What to Expect - Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

You may not have anticipated your baby being in the NICU, and you may feel overwhelmed. Understanding what to expect and getting to know the expert providers that make up your baby’s care team, may help ease some of your stress.

You can expect the following from the NICUs at Rush:

  • A caring and safe environment where your baby receives expert care
  • A calm and quiet room for your baby to grow and for you to bond privately
  • A NICU care team that is here to help you through this difficult time
  • Respect for your beliefs and customs
  • Partnership with your baby’s care providers focused on open and clear information about what is happening with your baby’s treatment and progress

When Your Baby is Admitted

Babies born early or with medical issues are usually admitted to the NICU right after delivery. Often a neonatologist, NICU nurse or team of NICU nurses are present at your delivery to provide immediate care. After delivery, your newborn will be placed in warmer bed, dried with warm blankets and given an APGAR score. This score ranges from 0 to 10 and indicates how well your baby is adjusting to being outside of the womb.

After this scoring, your baby will move to an intensive care bed. We’ll measure and weigh your baby, as well as closely monitor breathing since many premature babies do not have fully mature lungs. Your baby may need extra oxygen, a breathing tube or a ventilator to help with breathing.
Once your baby is stable, we’ll transfer them to the NICU.

Inside the NICU

We offer the most advanced technology — machines that monitor and treat your baby during their NICU stay. You may see the following equipment as part of your baby’s care:

  • Ventilator: A machine that breathes for your baby
  • IV pump: A pump that infuses fluids into your baby for hydration or medication
  • Incubator or isolette: A bed with a warming unit that keeps your baby in a controlled, stress-reduced environment that is like a mother’s womb
  • Phototherapy spotlight: A therapeutic light that treats jaundice (yellow skin color)
  • Cardiorespiratory monitor: A monitor that evaluates heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen saturation (the amount of oxygen in the blood) and blood pressure. An alarm will sound if your baby’s heart rate or breathing is too high or too low.
  • Nasal CPAP: A machine that provides a flow of air and oxygen through tiny prongs in your baby’s nostrils, making it easier for your baby to breathe

How Long Will My Baby Be in the NICU?

The length of your baby’s NICU stay depends on how early they were born and their health conditions or medical issues. The younger your baby’s gestational age, the more help they may need and the longer they’ll stay in the NICU. Your NICU team, once they have developed your baby’s care plan, can better predict how long your baby will be in the hospital.

Being with Your Baby

You are the most important part of your baby’s care team and are welcome in the NICU at all times. We encourage you to read to your baby and feed, bathe or hold your baby with assistance from our nurses.   

Visitors in the NICU

For the health and safety of your baby, we have the following visitor guidelines:

  • Only one visitor may accompany each parent at any time. Parents must be with their visitors at all time.
  • Brothers and sisters age 3 and up are welcome at any time and must be accompanied by a parent. Talking with your children about what they see in the NICU will help them prepare for the visit. Please make sure siblings are in good health and be aware that it is often difficult for younger children to spend long periods at the bedside.
  • We suggest you speak with your care team to determine how many people is best to have in the room at any one time. Our NICUs have family rooms where additional family members and friends can wait between visits.

Helpful Information for Families and Visitors

Rush Copley Medical Center

Rush University Medical Center