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Health Information For Parents
When babies are born early, have health problems, or a difficult birth they go to the hospital’s NICU. NICU stands for “neonatal intensive care unit.” There, babies get around-the-clock care from a team of experts.
Most of these babies go to the NICU (NIK-yoo) within 24 hours of birth. How long they stay depends on their health condition. Some babies stay only a few hours or days; others stay weeks or months.
You may hear the NICU called:
Parents can visit and spend time with their babies who stay in the NICU. Other family members might be able to visit, but only during set hours and only a few at a time. Children visiting the NICU must be well (not sick) and should have all their immunizations. Check with the hospital staff about which family members can see your baby.
Some units require guests to wear hospital gowns. You may need to wear gloves and a mask.
Everyone who comes into the NICU must wash their hands before they enter. (There will be a sink and antibacterial soap in the room and near the entrance of the NICU.) This is a crucial part of keeping the NICU as clean as possible so the babies aren’t exposed to germs.
You may be tempted to bring toys, decorations, or other items in your baby’s room, but check with the nurse first. If allowed, these things should be easy to clean (no stuffed animals). Some hospitals let parents tape pictures or other decorations to the outside of a baby’s incubator.
When you first enter the NICU, it’s normal to feel a little alarmed by all the equipment you see. But it’s there to help your baby get well. Here’s a brief look at some equipment you might find:
) or from an oxygen hood placed over the head.
Depending on your baby’s health, you might be able to hold your little one even if he or she is on a ventilator or has an IV. If the doctors feel that would be too much, you can still hold your baby’s hand, stroke his or her head, and talk and sing to him or her. A gentle touch will be the most reassuring.
But for some very premature infants, touching is stressful. Doctors may suggest that you limit physical touch, but still spend as much time as possible with your baby. Check with the doctor or nurses to figure out how much and what type of touch is best.
If you can, skin-to-skin contact (or “kangaroo care”) is a good way to bond with your baby:
Skin-to-skin contact can help with breastfeeding and improve healing times so that babies go home sooner.
Mothers may be able to breastfeed their babies or offer pumped breast milk or formula in a bottle. If you need help breastfeeding or pumping, ask a nurse or lactation consultant.
Because many babies in the NICU can’t yet feed on their own (either due to early development or health problems), they can get breast milk or formula through a feeding tube.
Babies in the NICU are on a feeding schedule. Your baby’s nurse can tell you when your baby should eat and sleep. The more time you spend with your baby, the more you will learn about:
Talk in a calm, soothing voice, keep lights dim, and keep noise to a minimum. Although you may want to interact with your baby often, let your baby sleep when he or she needs to.
Having a baby in the NICU can be one of the most stressful times in your life. You may be away from your support circle, such as friends, family, and other children. Your life may seem like it’s been turned upside down as you wait for the day when your baby is ready to go home with you.
As hard as it can be, it’s important to keep things as normal as possible. These tips can help:
When you take care of yourself, you’ll be more rested and better able to take care of and get to know your baby. While a NICU stay can be hard, it’s also rewarding to watch your little one grow stronger each day.
If your baby is getting medical care in you NICU, find out who will be caring for your baby and how they can help.
Having a newborn in the NICU can be a stressful time. Often, parents forget to ask important questions. This list can help you prepare for the next time you talk to your baby’s care team.
Premature infants, known as preemies, come into the world earlier than full-term infants. They have many special needs that make their care different from other babies.
When you first meet your newborn, you may be surprised by what you see. Here’s what to expect.
Where you choose to give birth is an important decision. Is a hospital or a birth center right for you? Knowing the facts can help you make your decision.
If you’re about to begin caring for your preemie at home, try to relax. With some preparation and planning, you’ll be ready.
A newborn’s growth and development is measured from the moment of birth. Find out if your baby’s size is normal, and what to expect as your baby grows.
Bonding, the intense attachment that develops between you and your baby, is completely natural. And it’s probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care.
When kids need intensive health care after they’re discharged from the hospital, it’s important that family and caregivers learn about the devices, equipment, and support they’ll need.
Advice and information for expectant and new parents.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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