What to Expect in the NICU

When is my baby going home?

The neonatologist determines when your baby will be discharged. The decision depends on your baby's diagnosis and length of treatment.

Can my baby stay in my room?

Babies requiring neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care need to be on continuous monitoring; therefore, they need to stay in the NICU.

When can I breastfeed?

Breastfeeding times will depend on the baby's condition and gestational age. A premature infant must demonstrate the ability to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing prior to breastfeeding. Learn more about breastfeeding your infant in the NICU.

What time will the doctor/APRN be here and when can I speak with him or her?

The neonatologist usually begins the day at 9 am; you may request to speak with the neonatologist/APRN during the day. The doctor will be happy to speak with you when he or she is not with another baby. A neonatologist is in-house 24 hours a day.

Did I do something wrong?

It is common for a parent to feel like he or she did something wrong to cause their baby to be admitted to the NICU. Prematurity, respiratory difficulties, low blood sugars and infections are not caused by anything you did. We encourage you to talk about these feelings with a family member or a caregiver.

Why is my baby losing weight?

It is a normal adaptation for babies to lose 10 percent to 15 percent of their birth weight in the first week after delivery.

How long will my baby have to be on antibiotics?

This depends on the results of the laboratory work, as well as any signs and symptoms of infection that your baby shows.

How long will my baby need phototherapy?

The amount of time your baby needs phototherapy varies, depending on blood type, age, size and hydration status. All of these factors affect your baby's bilirubin level.

Why is there an IV in my baby's head?

Due to the limited access and fragility of a baby's veins, your baby may require an IV to be placed in a scalp vein. A scalp vein is the same as any IV site. The catheter is inserted superficially into the vein and does not come into contact with the brain.

Why does my preemie have to be fed with a tube?

Depending on how early your infant is, the ability to coordinate sucking, swallowing or breathing may be difficult. During this time, your baby will be fed with a tube to provide for proper nutrition, digestion and weight gain. As your baby matures, the ability to feed without the tube will develop.

Does my baby feel pain when an IV is inserted?

Yes. However, appropriate measures are taken to alleviate discomfort during procedures. Some interventions include swaddling, providing support and containment, using a sucrose solution and providing a pacifier. Please feel free to discuss comfort measures with the nurse.

Will there be a problem transitioning my baby from the bottle to breastfeeding?

Most infants adapt without much difficulty. Our staff with provide the support you need to succeed with this transition.

How long will my baby be on a ventilator/CPAP or oxygen?

There are many factors that determine the length of time, including gestational age, diagnosis, signs and symptoms, and blood gas results.

What are my chances of having another premature infant?

Please speak to your obstetrician, who will be glad to address your concerns.

My baby is not feeding or the feedings are being limited; how is my baby getting the required nutrients?

IV nutrition is used to supplement or replace feedings by mouth and is monitored closely by the NICU staff. The nutritional needs of each infant are assessed daily. As your baby becomes healthier, the amount of IV nutrition will decrease and the amount of food your infant can eat will increase.