Can Parents Stay in the NICU?
Parents are not considered visitors in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and you do not have to observe visiting hours to be with your baby. In most hospitals, parents will be given special identification such as a badge or a wristband that will grant them access to their infants in the NICU around the clock.
While you are permitted to sleep in the NICU with your baby, this may not be the best choice. It is important for you to get some rest, too. Your baby will need you to be in your best mental and physical shape so you can act as their advocate. Some parents choose to trade shifts so someone is with the infant at all times, but it’s perfectly fine if you both go home to sleep at night. Your baby is in good hands with the NICU nursing team.
Keep reading to learn more about why your baby could be sent to the NICU and what you can expect. We’ll also go over some self-care tips for parents.
Reasons Your Baby Might Be Sent to the NICU
Are you wondering if your baby is likely to end up in the NICU? The following are some of the most common reasons a newborn may be admitted:
- Premature birth
- Feeding issues
- Sepsis or infection
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Congenital defects
- Birth injuries
In cases where birth injuries are involved, you may also be dealing with the stresses of a legal case while you are trying to focus on your baby. You can go here to learn more about how the type and severity of the birth injury may affect your case’s outcome and for more parent resources.
What to Expect in the NICU
Your first trip to the neonatal intensive care unit can be intimidating. You’ll see a lot of equipment and wonder how and if it will be used on your baby. You are also likely to hear alarms without understanding why they’re going off. Try not to be frightened. These are the tools the NICU team will use to make your baby healthy again.
Once your baby is admitted, they will be placed in an isolette or a radiant warmer to stabilize their temperature. They will be hooked up to monitors that will allow nurses to check their vital signs. The monitor’s alarm going off may not be a reason for concern, so don’t panic if it happens.
Your baby will undergo a battery of tests, including blood tests. They may also receive breathing treatments. Some other specialized treatments they may require include echocardiograms and MRI or CT scans.
According to the March of Dimes, the average stay in the NICU is 13.2 days. How long your baby’s stay will be will depend on their condition and their progress.
NICU Parent Self-Care Tips
If your newborn has ended up in the NICU, don’t panic. The best way to overcome your fear is to get to know the staff and learn more about the testing and equipment your baby needs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid you’ll accidentally harm your baby. You may also be afraid to bond with your baby. This is your chance to talk to them and sing to them to show them your love.
Although many people have trouble asking for or accepting help from others, this is the time to get all the help you can. This is especially true if you have other children at home. Let other people make you dinner, shop for you, drive you to or from the hospital, or babysit. Don’t be afraid to ask for anything you need.
By John J. Owens