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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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Life after the NICU

After your experience in the NICU, you have become a NICU graduate parent. Your child is a NICU graduate. Congratulations!

You will look back on the time you spent with your child in the NICU and see how the experience has changed your life. You may find you have strengths and passions you didn't know you had.

You may feel that your experience has changed you forever and that you want to help others who will walk this road after you. Consider the following:

  • Stay connected with the other families you have met and become friends with in the NICU. Exchange contact information. You and these families may have things in common even after your babies leave the NICU.
  • Keep in touch with your baby's NICU. Send updated photos to the staff. Visit the NICU. Speak to a parent group. Attend NICU family reunions.
  • Find support groups that help you parent your child.
  • Get involved with the March of Dimes. Our mission is to help babies like yours and to support parents like you. Learn about the NICU Family Support project and our Prematurity Campaign. To get involved, find your local March of Dimes chapter. Share your baby's birth story and get support from other NICU families on Share Your Story. Your experience, your story, your passion and love for your child are so vitally important to other families and to babies born too small, too sick or too soon.

Parents have to decide how they will incorporate the NICU experience into their lives and the lives of their children. As time passes, most parents find themselves involved in other aspects of their child's life. Their memories of the NICU fade as they watch their child grow and face new tasks and challenges, such as walking, potty training, preschool and more.

Remember: You and your child are strong. Be proud of all that you have come through together. Look forward to and cherish the celebrations ahead.

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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