NICU - Answers for Parents

Who will be caring for my baby?
Your baby will be cared for by doctors and nurses specially trained in the care of sick newborns. Each baby will be assigned to a resident physician who will follow the baby's daily progress. They are supervised by a neonatologist - a staff pediatrician who specializes in the care of the newborn - who will keep your private pediatrician informed of your baby's progress. Most babies have a primary nurse who will give your baby hands-on bedside care. Together, the NICU team will develop a plan of care for your baby that will be followed by all other caregivers.

Who will help me through this experience?
Each family is contacted by a social worker who acts as a family support person. A social worker not only can help you adjust to your baby's hospitalization, but can help with resources, community agency referrals, family problems or communications problems. Arrangements for out-of-town families who need lodging can be made through the social worker. A nurse or social worker can contact a chaplain at any time. There is an all-faith chapel located near the cafeteria.

When can I hold my baby? Will anyone hold my baby when I'm not there?
All handling of your baby will depend upon his health. Very ill or small babies are highly stressed by handling. In deciding whether your baby should be touched or held, many things are considered: the baby's temperature, stability of breathing, color, and any upcoming tests.

If you can't hold your baby, you still can offer your finger for your baby to hold. You can speak softly and place your hands firmly and gently on your baby's back or bottom. This is very soothing and a way to show your support and love. Ask your nurse how much stimulation your baby can handle.

Specially trained volunteers work as "cuddlers" in the nursery, providing close physical contact, rocking, and eye-to-eye contact. Often they work with babies whose parents can't visit as often as they would like.

When can my baby go home?
The length of a hospital stay depends on your baby's condition. Premature babies are often discharged around the time they were originally due to be born. Your baby will be ready to go home when he has recovered medically, can take all feedings from a bottle or breast, maintains their temperature in an open crib, and has gained sufficient weight. Babies who have experienced apnea (breathing pauses) in the nursery will be discharged when the apnea is under control.

How will I know how to care for my baby?
Parents should be comfortable handling their baby. The nurses will review routine baby care with the parents. There is a special room available for parents to practice taking complete care of their baby before they go home. The nurse will be available for teaching and support, if needed. This room may be used for either daytime or overnight rooming-in. A shower and bathroom are across the hall. The nurse, social worker or case manager can reserve this room for you.

What if my baby needs special equipment?
Parents of babies who require special equipment at home will be fully trained before their baby is discharged from the hospital. The social worker and case manager will help provide educational materials, arrange for special equipment, and obtain any necessary home-health services.

What about a Car Seat?
State law requires that all babies use a car seat; a plastic infant carrier is not acceptable. Car seats are available for purchase in many department and toy stores. TMC also has a car seat loaner program. Ask your baby's nurse if you need to borrow a car seat. Infant CPR classes are offered in the nursery. Ask your baby's nurse or the case managers for information.

What follow-up will my baby need?
We recommend that all babies visit their primary care physician one week after discharge. We request that follow-up appointments be made before discharge so that contact can be made with the doctor to update him about your baby's hospital course, especially if he was not involved throughout. Babies who are discharged with monitors will be seen two weeks from discharge for an evaluation by the pulmonary (lung) specialist. Babies with special needs may have referrals to specialty doctors. The NICU staff will help you make any necessary appointments.

The Newborn Follow-up Clinic assesses the progress of babies who are born pre-maturely. At discharge, you may also be given information about clinics at Children's Rehabilitative Services, which follows babies with potential problems. As part of the Arizona Newborn Follow-up Program, a pediatric nurse may call to arrange a home visit. The nurse will record your baby's physical and developmental progress, and discuss any problems.