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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Frequently Asked Questions

Who will care for my baby if he or she is born prematurely or needs medical care?NICU baby

How long will my baby stay in the nursery?

How would you define “readiness” for home or “maturity”?

Can I breastfeed my preterm infant?

When can I visit my baby?

Tell me about the care in the NICU.

How will my pediatrician learn about my baby?

What if I have more questions?

 

Who will care for my baby if he or she is born prematurely or needs medical care?

If your baby is born prematurely or needs additional medical care, he or she will be transferred to our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  The doctors caring for your infant are newborn specialists (neonatologists) who will assume responsibility for your child's care. The doctors are on staff both at South Shore Hospital and at Boston Children's Hospital and are available on-site 24 hours a day.

How long will my baby stay in the nursery?

Your baby will stay in the hospital until he or she is ready to go home.  If your baby is a full-term infant and is admitted to our NICU, he or she may be returned to the Newborn Nursery after a health complication is stabilized, or may go directly home from our NICU.

If your child is born prematurely, he or she will be cared for in our NICU until he or she is ready to go home.  Generally speaking, infants are ready to go home when they are the equivalent of 35-37 weeks of term (that is, close to nine months from conception); some may attain maturity a little earlier or a little later.

How would you define “readiness” for home or “maturity”?

There are several indicators that an infant is ready to go home.

  • They are able to keep their temperature in the normal range without the help of an incubator.
  • They can eat by mouth without the help of a feeding tube.
  • They have a stable respiratory pattern in room air.
  • The medical issues which caused them to be admitted to our NICU have been addressed.
  • There are no specific weight or age requirements but, in general, infants are discharged before their original due dates.

Can I breastfeed my preterm infant?

Depending on the degree of prematurity, the infant may not be strong enough to breastfeed immediately.

If you wish to have the infant breastfed, we will begin feeding with mother’s milk while the infant “nurses,” recognizing that the infant may not actually take much in. However, this begins the process of having both mother and infant become familiar with the breastfeeding experience. We will follow the infant's cues and offer the babyan increasing amount of time at the breast as the infant grows. We have several lactation consultants on staff who can help you gain these skills.

When can I visit my baby?

Family is considered a part of the team in the care of your infant.  Family is welcome 24 hours a day and family members, with your permission, are also welcome.  Siblings may visit the baby if they are healthy.

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Tell me about the care in the NICU.

The clinical team at South Shore Hospital is comprised of a neonatologist, neonatal nurse practitioner, registered nurse specializing in newborn care, nutritionist, and therapists specializing in occupational/physical therapy or respiratory care.

Medical rounds occur typically between 8 and 11 a.m.  During rounds, members of the medical team discuss each infant case individually.  The medical plan is determined and the physician and/or nurse practitioner updates the parents at the bedside when they come to visit.  The doctors again review the infant's care in the evening with the “on-call” doctor and the nurse in charge.

How will my pediatrician learn about my baby?

Your child's pediatrician is notified of your baby's birth soon after delivery.  The neonatology team cares for your child while in our NICU.  At the time of discharge, your baby's neonatologist will contact your child's pediatrician and give him or her a full update of your child's medical course while in the hospital.  Your child's pediatrician will also receive a copy of the dictated discharge summary typically within 24 hours of discharge to home.

What if I have more questions?

Your obstetrician can contact the in-house neonatologist and arrange for a neonatology consultation either when you are admitted or before you become a patient.   This consultation will provide you the time needed to thoroughly discuss any concerns you might have about your baby. Write down your questions and know that all questions about your baby are worth asking.

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