Communicating with your baby’s health care providers in the NICU

Key points

  • Be involved in your baby’s care in the NICU. Talk with NICU staff about when you can hold and feed your baby.
  • Ask questions about your baby’s condition and treatment so you know how your baby’s doing.
  • Find out when medical rounds and nursing change of shift happen. These are good times for you to be in the NICU to ask questions about your baby.
  • Share information about your baby with their health care providers.

How can you care for your baby in the NICU?

There are many ways you can care for your baby during their NICU stay. When your baby is ready, you can bathe, feed, change and hold them. You may be able to take their temperature and help weigh them. You may feel nervous at first, but your baby’s nurses can show you what to do.

You can hold your baby even if they’re connected to medical equipment. It may take time and practice for you and your baby to get comfortable. If you haven’t been able to hold your baby, ask the nurses how you can touch and comfort them.

What questions can you ask about your baby?

If you have questions about your baby’s care, ask. Ask the doctors and nurses about anything you don’t understand. Learn as much as you can about your baby’s condition and treatment before you take your baby home. Write your questions down so you don’t forget to ask them. You can ask these questions when you’re in the NICU with your baby or when you call the NICU to check on your baby.

Questions you may want to ask about caring for your baby:

  • Can I hold my baby?
  • What can I do to help take care of my baby?
  • What can I do to help my baby if they’re in pain?
  • When do you think my baby can go home?
  • What do I need to learn about my baby before we go home?

Questions you may want to ask about your baby’s condition: 

  • How is my baby doing today?
  • Who should I talk to if I have questions about my baby’s condition?
  • How will I find out about any major change in my baby’s condition?

Questions you may want to ask about medicines, tests or medical equipment used to treat your baby:

  • How does this medicine help my baby?
  • How does this medical equipment help my baby?
  • What tests are you doing and what information do they give about my baby?
  • How does the NICU team help my baby if they’re in pain?
  • How can you share information with your baby’s providers?

You are your baby’s best advocate.  An advocate is someone who speaks up for someone who can’t speak for themselves. Try to have open communication with the NICU staff. Ask questions, let them know if you’re worried about your baby and help make decisions about your baby’s care.  

Two good times to ask questions and get information about your baby’s condition are at medical rounds and nursing change of shift (also called nursing report). These are times each day when providers in the NICU share information about the babies they care for. Medical rounds are when providers visit each baby in the NICU and talk about each baby’s condition and treatment. Nursing change of shift is when your baby’s nurse meets with the next nurse who is going to care for your baby. In the NICU, nurses often work 8 or 12 hours at a time called shifts. Ask your baby’s doctor or nurse if you can be in the NICU for medical rounds or nursing change of shift. If you can’t be there, ask for another good time to talk with them about your baby’s care.

How can you keep track of your baby’s medical information?

You may get a lot of information and paperwork about your baby when they’re in the NICU. You may find it helpful to keep all of it together in a folder. Put information about your baby’s health, providers, medicine and medical equipment in the folder. You can even add to it after your baby leaves the NICU so you have all your baby’s health information in one place. 

In the NICU, keep the folder by your baby’s bed. As you think of questions to ask, write them down and put them in the folder to help you remember them later.

To learn more about the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, visit the March of Dimes.

Learn more

Last reviewed: February, 2017

About March of Dimes
March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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