Congratulations on the birth of your baby

NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. This is a nursery in a hospital that provides around-the-clock care to sick or premature babies. It has health care providers who have special training and equipment to give your baby the best possible care.

In this topic, learn about medical care in a NICU. Find out about levels of care that NICUs provide and what level your baby needs. Learn about equipment that your baby may need and what you can do to be involved in your baby’s care. You can hold and feed your baby and get close to him, even in the NICU.

You may feel scared and confused about your baby’s condition. It’s OK to feel like you do. Learn about resources and support that can help you and your family while your baby’s in the NICU. Find out how to involve your partner and your baby’s grandparents in NICU care. And visit Share Your Story®,  the March of Dimes online community for NICU families.

Most common questions

Is it OK to hold my baby in the NICU?

It depends on your baby's health overall. Some newborn intensive care units (NICUs) will encourage you to hold your baby from birth onward. Other NICUs will want you to wait until your baby's health is stable. Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care (holding your baby on your bare chest). Kangaroo care has benefits for both you and your baby. The skin-to-skin contact is a precious way to be close to your baby. You may be afraid you'll hurt him by holding him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he’ll enjoy feeling that closeness with you.

My baby was born full term. Why is she in the NICU?

Not all newborn intensive care unit (NICU) babies are born premature. Some babies, even those born full term, may need special care. Your baby may need to spend some time in the NICU if she had a difficult delivery, has breathing problems, has infections or has birth defects.

Most babies leave the NICU just fine. Others may need more special care once they're home.

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