Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) FAQs

How do I get to the NICU?

The NICU is located on the 3rd floor of the South Wing by the Pink elevators.

What do I do when I arrive at the NICU?

Every time you enter the NICU, please check in and out at the main entrance.

  • Please wash your hands at the sinks inside the main entrance to protect your baby from germs.
  • You may pick up an admission pamphlet at the front desk which contains useful information and will likely answer many of your questions.

When I see my baby for the first time what can I expect?

We have many highly technical monitors and machines to help your baby get better. Your child may be on a special bed called a radiant warmer which keeps baby warm without being bundled in a blanket or in clothes. This allows staff to see and easily access your baby to provide care. Usually, the baby's heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure will be displayed on a monitor.

  • Many babies require help breathing. Some may have a small tube inserted into the windpipe and be attached to a ventilator (breathing machine). Other babies may be wearing a nasal cannula to help with breathing.
  • Most babies are not able to eat immediately after admission and will receive nutrition through an IV.
  • We encourage parents to focus on their baby rather than the monitors and machines. The medical team is closely monitoring your baby. We will be glad to explain the use of the machines in the NICU when you are at the bedside.

Who is responsible for the care of my baby?

The ACH NICU team consists of a group a highly skilled people trained in the care of critically ill infants. The team is led by an attending Neonatologist, the doctor. A Pediatric Medical Resident or Nurse Practitioner works with the Neonatologist to provide medical care for your baby.

  • General Pediatricians may also be involved in caring for your infant during their hospital stay in the NICU.
  • The bedside nurse will provide daily nursing care for your baby and will be able to answer many of your questions.
  • There are several other team members involved in your baby's care.

How long will my baby be here?

Each baby is different. As a general guide, premature babies will be here until near their expected due date.

  • Before going home, most babies should be able to breathe on his/her own (with or without oxygen support), keep his/her temperature within normal limits, take all of his/her feedings by breast, bottle or stomach tube, and have consistent weight gain.

What is kangaroo care or skin-to-skin?

Kangaroo care refers to holding your baby to your bare chest. Studies have shown that this can benefit both the baby and parent. During kangaroo care, the baby's vital signs are usually more stable and the baby is better able to regulate body temperature.

  • Parents should wear a button down shirt so that the baby is easily accessible in case of an emergency. Babies on ventilators can be held if approved by the physician.
  • This may not be available for all babies depending on his/her condition.

How can I get more information about my baby's condition?

If you are here at the hospital: 
Staff can provide you with handouts and information about things specific to your baby including breastfeeding, disease processes, development according to gestational age and discharge planning.

If you are NOT here at the hospital: 
The NICU team provides 24-hour medical care to your baby. We encourage you to use the 1-800# provided by a transport team member to get updates from your baby's nurse each day if you are unable to visit in person. If you want more information, the best time to speak to your baby's primary medical team is during the day.

  • To help ensure confidentiality, parents will select a code word shortly after admission. Medical information over the phone will only be given to parents after they provide the code word to the nursing staff.
  • It is a good idea to ask for your baby by name rather than by bed space since your baby's bed location may change several times during the hospital stay.

What is my role in caring for my baby?

We want our parents to become involved in the care of their baby. Our goal is for you to become the primary caregiver while we provide support for you in this role. We respect and value your input, suggestions, and requests. We encourage you to learn as much as possible about your baby.

  • Some infants who are very sick or premature can be very sensitive to stimulation. These babies may have difficulty coping with noise, handling, etc. Your nurse will help guide you in the ways which allow you to interact with your baby. This will allow your baby to rest and heal while continuing to bond with you.

Where will my baby be admitted?

Newly admitted babies are in a large room referred to as a “pod” with several other babies where they can be constantly observed and cared for by staff members.

When can I spend time with my baby?

  • Parents are encouraged to visit at any time during the day except when the nursing staff is giving report (6:30 am-8:30 am and 6:30 pm-7:30 pm).
  • Other visitors over the age of 14 may visit from 9:00 am-9:00 pm.
  • Siblings over the age of 2 can visit following a screening questionnaire regarding immunizations and contagious conditions.
  • Anyone except grandparents must be accompanied by a parent when visiting the baby.

What other activities are available to help me understand more about my new baby?

The Child Life & Education Department hosts free weekly family activities including:

  • Building blocks parenting group – learn about the latest in parenting through games and talking with other NICU and Heart Center Families
  • Learn Infant Massage – discover a new way to bond with your baby through infant massage, which can be done while in the NICU and continued once discharged.
  • Scrapbook Group – document your child's journey through the NICU with weekly sessions

Can I have the same nurse all the time?

Many families bond with one or more nurses and would like them to care for their baby all the time. This is called "primary nursing". If you would like the same nurse please ask the nurse or the coordinator (charge nurse). Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts, but we will try and honor your request for a nurse if possible. Many nurses work 2 or 3 days a week and this can impact the ability to have the same nurse.

When can I spend time with my baby?

Parents are welcome to visit at any time according to visitation guidelines.

The NICU Family House is located near the unit to provide a place where family members can rest. The Family House has chair beds, lockers, bathrooms, and showers. After 9:00 pm, only the parents of the infant are allowed in the Family House area.

What do I need to know about going home?

  • The baby will have a hearing screen and an eye exam (in most cases).
  • Immunizations may be given prior to discharge - if age appropriate.
  • The nurse practitioner or physician will order any medications the baby will need at home and you will be given prescriptions to fill at a pharmacy. There is a pharmacy in the hospital where you can fill the prescriptions prior to going home.
  • The nurse or a pharmacist will explain what the medications are for and how to give them to your baby.
  • Download the “Things to Know Before You Go” booklet for additional information.

Will I get to take care of my baby before going home?

Generally, we prefer parents to room in with their baby for a couple of nights before being discharged home. This will allow you to become comfortable with feedings, medications or any special equipment that your infant may need at home. This will also allow you to ask questions about how to take care of your baby while you still have the support of the NICU team members.

When will I need to bring my baby back after discharge?

The NICU Specialty Nurse will talk with you about returning for follow-up appointments if necessary.

  • Please choose a Primary Care Physician (PCP) in your community to which we can refer your baby for future appointments.
  • You may need to come to a specialty clinic at ACH depending on your baby's diagnosis and the need for follow-up.

What if I want my baby to go back to the hospital in my community?

Talk with your neonatologist about your preference. Your doctor here will speak with the physician at your community hospital to determine if a transfer is possible.

What kind of car seat is best?

The car seat choice is very important, especially for a premature infant. The car seat will need to be the appropriate size for your infant's weight.

  • If required, a car seat screening may be done the week before discharge to make sure the baby will be stable while riding in the car. Please bring the car seat for this test. 

How do I get into the Ronald McDonald House?

The Family Services Attendant in the waiting room can assist you.

What if I have financial, social or spiritual needs?

The NICU has Social Workers to help with social and financial needs. In addition. the Chaplain and Pastoral Care team can listen to you and support you and your baby with any spiritual needs.

Who do I voice concerns to about my baby or my baby's care?

We encourage you to voice your concerns about your baby's care and ask questions. You are encouraged to talk to your baby's nurse, nurse practitioner or physician. The Coordinator can be contacted if further assistance is needed. A Patient Family Representative is available if concerns cannot be resolved on the unit.