What to expect at NICU and specific information for visitors.

Walking into the NICU can be overwhelming. The staff is moving around, machines are beeping, babies are in special beds called incubators, and the lights are dim. Here are a few things to know before you go:

For everyone

  • Permission required: All visitors, other than the mother and father of the baby, must come with a parent or have written permission to visit. The NICU staff is here to protect your baby and will ask for identification.
  • Hand washing is essential: Expect to spend time at the sink before entering the NICU. Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Remove all jewelry, roll up your sleeves and scrub to your elbows for at least 30 seconds.
  • Health screening form: Parents, visitors, and the baby’s siblings will be asked to complete a health screening form. This form needs to be filled out before your visit each day and will be reviewed by a member of the NICU team. This will protect NICU babies from any outside germs that might make them sick. They do not have the same ability to fight illness as full term babies.
  • If you are sick please do not visit the NICU.

For parents

As a parent you are not a visitor but an active part of your baby’s care and are welcome to come day or night. Sometimes the NICU may be closed for a short time during the morning and evening nursing shift change. This is to protect the privacy of the babies.

If your baby is born prematurely, they may be very small and appear different than a full term baby. The nurse is there to help you and your baby and is happy to answer any questions you have.

Your baby might be attached to several pieces of equipment:

  • Monitor wires attached to your baby are for your baby’s safety. This lets the nurse monitor your baby’s heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels. The monitor may alarm at times but this does not necessarily mean that your baby needs help. Ask your baby’s nurse about the monitor and how they use it to understand what your baby needs.
  • Breathing machine to help your baby breathe. This may be a ventilator or CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.
    • With a ventilator, your baby will have a tube to help them breathe and give them extra oxygen.
    • With a CPAP machine, your baby will have a mask or prongs over their nose and the machine will push air and oxygen into their lungs to help them breathe on their own.
  • Special lights over them and an eye mask. This is to help with jaundice and can be common to see on babies that are in the NICU.
  • Nasogastric tube (NG) in their nose or mouth that goes all the way down to their stomach. When it is time for your baby to eat, a syringe with milk is attached to the end; this is for you and the nurses to feed your baby before they are able to eat on their own.
  • Intravenous (IV). Your baby may have an IV to deliver fluid and nutrition through their vein. The IV may also be used to give your baby medication.

If you have any questions about any of the equipment in the NICU ask your baby’s nurse.

NICU hospital tours