In some instances, a baby (or babies!) might arrive early and require time
in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This can be emotional and
stressful for new parents. Huntington Hospital’s Director of Pediatric
Services, Jamie Powers, MD, shares her top five tips for NICU families
to help prepare them for their babies’ stay at the hospital.
Can I hold my baby after he/she is born?
Whenever possible, we strongly support one or both parents holding their
infants after they are born. We know that doing skin-to-skin care, also
called kangaroo care, helps to stabilize a baby’s heart rate, breathing
and temperature, not to mention the emotional benefits for both parents
and baby. There are a few special circumstances when holding their baby
following delivery may not be an option, for example, if an infant is
delivered extremely premature or is very sick. Even for these infants,
we encourage parents to hold their baby’s hand, read stories at
the bedside, and even participate in taking the temperature, giving baths
and changing diapers. Once the infant is ready, we start kangaroo care
on a regular basis.
What is all of the equipment for?
Newborn infants, especially sick and premature infants, have very special
needs that are different from an adult or even small child. The small
houses the infants are kept in, called isolettes, can help to regulate
temperature, humidity, sound and light – all of which are crucial
for appropriate development. Depending on the baby’s needs, we can
also monitor the heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen levels, carbon dioxide
levels and brain activity, just to name a few items. Since every infant
is different, the equipment that we need to use will be different for
every infant. Regardless of what we are monitoring, it is all designed
to ensure we are catering to each baby’s very special needs so that
they continue to grow healthier and stronger.
How long will my baby be in the NICU?
A baby’s length of stay in the NICU depends on why he/she was admitted.
The stay can be as short as a few hours, like for babies with low blood
sugar levels or in need of a little breathing help, to as long as several
months, like for an infant born extremely premature. The care team meets
with families on a routine basis so that parents know when to anticipate
their baby’s homecoming.
How often can I visit my baby while he/she is in the NICU?
Unlike the remainder of the hospital, regular visiting hours do not apply
to the NICU. Parents are welcome to visit any time they are able, whether
it’s 2 a.m. or dinnertime. We understand that leaving your baby
in the hospital to go home is very stressful for families. Knowing that,
we open our door to families whenever they want to visit.
Will I be able to breastfeed my baby while he/she is in the NICU? Or will
I be able to once he/she is out?
We strongly encourage mothers to provide breastmilk for their babies whenever
possible. Not all babies are able to breast or bottle feed when first
born, but we have lactation consultants available to help support mothers
with pumping their milk in the interim. When the infants are big enough
and strong enough, we do promote breastfeeding while the babies are still
in the NICU. Many of our NICU graduates are exclusively breastfed once
home, or at least on a combination of both breast and bottle feeding.
Not all NICUs are equal, so it’s important to know the difference
when you are choosing where to have your baby. Ourlevel III NICU provides the highest level of neonatal intensive care available in the
San Gabriel Valley. Families are offered a wide range of services to receive
the support they need, including access to the March of Dimes app, which
provides information and an instant community of NICU families who are
sharing their experiences as well.