Arriving at the NICU

Arrival at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can seem overwhelming with all of the sounds and lights, as well as the initial amount of activity surrounding your baby. All of this activity is helping us get to know your baby while creating a treatment plan personalized to the needs of your baby and family. Once your baby is settled in, we will help you understand the way things work, and we will begin to work together as a team.

Transport to the NICU

If your baby needs treatment in our NICU, you may need to stay behind at the hospital to be treated yourself. Know that your baby will be transported by a team of highly trained specialists who know exactly what to do in any situation.

The CHOC Transport Team is available 24/7, for your delivery hospital to arrange a transport for your baby. Under the guidance of a neonatologist, the neonatal transport team includes registered nurses, respiratory care practitioners and emergency medical technicians, who will decide the best way to transport your baby and provide immediate treatment along the way.

Arrival at the NICU

Once you are able to go to the NICU, it may seem a bit unfamiliar and frightening. There will be noises and machines you are not used to seeing and hearing. The equipment is necessary for us to monitor and offer the best possible care to your baby, and we will explain each one to you once your baby is admitted and stabilized.

You will receive a yellow wristband that you will wear during the entirety of your baby’s stay. This wristband tells the NICU staff who you are and which baby you belong with. You will need this wristband every time you enter the NICU.

You will be greeted by your baby’s nurse, who will update you on the transfer and on how your baby is doing in the NICU. Please share any information that you think can help your baby be more comfortable.

What You Might Feel

Having a baby in the NICU can cause conflicting emotions. Below are a few common responses to the experience of having a baby in the NICU. If you or your loved ones are struggling with difficult emotions, please reach out to any member of your NICU team and we can work together to help you through it. It is important to understand your feelings and take care of yourself. It is normal to have these feelings. You are not alone.

  • Shock over an early birth or birth with complications
  • Mother’s physical weakness after the birth
  • Disappointment over not having a healthy baby
  • Guilt and playing the “what if” game
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Fear about the procedures and tests your baby is going through
  • Anger at self and others
  • Crying, sadness, emotional upset
  • Fear about the future

Tips for Dealing with Stress

  • Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that are coming to you. You are going through something extremely stressful. You are allowed to be upset. Don’t bottle it up. Talk with someone about how you are feeling.
  • When you are able, try to establish a routine. It could help you feel in control.
  • Talk to other parents of NICU babies. People who have been in the NICU longer than you could share some tips on how to deal with the stress while offering much-needed emotional support.
  • The NICU team is here to help and support you. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Bonding with Your Baby

Becoming involved with your baby’s care can help give you a sense of control. In fact, taking an active role in your infant’s care will not only allow you to better understand how to care for your baby in the future, it will also create a strong and loving bond that will last far beyond the walls of CHOC. Speak with your medical team to learn how you can partner on your baby’s care.

We always encourage parents to touch, talk to, hold and care for their baby as baby’s condition will allow. The idea of caring for a small baby connected to tubes or machinery may seem intimidating, but our team will work with you to ensure that you are able to have as much one-on-one time with your baby as possible. Not only will time with your baby help you bond with your them, but studies have shown that being close to and even just hearing parents close by is a very powerful and important factor in your baby’s ability to heal. Once the baby’s condition is stable, parents are encouraged to hold and rock their baby, change diapers and help with as many of the baby’s care as possible.

Ways that we encourage parents to bond with their baby include:

  • Keeping a journal of what takes place with your baby and write down questions for the health care team ahead of time.
  • Read to your baby.
  • Take pictures and document their journey.
  • Never feeling like there is a “dumb” question or silly for asking the same questions over and over. There is a lot of information to understand when caring for a baby in the NICU.
  • If you have difficulties that limit the time you can spend with your baby, discuss this with your social worker. They may be able to help.

When You Can’t Be There

It’s impossible for parents to be in the hospital all the time. Our lovie dolls make it easier for babies to always feel close to you, even when you’re not in the NICU. Lovie dolls are small, soft fabric dolls that parents carry under their shirt or clothing so the dolls absorb their smell. When you visit your baby at CHOC, leave the doll in the baby’s isolette or bed, and take another with you to exchange the next time.

In an effort to make sure family-centered care at CHOC embraces more than just baby’s parents and siblings, we have developed a surrogate program so that up to four select people can be with baby when their parents are unavailable. Learn more about our NICU surrogate program. Additionally, the NICU is staffed by volunteer cuddlers who may spend time with your baby while you are away.

All NICU beds are also equipped with NICVIEW webcams. The secure system allows families to see real-time, live video of your baby remotely, from anywhere you can log on to the Internet.