The NICU Family Support program
Babies in the NICU may have been born too small, too soon, or with a medical condition that requires intensive care. Throughout the NICU experience, parents can be involved in their baby’s care in a variety of important ways. The March of Dimes has developed the NICU Family Support program to help support NICU families during their baby’s time in the NICU. The program also educates NICU staff about the best ways to support babies, families, and each other.
Hospitals with a NICU Family Support program are able to offer their families special materials including keepsake booklets for their NICU baby, a guide for parenting in the NICU, and a NICU guide. There are also materials about babies in the NICU less than 14 days, a common experience that can also be very frightening and stressful. As part of the program, hospitals also receive information for extended family members such as grandparents and siblings, and materials just for dads. In addition, families can access March of Dimes NICU resources online from any device with an internet connection.
NICU Family Support also provides ongoing education for hospital staff. This education focuses on best practices in supporting families, and the benefits of appropriate family-centered care for NICU babies at every stage of development. Education for staff is based on best practices and evidence based care, to help support staff in their important role.
The program is currently implemented in over 120 NICUs across the country. For more information about NICU Family Support please visit www.nicunetwork.org.
- 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
Last reviewed August 2014
Frequently Asked 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.