New to the NICU? You probably have a LOT of questions.
The NICU can be an overwhelming experience for new moms and dads at first. You might not be familiar with the procedures, equipment, or medical terms that you’ll hear in the NICU, and it’s hard to learn the lay of the land when you’re focusing on your newborn and the changes every day can bring. It can feel like a rollercoaster ride!
We want to make the NICU journey a little easier and a lot less scary, so we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions for NICU parents.
- What does NICU stand for?
NICU is an acronym for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s for babies who need specialized care after birth because of prematurity or other health conditions.
- How long will my baby be in the NICU?
This depends on your baby’s health condition. NICU stays vary from a few days to several months. Your child’s care team will determine when your baby is healthy enough to thrive without specialized care. Do not compare your baby’s progress to any other baby. Your NICU baby is on her own path and her stay will be unique to her.
- Who can visit the NICU?
Each NICU has its own rules about visitation, but most limit visitors to healthy adults. Siblings may occasionally be allowed to visit, but sibling visits have been limited much more since the Covid pandemic. They’re often not allowed to visit during cold and flu season to reduce the spread of germs and potential infections.
- Can I stay overnight with my NICU baby?
Some hospitals do provide family care rooms where you can stay with your baby, and others lack that space. Often in smaller facilities, overnight rooms are reserved for families who will be discharged soon so they can practice caring for their little ones with nurses nearby!
- Will I be able to hold my NICU baby?
Yes, but maybe not right away. Babies who are very premature or those who require a lot of equipment might not be able to be held right away, but you can still touch your baby, or hold a tiny hand or foot while they’re in their isolette. As your baby grows or stabilizes, you should have plenty of opportunities for cuddles and skin to skin contact.
- Can I help care for my NICU baby?
Of course! Let your nurses know that you want to be an active part of your baby’s care, and they will include you in diaper changes, baths, and feedings as often as possible.
- Who is on my NICU baby’s care team?
Your child’s care will be overseen by a neonatologist- a doctor who specializes in caring for newborns with health challenges. Your baby will also have a dedicated nurse each day and night, and depending on their condition, may be seen by respiratory therapists, physical therapists, or other specialists.
- How can I protect my NICU baby from illness?
Wash your hands thoroughly before every visit. Stay home if you’re feeling sick- even if you’re not running a fever. Limit visitors as much as possible, and remember, there will be plenty of time to introduce your baby to friends and family after they’ve been discharged from the NICU.
- What’s that machine?
NICU babies are monitored around the clock. Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored by a device connected to their chest, and their oxygen saturation will be monitored by a pulse oximeter usually secured to their hand or foot. Depending on your child’s condition, they may also have IV lines, PICC lines, or respiratory equipment as well. If you’re unsure what a piece of equipment is for, don’t hesitate to ask your baby’s nurse! See this guide to learn even more about NICU machines!
- What can I do to make the NICU experience easier?
You’re so focused on caring for your new baby, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Get plenty of sleep, and don’t forget to eat! Packing nutritious, protein-packed snacks is a great way to keep your energy up during long hours at your baby’s bedside.
And don’t forget to take breaks! You want to spend lots of time with your baby, but you also need time to relax and recharge.
Having a NICU baby is challenging, but Every Tiny Thing is here to make your experience as joyful as possible. Check out our blog to get great tips on navigating your NICU journey, and welcome to the family!