As the parent of a premature baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you'll interact, on an ongoing basis, with many care providers for your baby. Members of the NICU team caring for your infant may include:
- Neonatal nurse — A registered nurse who has special training in caring for premature and high-risk newborns
- Neonatal nurse practitioner — An experienced neonatal nurse who has completed additional training to assist neonatologists in caring for newborns
- Pediatrician — A doctor who specializes in treating children from birth through adolescence
- Neonatologist — A pediatrician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of newborn health problems
- Pediatric resident — A doctor who is receiving specialized training in treating children
- Respiratory therapist — A respiratory care practitioner who assesses respiratory problems in newborns and manages respiratory equipment
- Pediatric surgeon — A surgeon who specializes in performing surgery for newborns and children
- Pediatric social worker — A professional able to assist in finding services of various types that will be needed after discharge from the hospital
Besides these health professionals, you also are an important part of the care provided for your baby. Ideally, you'll work in collaboration with your baby's care providers, eventually learning how to hold, feed and care for your baby.
What you can do
During your baby's time in the NICU, don't hesitate to ask the NICU staff how you can become more involved in your baby's care. Being hands-on with your baby can give you confidence as a new parent, as well as make the transition home a little easier when your child is ready to leave the hospital.
Uncertainty can be frightening — as can seeing monitors, respirators and other types of equipment in the NICU. Ask questions about your baby's condition or write them down and seek answers when you're ready. For instance, you may want to ask:
Nov. 27, 2014
- How is my baby's condition? Has anything changed?
- How does this equipment help my baby?
- Why are you giving my baby medication?
- What types of tests does my baby need?
- When can I hold my baby? Will you show me how?
- How long will my baby have to continue tube feedings?
- When can I try to breast- or bottle-feed my baby?
- When will my baby be able to focus his or her eyes?
- Who should I contact if I have questions about my baby's care?
- Can I bring in a blanket or family photos to personalize my baby's incubator?
- What can I do to help care for my baby while he or she is in the NICU?
- When will my baby be able to come home?
- What do I need to know about caring for my baby once we're home?
- How often do we need to come back for follow-up visits after discharge?
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