One in every 10 babies born in the U.S. is admitted to a newborn intensive care unit (NICU) because of premature birth or another medical condition. Having a baby hospitalized in a NICU, can be frightening, confusing and overwhelming for parents. In conjunction with its national Prematurity Campaign, the March of Dimes has developed NICU Family Support to provide information and comfort to those families in crisis.
Guided by former NICU families, the program is built on a family-centered philosophy and is implemented nationwide through March of Dimes chapters. It addresses the needs of parents, siblings, grandparents and the extended family throughout the hospitalization, during the transition home and in the event of a newborn death. NICU Family Support also includes a professional development component that provides NICU staff with educational opportunities to help them sensitively support families on a daily basis. Our NICU Families Web site offers 24-hour access to information, resources and online communities.
Components that make the program unique
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.
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.