NICU Visitation Guidelines

At CHOC, the NICU is a unique part of the hospital, helping our littlest patients grow healthier and stronger. We encourage visitation for the emotional health of the babies and their families, and these guidelines help ensure the safety for all involved.

Guidelines for Visiting the NICU

It is extremely important that guidelines are followed when visiting a baby in the NICU. These patients need a high level of cleanliness and care in order to grow healthier during their stay with us.

  • Parents and guardians are welcome to be in the NICU at any time, including overnight.
  • Siblings, other family members and friends may visit the NICU until 8 p.m.
  • Two parents or guardians will receive wristbands identifying them as primary caregivers. Only people with these wristbands will be given updates by the care team.
  • Parents/guardians may pick up to four surrogates who can stay with the baby at any time.
  • Do not visit if you are feeling ill, even a little bit.
  • Quiet rooms are important. Please speak softly or whisper.
  • Keep cellphones on silent when visiting and cleanse with provided wipes.
  • Never turn off or touch any alarms or equipment. If you have any questions or concerns, call your nurse by using the nurse call button.
  • No food is allowed in patient rooms at all. Water is allowed, but it needs to have a lid.

How Friends and Family Can Help in the NICU

When friends and loved ones are in these circumstances, you may feel you want to help, but just don’t know how. You can start by asking the parents what they need. They may be feeling overwhelmed and in need, but unsure who or how to ask for help.

Some common needs that a family could use help with are:

  • Babysitting or carpooling help for their other children.
  • Do laundry or go grocery shopping. Provide meals that can be brought to the hospital, or gift cards to local restaurants/delivery apps.
  • Help with pets.
  • Ask the father how you can help him, especially if mom is still admitted at her delivery hospital, and he is commuting between the two facilities.
  • Sometimes, what a parent needs is someone to lean on. This can be a very emotional time for parents of a baby in NICU. A text saying you are thinking of them, or an offer to sit and listen can mean more than you realize.

Keep Up the Offers of Support

Patients and families often need space immediately following a birth, but they don’t want to feel forgotten. Often, offers to help come in the early days of hospitalization, and drop off after a few weeks or months. Continue to check in with them as long as their baby is in the NICU.

Be understanding if you offer to visit and the answer is “not yet” or “not right now.” Let the parents know you understand they need time to be with their baby, but that you are there for them when they are ready. Visiting a baby in the NICU is very different from visiting a newborn in a hospital’s labor and delivery unit. Parents/guardians might not feel up to having visitors. Accept their wishes and try not to take it personally.

Don’t forget about siblings. Becoming a big brother or sister can be a hard transition, even without the added stress of a hospitalization. Siblings may feel overshadowed as their parents focus on the new baby. If you have prearranged a visit to the NICU, think about bringing an activity for the sibling, or just something to make them feel special. Offering to spend one-on-one time with the sibling can be a great way to help them feel loved, as well as help their parents. It’s healthy for siblings to stick to their normal routine as much as possible, so offer rides to school, dance class, soccer practice, etc.

What should I say to a family whose baby is in the NICU? What to say and what not to say

Bringing Gifts for a Baby in the NICU

We suggest you save gifts for the baby and their families until they are home and can enjoy them. Instead, comfort and convenience items, time and support are the biggest help you can lend.

What to Bring

  • A special gift with the baby’s name on it.
  • Comfort items for the parents such as cozy pillows and blankets, books, magazines, nice shampoo and conditioner.
  • Gift cards for gas, groceries and local restaurants around the hospital are always appreciated.
  • Order a meal from a nearby restaurant to be delivered to the first-floor lobby that the family can enjoy outside of the NICU. Be sure to check with the family first.
  • Sometimes, our patients and families are just not up for visitors, but they would still appreciate your thoughtfulness. Consider dropping something off in the lobby without a visit. This shows that you are respectful of their space while they are healing.

What Not to Bring

  • Baby clothes. Most are likely to be too large for a premature baby.
  • Flowers are a beautiful and thoughtful gesture, but patients in intensive care units, such as the NICU, are not allowed to have flowers in their room.
  • Balloons are not allowed in intensive care units due to infection prevention measures.

Other Helpful Information for NICU Visitors

  • Feeling sick? Please stay away. The babies in the NICU are very susceptible to germs, so if you are feeling like you may be coming down with something, please wait to visit.
  • Be time sensitive. Be aware of the length of time you are with parents at bedside. They may need to pump, communicate with the medical team or just spend quiet time with their baby.
  • Be patient. Try to understand the moods and emotions of NICU parents. Worries about their baby’s health are mixed with emotions, so family members’ and friends’ patience and understanding is always appreciated.
  • Support the NICU. If you want to do more to help the NICU, consider donating or volunteering.