What to know about the NICU

by Kaiser Permanente |
Sleeping baby wearing hat and pink onesie in NICU bed.

Some newborns benefit greatly from time spent in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In the NICU, babies receive specialized care to get them off to a good start. NICU staff members use advanced technologies to monitor your baby and provide for their needs.

The NICU staff

Your baby’s NICU clinicians are specially trained to care for premature or sick newborns. Your baby’s care team may include:

  • Clinician.
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Social workers
  • Technicians

A neonatologist will guide your baby’s care. These are clinicians who focus on treating newborns. Your baby might also see other specialists who have training in certain areas.

What to expect in the NICU

Because clinicians and nurses rotate shifts, it’s not unusual to find different people working each time you visit. Caring for your baby is always the top priority.

Your baby may have tubes and wires attached to them. The wires connect to monitors that can help clinicians keep track of your baby’s health. Tubes may provide them with nutrition, fluids, or medicines. Some babies may also be connected to a ventilator. A ventilator does the work of breathing for your baby.

It’s likely that your baby will undergo many tests. These tests depend on your baby’s condition. They help guide treatment decisions so that your baby can thrive.

At times, the NICU can be a stressful place. It might seem crowded because there are so many people helping to care for your baby. However, all NICU staff members understand what you’re going through. They’re there to help you and your baby in any way they can.

NICU tips

Your baby’s NICU clinicians are used to answering questions and are happy to help you understand what’s going on. They will look to you to make certain decisions about your baby’s care.

It’s also important to care for yourself if your baby is in the NICU. Always ask for help when you need it. You might also want to try:

  • Connecting with other NICU parents.
  • Getting regular exercise and sleep.
  • Talking to a friend or writing in a journal.

Your baby still needs you while they’re in the NICU. Taking care of yourself gives you the energy and focus you need to take care of your baby.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.