Good nutrition is an essential component in every baby's health. For those babies facing additional medical challenges, it is especially important.
Our NICU is staffed with licensed and registered dietitians who work daily with the interdisciplinary medical team to provide your baby with optimum nutrition. Our NICU strongly supports the use of mother’s own milk as the best possible source of nutrition for your baby. For more information on human milk and lactation, please visit our Mother’s Milk Club page.
Our NICU dietitians are all specially trained in neonatal nutrition. They work closely with the medical and lactation teams to assess your babies' nutrition needs and determine the most effective way to meet those needs. All of our NICU dietitians have obtained master’s degrees in dietetics and hold the certified nutrition support clinician or dietitian (CNSC or CNSD) credential, which is a specialized test for critical care nutrition.
What to expect when your baby is in the NICU
Depending on your babies' gestational age and birth weight when they are in the NICU, they may need different types of nutrition to help keep them nourished. Some babies need a special fluid that is given into their veins through an IV called total parenteral nutrition (TPN). This fluid is different from breast milk or formula but can contain carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. TPN is often used when the stomach or intestines are not working or still immature. TPN can be a short- or long-term need, but the goal is always to use the GI tract whenever possible.
Another type of nutrition used in the NICU is enteral feedings, also known as tube feedings or gavage feedings. A very thin, flexible tube can be inserted into your baby’s nose or mouth that leads into the stomach or small intestine. This way, breast milk or formula can be delivered directly into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to feed your baby. These tubes are often called Anderson or nasogastric (NG) tubes and are meant for short-term use. If your baby should require tube feedings for a longer duration of time, a gastrostomy tube (G-Tube) may be placed. This tube goes directly through the wall of the stomach. Tube feedings are often given as continuous or bolus feeds. Continuous feeds give the same small amount of feeding every hour while bolus feeds give a slightly larger amount of feedings every two to four hours.
Some babies are ready to be put to breast or take breast milk or formula from a bottle right away, and some babies work up to it over time. The ability to coordinate a suck, swallow, breathe routine develops around 34 to 36 weeks, so depending on when your babies were born, they may or may not have this ability. Our trained registered dietitians, along with the rest of the medical team, will work to develop the best feeding plan for your babies at whatever gestational age and size they may be.
Formula mixing instructions
Those babies not consuming breast milk may need infant formula. Powdered formula cans always have mixing instructions on the side of the can. Follow the instructions on the can unless your doctor or registered dietitian has recommended concentrating the formula to increase the amount of calories per ounce. When these recommendations are made, new instructions for mixing the formula will be provided before you leave the NICU. If you have lost the special instructions given to you or have questions about mixing the formula, please call the NICU at (312) 947-8800 or email one of our NICU dietitians.
Yimin Chen, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgia Diakakis, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC: email@example.com
Natalie Ratz, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Celina Scala, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC: email@example.com