The NICU Family Support program

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

  • A part-time March of Dimes NICU Family Support specialist with NICU experience who works with families and staff.
  • A volunteer Parent-Professional Action Committee that guides program selection, development and implementation.
  • A base of March of Dimes volunteers who provide parent-to-parent support to families within the NICU setting.
  • Sensitive and engaging educational materials that introduce parents to the staff, equipment, procedures and conditions that they may encounter in the NICU. For more information about our materials, visit our online product catalog.
  • Customized programs developed to serve the specific needs of each NICU and the populations it supports. They include support and preparation for those with high-risk pregnancies, information and support for siblings and the extended family, support for Spanish-speaking families, a photo keepsake program, easing the transition from NICU to home, and bereavment support.


  • March of Dimes Share Your Story, the place where NICU families connect with each other, share their stories, and participate in online communities
  • March of Dimes Spanish-language website, culturally relevant information for Spanish-speaking NICU families

December 2007

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.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).