skin on your chest may also help with bonding and development. Your baby’s nurse can help you do this.
- Try holding and singing to baby. Music therapy intervention may help support the development of sensory skills. This provides parents and premature babies bonding time with opportunities for skin-to-skin contact.
Note: Baby may have lines and tubes, which can make these activities more difficult to do. Always be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before doing any activities with baby in the NICU so that they can help and advise you.
When will baby be sent home from the NICU? There is no definite length of time baby should stay in the NICU. Some signs that healthcare professionals look for to discharge baby are:
- No infections present.
- Baby is able to feed without a feeding tube.
- Baby can gain weight.
- Temperature is stable and typical for at least 1 day.
- Baby can breathe without assistance.
- Baby passes any other tests that healthcare providers give.
How can you prepare for baby to come home from the NICU? Here are some of the ways to best prepare for baby’s discharge and arrival home!