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Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

When Your New Baby Needs Intensive Care

If your baby is placed in the intensive care nursery, it’s because he or she needs specialized care, treatment, or monitoring. Your baby may have been born early (premature), or with medical problems that require special care. Take comfort in knowing your child is in the right place. The Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Baystate Children’s Hospital — a fully accredited hospital within Baystate Medical Center — is the region’s only Level III NICU.  

Your Baby’s Care Team in the NICU

Your baby’s care team may include:

  • Neonatologists – doctors with special training in the care of sick or premature babies; your baby’s neonatologist coordinates all of his or her care
  • Residents – pediatric doctors who work under the supervision of the specialists
  • Nurses, neonatal nurse practitioners, and physician assistants – including a primary caregiver nurse assigned to care for your baby, coordinate your baby’s care with other specialists, provide day-to-day care, and teach you more about medicines and procedures your baby needs
  • Pediatric subspecialists – doctors trained in certain areas of pediatric medicine such as heart, digestive system, and brain and nervous system
  • Neonatal nutritionists – registered dietitians who watch your baby’s food intake and growth
  • Respiratory therapists – professionals who take care of your baby’s special breathing needs
  • Neonatal social workers – help you find resources and support while your baby’s in the NICU
  • Lactation consultants – nurses with special training to help breastfeeding mothers

What to Expect in the NICU

Learn when it’s time to see your baby in the NICU, what you can expect to see, and how to feed your baby.

When to Visit Your Baby in the NICU

When your baby is transferred to the Davis NICU, you’ll wait in your room with your family while your baby’s admitted. As soon as our medical team has your baby settled in, you can see him or her and visit any time, 24/7. You can also call the unit at any time to check in and get updates on your baby.

Our unit is set up in five pods in intensive care and four in continuing care, with six to nine bed spaces in each pod. Each bed is designed to meet your baby’s needs. There are always nurses caring for your baby.

Your Visit to the NICU

It can be overwhelming when you first visit your baby in the NICU. When you understand that monitors, intravenous (IV) lines, and medical team members are important to your baby’s care, you’ll feel better. Here’s what to expect:

  • When you arrive, NICU Welcome Center staff let your baby’s nurses know you’re there.
  • You’ll wash your hands at our automatic sinks for two minutes.
  • You’ll be taken to your baby’s bedside, where the nurses explain what you will see.
  • You’ll get an information booklet with important phone numbers.
  • Your baby will be attached to monitors to carefully watch heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels.
  • Your baby will have an IV line for medicines.
  • You may also see IV lines in your baby’s umbilicus – they provide access for IV fluids to monitor blood pressure, and to draw blood for tests.
  • If your baby needs help with breathing, there may be a ventilator nearby with an attached tube placed in the airway or a nasal cannula (flexible tube placed under the nose).

You may hear the term minimal stimulation. During minimal stimulation, we cover babies’ eyes and ears if they are in an open warmer. We ask people to please keep sound to a minimum near babies during this time. Some babies are so sensitive that even if you talk quietly at their bedside, they drop their oxygen level.

Feeding Your Baby in the NICU

Many babies in the NICU are too small or too sick to eat by bottle or to breastfeed. If this is the case, your baby will receive intravenous fluid.

Once your baby is strong enough to begin breast or bottle feedings, these feedings usually start with a small amount of milk or formula with added IV fluids. NICU staff members will evaluate your baby to help determine the best feeding method. Your baby may be fed by:

Gavage Feeding

Babies who are smaller or sicker can’t be fed by bottle and need to be fed by tube. It’s placed through the baby’s nose or mouth, and breast milk or formula trickles down into the baby’s stomach.

Breastfeeding

It will probably be some time before your baby can nurse directly at your breast. You’ll need to pump breast milk until then. Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process. Pump as soon as possible after delivery, every two to three hours during the day, and once during the night. Use a hospital-grade pump for best results.

Even before your baby is ready to go to the breast, you can do kangaroo care or skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. This method helps bring back the mother-baby bond after the sudden separation during the birth experience, especially in premature births. It can help improve your milk supply and promote bonding between you and your baby.

Talk with your baby’s nurse for help in making feeding decisions and arrangements.

Kangaroo Care is defined as skin-to-skin contact. Your baby is placed on your (or baby’s dad’s) bare chest. Your baby wears a hat and diaper and is covered with a blanket. Privacy screens are placed around you and the lights are dimmed.

Kangaroo care can be provided to all families with only a few exclusions. Usually, kangaroo care lasts a minimum of one hour and will take place three to four times a week, as long as baby tolerates it. There are many beneficial effects to kangaroo care for both baby and parents.

Kangaroo Care/Skin-to-Skin Contact

Kangaroo Care is defined as skin-to-skin contact. Your baby is placed on your (or baby’s dad’s) bare chest. Your baby wears a hat and diaper and is covered with a blanket. Privacy screens are placed around you and the lights are dimmed.

Kangaroo care can be provided to all families with only a few exclusions. Usually, kangaroo care lasts a minimum of one hour and will take place three to four times a week, as long as baby tolerates it. There are many beneficial effects to kangaroo care for both baby and parents.

Taking Baby Home

As the day finally approaches for you to take your baby home, don't be surprised if you have mixed emotions. Happiness and joy are often mixed with anxiety over the responsibility of caring for your baby on your own.

Your baby's nurses can help by teaching you what you need to know about how to feed and bathe your baby, take your baby's temperature, and more.

You’ll also be able to have a "dress rehearsal" with your baby. You can stay overnight in the hospital, providing all of your baby's care while having the nursing staff just on the other side of the door to help you, if needed.

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