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The NICU or SCN environment can be unsettling, especially when it’s unfamiliar. Learning the NICU and SCN routine can help you plan your day and be part of your baby’s care team.

Nurses and other care providers record information as often as every five minutes. Most NICU and SCN nurses work 12-hour shifts. During shift changes, nurses give a report about your baby to the next nurse coming on duty. There are also daily rounds during which members of your child’s care team discuss your baby’s condition and record information in your baby’s chart. Your baby will be frequently fed, weighed, bathed, and given developmental therapy based on his condition and how well he is tolerating stimulation.

As a vital member of your baby’s caregiving team, your involvement is part of the NICU and SCN routine. So when you're visiting, please feel free to ask questions, offer observations, and participate in caregiving activities.

Things You Can Do for Your Baby

Talk softly and in a gentle voice. You are welcome to make tapes for your baby — record your voice telling a story or some of your favorite soft music.

  • Read to your baby.
  • Keep a diary or scrapbook for your baby.
  • Participate as much as you feel comfortable in your baby’s care.
  • Label any clothing, toys, tapes, books, and other belongings that you leave with your baby.
  • Be patient. Your baby needs time to get better.

Cell Phones in the Nursery

Cell phones are a great way to keep in touch with people and share news about your baby. But cell phones — and other electronic devices such as media players and laptop or tablet computers — also pose challenges in the NICU and SCN. The list below offers a few things to consider:

  • Your phone is covered with germs. It’s best not to handle it when you’re also handling your baby.
  • Your phone is distracting — to you and to your baby. Keep your ringer turned off while in the= NICU or SCN. Limit your time talking, texting, or playing games on your phone. You need to focus on your baby, and your baby needs quiet and rest.
  • Your phone may invade someone else’s privacy. The pictures or videos you take with your phone may include other babies and families. Please help the NICU or SCN staff honor patients’ privacy. Refrain from skyping or recording if they ask you not to.

A Calm Environment

To help babies better cope with their surroundings, each NICU and SCN tries to keep environmental stimulation to a minimum. Some ways to reduce environmental stimulation are:

  • Dimming the lights
  • Keeping the noise level down (by lowering the volume on phones and beepers, avoiding loud talking, etc.)
  • Clustering care (grouping basic care activities to allow rest periods)
  • Positioning infants with rolls and bedding

Your baby gives cues that help you know how he’s tolerating the amount of stimulation he’s getting. Your baby’s caregivers or a developmental specialist will go over these cues with you to help you better understand what your baby is trying to communicate.

Visiting Your Baby

Each NICU and SCN has a visiting policy in place to help protect your baby from unnecessary exposure to germs and infections — and to enable the best possible care for both your baby and your family. Your baby’s caregivers will explain the visiting policy of the specific NICU or SCN caring for your baby.

As a parent, you can usually visit your baby anytime, night or day. You may be asked to leave the bedside during emergencies or some special procedures. Also, for your own health, we encourage you to take breaks. Don’t expect to be by your baby’s side 24 hours a day. You should take time out to eat, go home, take care of errands, or spend some time with other family members. There is no food except covered drinks allowed by the baby’s bedside, but most hospitals have a cafeteria, snack shop, or hospitality cart.

Touching and Holding Your Baby

Even though your baby is in the hospital, you can still give him your love and attention. All the technology in the world can’t provide the love and support of caring parents. Research shows that the parent’s voice and touch are familiar to the baby and can enhance bonding.

Initially, you may not be able to hold your baby, but you’ll be allowed to touch him and watch how he moves and acts. It is important to observe how your baby responds to certain kinds of touch and verbal stimuli. Too much stimulation uses up precious energy your baby needs to breathe, digest food, and grow.

As your baby grows and becomes more stable, you’ll be encouraged to hold him and help care for him more and more. It’s difficult not to hold your baby whenever you want, but try to be patient. Your baby needs time to get better including a lot of uninterrupted sleep.

Skin to Skin

Skin-to-skin care means holding your baby closely, with your bare skin touching. As soon as your baby’s nurse tells you your baby is ready, you can start to do skin-to-skin care. It’s a wonderful way to be close, and recent studies have shown that skin-to-skin care has these important health benefits:

  • Calms and soothes your baby
  • Helps your baby maintain a healthy body temperature
  • Helps regulate your baby’s heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing
  • Helps your baby’s brain develop
  • Improves your baby’s sleep
  • Helps your baby breastfeed
  • Lowers parents’ stress and helps them bond with their newborn
  • Helps nursing mothers produce breast milk and know when the baby is ready to nurse

Both parents can give skin-to-skin care. It's a wonderful way to be close to your newborn and studies show that it's good for both babies and parents.

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