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Home after the NICU

  • Learn about your baby's condition, treatment and care.
  • It's OK to feel worried about bringing your baby home.
  • Find a provider to care for your baby outside the NICU.
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Continuing medical care after the NICU


You will probably visit your baby’s health care provider about 12 times during her first year. Here are some ways to take care of your baby’s health


Get your baby vaccinated

All babies, including those who spend time in the NICU, need vaccinations. These vaccines help protect babies from serious diseases. Check with your baby’s provider about when your baby needs her vaccines. Brothers and sisters of the baby also need to be up-to-date on their vaccines. This helps keep them from passing infections to the baby. Everyone in the family, including parents, should get a flu shot before the baby comes home. Also, any adult who will have contact with the baby should get a pertussis, also called whooping cough, vaccine.


Protect your baby from RSV

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a very common virus. It affects almost all children before they reach the age of two. Most of the time, it causes a slight cold. But, for babies who were born early, this virus can be more serious. Babies born early or who have heart or lung problems may benefit from a medicine to keep them from getting RSV. Ask your baby’s health care provider if your baby should get this medicine.


Follow-up with your baby's health care provider

Check in with your baby’s provider to make sure that your baby is developing in a healthy way. Is she rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking at certain points in her life? These are called developmental milestones. You may need to remind the provider that your baby spent time in the NICU, because this may affect when she reaches the milestones.

What to do if your baby gets sick

All babies get sick from time to time. But babies who were in the NICU are more likely to get an infection. You need to watch for signs that your baby may be sick, so you can get medical help right away.

What to do if your baby has ongoing medical needs

If your baby has a medical condition, she may need ongoing care from different health care providers such as an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist.

If your baby needs medicines

Some babies go home from the NICU still taking medicines. You need to learn how to give your baby his medicine before he leaves the hospital. This will make it easier when you are caring for your baby at home. Write down all the instructions.

See also: Share your story

Last reviewed August 2014

Call your doctor now if your baby...

  • Has a temperature above 100.4 F
  • Has trouble breathing or is hard to waken
  • Has blood in her vomit or stool
  • Has yellowish skin or eyes
  • Is having a seizure

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I calculate adjusted age for preemies?

Chronological age is the age of a baby from the day of birth. Adjusted age is the age of the baby based on his due date. To calculate adjusted age, take your baby's chronological age (for example, 20 weeks) and subtract the number of weeks premature the baby was (6 weeks). This baby's adjusted age (20 - 6) is 14 weeks. Health care providers may use this age when they evaluate the baby's growth and development. Most premature babies catch up to their peers developmentally in 2 to 3 years. After that, differences in size or development are most likely due to individual differences, rather than to premature birth. Some very small babies take longer to catch up.

Is it OK to invite people over after leaving the NICU?

Babies who've been in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) are often at higher risk of getting an infection than other babies. Be careful where you take the baby and who comes to visit her. But you don't need to stay in your house alone for the first months after your baby comes home.

If you do have visitors, make sure they wash their hands before touching the baby. Also, don't let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or have been exposed to an illness near her. Lastly, ask visitors not to smoke in your house.

My baby has developmental delays. Where can I find help?

Some babies leave the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) just fine while others may have developmental delays. The earlier these delays are identified and treated, the more likely your baby will be able to reach his potential later in life. Most NICU babies will be evaluated before leaving the NICU to see their strengths and any areas that can be improved. If you think your baby has developmental delays, talk to his health care provider about where to find early intervention services. Contact state and local programs for help.

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