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The NICU: When Your Newborn Needs Extra Care

When your newborn needs extra care, there’s no better place to receive it than in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A NICU has staff that has specialized training in newborn care. It also has equipment that has been designed to help tiny patients transition from the womb to the outside world.

Reasons Newborns Need the NICU

Your newborn may be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if he or she is born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), experienced problems during delivery, or has a health condition, such as a heart problem or birth defect. The length of time your newborn will stay in the NICU will depend on his or her condition and if any other problems develop.

The NICU Healthcare Team

While your newborn is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a healthcare team will work together to care for your child. Depending on your child’s condition, any of the following NICU staff members may be involved:

The Parent’s Role in the NICU

Parents of sick newborns also experience a wide range of emotions while their newborn is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This is a natural response to a stressful situation. But there are some things parents can do to cope with the situation:

Staying Informed

It is important for parents to stay informed while their child is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The experience can be overwhelming. So, consider asking the following questions to gather information about your child’s condition and treatment:

By talking openly and regularly with your newborn’s doctor, you can take an active role in your newborn’s care. Remember, a parent’s role in a newborn’s recovery is important. Ask staff members how you can begin to bond with your baby while he or she is receiving care. The NICU staff is there to help.


Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation


About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children

Health Canada


Becoming a parent in the NICU. March of Dimes website. Available at: Accessed October 11, 2016.

Common conditions treated in the NICU. March of Dimes website. Available at: Updated August 2014. Accessed October 11, 2016.

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Stanford Children’s Health website. Available at: Accessed October 11, 2016.

When your baby’s in the NICU. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated October 2014. Accessed October 11, 2016.

Last reviewed December 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated 12/29/2016