Posts Tagged ‘NICU’

Your NICU healthcare team

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

NICU doctor and baby resizedAt times, it may seem that there is a constant flow of different people caring for your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  A team of professionals work together to give your baby every possible chance of achieving good health.

Some or all of these people may be part of the NICU team at your hospital:

chaplain – A person who provides spiritual support to NICU families.

charge nurse – A health care provider who has nursing training. The charge nurse makes sure that the NICU runs well. This nurse also oversees admitting babies to and discharging them from the NICU.

clinical nurse specialist – Also called CNS. A health care provider who has special nursing training in the care of children and their families. The CNS helps parents deal with their baby’s stay in the NICU. The CNS provides support and teaches parents about their baby’s health condition. The CNS is also involved in nursing staff education.

family support specialist – A person who provides information, help and comfort to families when their baby is in the NICU.

lactation consultant – A person who has special training to help women breastfeed.

medical geneticist – A doctor who has special training in diseases that are inherited and other birth defects.

neonatal nurse practitioner – Also called NNP. A health care provider who has special nursing and medical training in caring for sick babies. The NNP works with the baby’s neonatologist and other medical team members. The NNP can perform medical procedures and care for babies.

neonatal physician assistant – Also called PA. A health care provider who has special medical training in working with sick newborns. The PA works with the neonatologist, performs medical procedures and may direct your baby’s care.

neonatologist – A pediatrician (children’s doctor) who has years of additional medical training in the care of sick newborns.

neonatology fellow – A fully trained pediatrician who is getting additional medical training in the care of sick newborns.

occupational therapist - Also called OT. A health care provider who helps figure out how well babies feed and swallow and how well they move their arms and legs.

ophthalmologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of eyes and vision.

patient care assistant – Also called PCA. A NICU staff member who helps nurses change bed sheets, feed babies and prepare bottles.

pediatric cardiologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s heart.

pediatric gastroenterologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s digestive system. The digestive system is made up of organs and tubes that digest (break down) the food a baby eats.

pediatric neurologist – A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s brain and spinal cord. A spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that carries signals between the brain and the body.

pediatric pulmonologist - A doctor who has special medical training in the care of a baby’s or child’s lungs.

pediatric resident – A doctor who is getting medical training in taking care of babies and children.

pediatrician – A doctor who has special training in taking care of babies and children.

pharmacist – A person who has special training in how medicines work and the side effects they may cause. People get prescription medicine from a pharmacist. Pharmacists also provide medicines in the hospital and may visit patients with the NICU team.

physical therapist – Also called PT. A health care provider who looks at any movement problems babies have and how they may affect developmental milestones such as sitting, rolling over or walking. The PT helps a baby improve muscle strength and coordination.

registered dietitian – Also called RD. A health care provider who is trained as an expert in nutrition. The RD works with the NICU doctors and nurses to help make sure babies get all the nutrients they need. Nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, help the body stay healthy.

registered nurse – Also called RN. A health care provider who has nursing training. An RN in the NICU has special training in caring for sick newborns.

respiratory therapist — Also called RT. A health care provider who cares for babies with breathing problems. An RT is trained to use medical equipment needed to care for babies.

social worker – A person who is trained to help families cope with their baby’s NICU stay. The social worker can help families get information from health care providers about their baby’s medical conditions, give emotional support, help families work with medical insurance companies, and help plan for when their baby comes home.

speech and language therapist – A health care provider who has training to help people with speech and language problems. In the NICU, this therapist often helps newborns with feeding problems.

surgeon – A doctor who has additional specialized medical training in performing surgery and other procedures.

technician – A member of the hospital staff who may draw blood or take X-rays (a test that uses small amounts of radiation to take pictures of inside the body).

At one point or another, you may encounter many of the above people while your baby is in the NICU. They all work together to provide continuous care for your baby. Learn more about pediatric specialties and how they may help your baby.

Remember – you are also an important member of the NICU team, too. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions or speak up for your baby.

Have questions? Text or email

Priceless advice from a NICU nurse and mom

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Jessica sees her preemie Lily In honor of Neonatal Nurses Day, we talked to Jessica Zackula RNC, BSN, a NICU nurse and NICU mom. Jessica experienced the ups and downs of giving birth early and having her baby hospitalized in the NICU for three weeks. And, as a NICU nurse, she is aware of what parents need to know when their baby is in the NICU. Here is her advice for NICU parents:

“As a NICU nurse and NICU mom, here are 3 things I wish every parent knew walking through the doors of the NICU:

1.  Speak up for your baby.

  • You know your baby better than anyone in the NICU. You are an important part of your baby’s care team. If you have questions, be sure to ask them.

2.  Do the best you can with pumping and breastfeeding.

  • Breastmilk is one of the most important things you can give your baby while he or she is in the NICU. Even if your baby is too young to breastfeed, your baby can still receive breast milk through a feeding tube. Seek help on how to pump breastmilk.

3.  Take care of yourself; lean on other NICU parents to help get you through tough times.

  • No one knows the NICU journey better than another NICU parent.
  • It is important that you take time to care for yourself during the sometimes rocky ride through the NICU.
  • You and your baby will benefit from being well rested, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy foods.”

Jessica realizes the value of parents working together with the NICU staff. Clear communication is key in understanding what is happening to your baby. Being an informed parent allows you to look out for your baby’s best interest and be her advocate.

More about Jessica…

Jessica Zackula RNC, BSNJessica Zackula RNC, BSN has been working as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital in Washington, since 1999. Her daughter, Lily, was born at 32.2 weeks gestation in 2004, and was a patient in Jessica’s NICU unit for 21 days. Lily left the NICU to go home weighing just 3 pounds 5 ounces. Today, she is a healthy, bright 11 year old, who just began the 6th grade.

In 2010, Jessica was promoted to nursing leadership of the Tacoma General Hospital NICU, where she currently remains as the Clinical Nurse Manager. She is passionate about continuous quality improvement and creating an optimal experience for families in the NICU through integrated, family centered care.

In honor of Neonatal Nurses Day

We want to thank Jessica and every NICU nurse, for their dedication and tireless efforts to help fragile, sick babies. We know that their exceptional care makes a difference for each and every baby in the NICU.

NICU parents can reach out to other parents on Share Your Story, the March of Dimes online community, where you will find comfort and support. Also, we invite you to browse News Moms Need for other helpful posts on prematurity and life in the NICU.

Have questions? Text or email


Brain bleeds in premature babies

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

brainThe younger, smaller and sicker a baby is at birth, the more likely he is to have a brain bleed, also called an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). If you or someone you know has a baby with a brain bleed, it can be a very scary and upsetting experience.

Bleeding in the brain is most common in the smallest of babies born prematurely (weighing less than 3 1/3 pounds). A baby born before 32 weeks of pregnancy is at the highest risk of developing a brain bleed. The tiny blood vessels in a baby’s brain are very fragile and can be injured easily. The bleeds usually occur in the first few days of life.

How are brain bleeds diagnosed?

Bleeding generally occurs near the fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) in the center of the brain. An ultrasound examination can show whether a baby has a brain bleed and how severe it is. According to, “all babies born before 30 weeks should have an ultrasound of the head to screen for IVH. The test is done once between 7 and 14 days of age. Babies born between 30-34 weeks may also have ultrasound screening if they have symptoms of the problem.”

Are all brain bleeds the same?

Brain bleeds usually are given a number grade (1 to 4) according to their location and size. The right and left sides of the brain are graded separately. Most brain bleeds are mild (grades 1 and 2) and resolve themselves with few lasting problems. More severe bleeds (grade 3 and 4) can cause difficulties for your baby during hospitalization as well as possible problems in the future.

What happens after your baby leaves the hospital?

Every child is unique. How well your baby will do depends on several factors. Many babies will need close monitoring by a pediatric neurologist or other specialist (such as a developmental behavioral pediatrician) during infancy and early childhood. Some children may have seizures or problems with speech, movement or learning.

If your baby is delayed in meeting his developmental milestones, he may benefit from early intervention services (EI). EI services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy may help your child make strides. Read this series to learn how to access services in your state.

Where can parents find support?

Having a baby with a brain bleed can be overwhelming. The March of Dimes online community, Share Your Story, is a place where parents can find comfort and support from other parents who have (or had) a baby in the NICU with a brain bleed. Just log on and post a comment and you will be welcomed.

You can also leave a comment here on our blog, or send a question to where a health education specialist is ready to assist you.


Breastfeeding 101

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

If you’re breastfeeding or thinking about breastfeeding, you’ve come to the right place. This post is your one-stop-shop for all things breastfeeding. Stop in for a quick glance or stay for a while and browse the different blog posts below. We’ll keep adding new ones as they are published. If you have questions, email us at We are here to help.

• Breastfeeding myths debunked

Breastfeeding myths debunked part 2 

The do’s and don’ts of bottle-feeding 

• Breastfeeding your baby in the NICU can be challenging 

• Breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip/palate  

• Breastfeeding and returning to work 

• Formula switching, what you need to know 

• Alcohol and breastfeeding 

• Breastfeeding on demand vs. on a schedule 

• Keeping breast milk safe

 “Can I continue breastfeeding now that I am pregnant again?”

• Breastfeeding and hair treatments

Keeping track of feedings and diapers

Benefits of breastfeeding


Having a baby in the NICU can be stressful for siblings

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

IMG_9387Giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU is stressful for parents; but what is sometimes overlooked is how upsetting it is for the preemie’s siblings.

A change in routine is upsetting to children. Having mom and dad away from home for long periods of time can turn even the most well-adjusted child upside down. If your child has not been able to visit her sibling or she does not have a solid grasp on what is happening, the uncertainty of the situation can cause distress. What can you do to ease the anxiety that is trickling down to the smallest members of your family?

  • Talk to your child at a level that she can understand. There are children’s books that explain prematurity. These books can make the explanation much easier for parents. Check with your local library for appropriate titles.
  • Reassure your child that nothing she did or said caused her sibling to be born early. Some kids may blame themselves or feel guilty.
  • Your child might be very worried and fear that the baby may never come home. As best you can, let your child know that you and the doctors and nurses are taking good care of her baby sibling, just as they would take care of her.
  • Understand the signs of distress in your child. Any regression (loss) in developmental progress (such as bed wetting, not sleeping through the night, acting out or being excessively attached to you), may indicate that your child is feeling the negative effects of the situation.
  • If possible, have your child visit your baby in the NICU.
  • In the Preemies book, you can read about these and other ways to minimize the anxiety that having a baby in the hospital can have on your family.

Do you have any tips to share on how to help your older children got through the stress of having a baby sibling in the NICU? Please share.

Have questions? Send them to

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.


When can your baby go home from the hospital?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

giving birthIf you just gave birth and are wondering when your baby will be discharged from the hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released guidelines for health care providers to use to decide when your baby can go home.

Careful consideration is given to the following factors:

  • The mother’s health and readiness to care for her child – Is she healthy? Does she have support at home?
  • The baby’s health – Has the baby successfully had at least two feedings in the hospital (either by breast or bottle)? Is the baby healthy?
  • The car seat – Do the parents have an appropriate one and do they know how to use it properly?
  • Life at home – Is the home safe for a baby? Are there illicit drugs, alcohol, a history of abuse, neglect or domestic violence in the home? Is there a history of mental illness in a parent?
  • Access to care – Does the mother have access to follow-up care for herself and her baby? Does she have transportation? Does she currently use or know of a clinic or doctor’s office where she and her baby can go for care?

The answers to these questions will help providers determine when a baby can be discharged from the hospital. The goal is to ensure that both mother and baby are cared for appropriately so that neither one will have issues that require going back into the hospital. By double checking on mom, baby, and home life ahead of time, the transition to home will be as safe and smooth as possible.

Preemies? Health problems?

Keep in mind that if your baby was born prematurely or with a medical condition, there will be additional considerations to review before your baby will be ready for discharge. Read our article on Leaving the NICU to learn more.

Questions?  Send them to

For posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.



From NICU to EI services

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

preemie hand in adult handIf your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight, chances are he or she may benefit from Early Intervention (EI) services. EI services are designed to help your baby catch up developmentally. They can include speech, physical or occupational therapy, as well as other kinds of treatment.

Usually, the hospital NICU staff will give you the information to have your baby screened or evaluated so that services may begin soon after your baby gets home (if they are needed). But, parents – you should know that a doctor or hospital referral is not needed to start the process of requesting early intervention services. You can contact your state’s agency yourself. Although it is very helpful for hospitals to give parents all of the information they need to get services started early, a hospital referral is not a requirement for a screening.

Read this post on Early intervention for babies and toddlers to learn how to request a screening. In many cases, a phone call to your state’s early intervention program is all you need to initiate an evaluation (which is free of charge to you). EI services are available in every state and territory of the United States.

Don’t delay with delays. The sooner your baby gets help, the sooner he can start catching up. If you are concerned about your baby’s development, make the call, get the free screening, and put your mind at rest.

See other topics in the Delays and Disabilities series here.

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICU

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUIt may be difficult to know what to do with your time when your baby is in the NICU. Going home to an empty house may seem impossible. All you can think about is how your little one is doing. However, there are all kinds of productive things you can do, to pass the time until your baby is ready to come home.

While at the hospital

• Learn about your baby’s condition as well as what to expect on the NICU journey.
• Get to know your baby. As soon as your baby’s condition allows, take an active role in his care. Feed, hold, bathe, diaper and dress your baby. Learn about preemie cues to help you understand your baby’s behaviors.
• Room-in with your baby. Some hospitals (depending on your baby’s condition) will allow you to spend the night caring for baby. Ask your nurse if this is an option.
• Read to your baby
• Learn how to take care of your other children while your baby is in the NICU. See if they can visit your baby in the NICU.
• Is a holiday coming up? Read our blog on spending the holidays in the NICU for tips.

While at home

• Get the right car seat for your child.
• Prepare your home for your preemie.
• Make sure you have food in the house or ask a friend or relative to get some groceries for you. Eating healthy foods will help you maintain your energy.
• Keep up with your chores; ask a relative or friend to help if you need it.
• Visit our website for information on managing the NICU experience.

Relax and rejuvenate

• Put your feet up. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby.
• Take a nap: Getting enough rest is important during this time.
• Be active.  A short 10 minute walk once or twice a day will be more beneficial to you than you can imagine. If you can manage a longer walk, go for it. Or, join a class (like Zumba) where you can dance off your frustrations as you have fun.
• Take a yoga, meditation or a stretch and tone class or use a DVD. You can take them out of a library for free. These classes combine getting in shape with learning to calm down. Believe it or not, most people need to learn how to relax.

While at home or by your baby’s side, seek support by visiting Share Your Story®, the March of Dimes online community for NICU families. You will be welcomed and comforted by other NICU moms who are or have been in your situation and know how you are feeling.

Do you have a baby in the NICU? Email us at with your questions. We are here to help.

Sibling visits to the NICU can be helpful

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Sibling visits baby in NICUPrematurity affects everyone, including siblings. When older children have a sister or brother in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) they sense their parents’ concern and worry, and their lives are thrown off balance. Siblings of a preemies go through their own NICU journey of sorts – from experiencing anxiety, worry and frustration to happiness and joy. However, there are some steps you can take to help your older children through the ups and downs of the NICU experience.

If your baby is in the NICU, it may be possible for your other children to visit. Ask the head nurse of the NICU if the hospital allows this and if your preemie is strong enough for the visit. Often, seeing their baby brother or sister in the NICU helps older children understand what is happening and to realize why mom and dad are not home as much. Even a short visit can help put the situation into perspective. Visiting can also make siblings feel like they are a part of the journey and that they are helping out.

But, NICUs can seem scary to children, and seeing a tiny baby hooked up to monitors and tubes can be terrifying. Here are ideas (some from the Preemies book) to help make the visit successful. In all cases, get the permission of the NICU staff first:

• Have your older children send in a toy or drawing ahead of the visit, and display it prominently near your preemie’s bed. When your children arrive, they will see their presence and will feel an immediate connection.

• Describe your baby’s condition to your children before the visit. Perhaps show them a doll that is about the size of your preemie, so they are not too surprised when they see their tiny sibling.

• If it is possible, allow your children to touch the baby. Touch helps to establish a bond. Of course, the NICU nurse will tell you if this will be allowed or not, depending on your baby’s current medical condition.

• Ask if your children can talk, read a book, or sing a song to the baby (softly). It will give them the feeling of doing something positive to help.

• Ask if your hospital has a NICU Family Support Program. The March of Dimes partners with many hospitals in the United States. Such programs comfort and support families, including siblings. Some hospitals also have a corner where siblings can play as they wait while their parents visit. They may even meet other siblings in this play space, and be able to share their feelings with other kids who understand what they are experiencing.

There is no doubt about it – having a baby in the NICU is a difficult journey for the whole family. Hopefully, short visits will help your other children to understand, feel included and “help out”, which will in turn, lessen the mystery of having a little brother or sister in the NICU.

Additional information and support for families with babies in the NICU can be found at Share Your Story, the March of Dimes online community for NICU families. Also, see this blog post for helpful info on a father’s role in the NICU.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need,  select “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts. We welcome your comments and input.

If you have questions, please send them to

Preparing your home for your preemie

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Preemie going homeWe often receive questions about “preemie-proofing” from parents who are preparing for their preemie’s homecoming. You may have waited a long time for this day, but bringing your baby home, and leaving his team of doctors and nurses behind can be overwhelming for many parents. Here are some tips to help ease the transition:

Before your baby comes home:

• Speak with the NICU staff at your baby’s hospital. They are very knowledgeable about what your baby may need when going home.

• If you clean your home before your baby’s arrival, (or if you want to brighten up your preemie’s nursery by painting it) do so before he comes home. This way you can avoid any strong smells that may linger.

• Clean your house of dust and germs. Vacuum and dust often, take out the garbage and keep your kitchen and bathroom clean. Also, tell your baby’s health care provider if you have any pets. Pet hair can track in dirt and dust.

• If your baby needs oxygen, carefully observe the cleaning requirements, particularly for the humidifier, and understand the safety recommendations.

Once your baby is home:

• Your baby should not be exposed to smoke, aerosol sprays or paint fumes. These irritants can cause wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

• Maintain a smoke-free household. Post signs around your house if you need to so family and friends are aware of your smoke-free home.

• The guidelines for cleaning and storing bottles, nipples, pacifiers, breast pump equipment and milk or formula are the same for preemies as term babies.

• If your baby is on an apnea monitor, be sure you can hear the alarm from every room in your house.

• Wash hands after blowing your nose, diapering your baby or handling raw food. Don’t let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to illness, near your baby.

Visit our website here for more great resources for parents after they bring their baby home from the NICU.

What do you remember being helpful when you brought your preemie home? What tips would you recommend to new parents?