What Parents Should Know About the NICU

Having a baby that is born prematurely is stressful. Seeing that baby taken into an area of the hospital about which few families have any knowledge can increase that stress. However, as any pediatrician will tell you, babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU – pronounced “nick-you”) get the most advanced—and the most caring—medical attention you could expect.

How to Ensure You and Your Baby Benefit from All the NICU Offers

Many parents who have had children spend time in the NICU will look back on that experience and say, “There are many things I wish I had known”, such as that many hospitals offer tours of the NICU in advance. We share some of those insights here for parents who currently have a child in that unit or who may have a newborn in need of intensive care down the road.

You should be aware that:

  • The technology is intimidating, but it all serves a purpose. Premature babies (preemies) in the NICU are typically, at least initially, attached to all kinds of tubes, wires and devices. While it is not how you pictured your baby starting life, that cutting-edge technology is helping them heal and grow.
  • NICU nurses are ferocious when it comes to helping preemies. NICU nurses have a reputation for being fierce in their commitment to ensuring preemies recover and thrive. When you can’t be in the NICU, know that your baby is in great hands of specialists.
  • It’s normal to feel disconnected. Depending on your baby’s medical needs, there may be times that you are not allowed to hold them. That is a difficult thing for a parent to face. However, keep in mind that every hour or day that you have to wait is an hour or day in which their treatments are helping them overcome their challenges.
  • It’s OK to ask questions. The care team in the NICU is there both for your baby and for you. They understand that you may be feeling uneasy and confused, and unless they are in the middle of a task, they answer your questions quickly.
  • Your baby is on a prescribed schedule. In order for your baby’s treatments to be effective, a strict schedule must to followed. This may mean that you have to be patient and wait for your chance to interact.
  • You may need to “divide and conquer.” Your other children, your partner, your extended family, your job … they still require your attention while your baby is in the NICU. Parents often have to rotate in and out of the unit, with one spending time with the baby while the other attends to other obligations.
  • It’s important to look after your own health, too. Having a child in the NICU can be both physically and emotionally draining. It’s important to listen to your body as best you can and to consider getting some professional counseling to help you manage the stress.

Talk with Your Pediatrician to Take the Mystery Out of the NICU

At your north Denver pediatrics practice, we encourage you to ask questions and be informed when you have a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit. If you ever have a question about your children, want to schedule a check-up appointment, or are looking for a Denver-area pediatrician and want to learn more about our practice, call us at 303-430-0823.