Having a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be overwhelming and it can take a while to adjust. Instead of being at home, you’re surrounded by beeping, machines, medical professionals, and lots of new information. With all of these distractions, it can be hard to know the right questions to ask your care team, and when.
Here are 5 questions you might find helpful to ask as a NICU parent.
When can I talk to my child’s doctor?
The best time to talk to the doctor would be during rounds, which usually happen in the morning. They will give you an update on how the baby did overnight, how much they ate, pooped and peed, and then set a plan for the day.
If you miss rounds, you can get a report from the nurse caring for your baby later in the day. If you are not available to be at bedside during rounds, the caregiver can use a speaker phone so that parents can hear the update and ask questions in real time. Or, you can ask your nurse to share your questions with your doctor and ask them to call you later that day.
Who is a part of my baby’s care team?
Your baby’s medical team includes a lot of different medical professionals who each have a special role in helping your baby. You will often have a nurse practitioner who assists your doctor in managing the day-to-date care of your baby, a nutritionist who ensures that your baby is receiving enough calories to gain weight, a respiratory therapist if your baby needs help breathing. There are also a team of therapists (physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, music therapist, and massage therapist) who help to make sure that your baby is well-supported in their development.
What resources are available to me as a NICU parent?
One of your best resources are your nurses. They are spending the most time with your baby and can help answer any questions you might have. You can reach your nurses at any time day or night to check in on your little one(s).
There is also a team of medical professionals whose job is to help you and your family throughout your baby’s admission. These resources include social workers, psychologists, chaplains, and NICU parent advisors who can help you to get access to resources and programs that can help you through this stressful time.
What are ways I can bond with my baby?
When the medical team allows, help to change and feed your baby during their care times. If your baby is not taking bottles and you would like to breastfeed, you can provide breastmilk for your baby through their feeding tube until they are ready to feed orally.
Another way you can help is by bringing in items from home such as clothes and blankets to make the room feel like home. You can also sing, talk, or read to your baby, and hold or kangaroo care with your baby as much as you want. It may not seem like a lot, but you are the most important person to your baby, and any time you can spend holding and interacting with your baby helps them to grow!
What can I do to help prevent infections?
Your baby’s NICU should have strict policies in place for infection control, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. All parents, visitors, and staff are expected to follow guidelines to protect the infants in the NICU. Currently, this includes universal masking, 6-foot physical distancing, frequent sanitation of high-touch areas, maximum of 2 visitors allowed for your baby’s NICU stay, as well as daily symptom screening upon arrival for both visitors and employees.
Use hand sanitizing gel before entering or leaving your baby’s bed spot, and wiping down your mobile device frequently, but especially if you plan to use it while you are holding your infant. If you feel unwell, please stay home! It is best for you and your baby.
To learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s neuroscience research of developing infants, tune in to the BABIES series on Netflix, which explores the groundbreaking science that reveals how infants discover life during their very first year.
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