Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP)

Every new baby and family brings unique strengths and resources to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) experience. These strengths can be important assets to a baby. The goal of our Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP) at Cincinnati Children’s is to help identify and build on these strengths to improve outcomes for both baby and family.

Research indicates that babies who receive NIDCAP care require less respiratory support, experience fewer complications, gain weight faster, build stronger family relationships, and are ready to go home sooner than babies who do not; recent research suggests that these improved outcomes persist far beyond infancy.

NIDCAP is a special way of nurturing a baby as a whole person through the ways in which we give care. Through NIDCAP support, a baby is able to communicate needs and plays an active role in determining progress. The baby’s own unique developmental strengths and challenges are identified during a detailed observation. Parents and other family members are consulted. Input from various NICU care team members is incorporated. With this information, individualized care guidelines are developed.

Because preterm babies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of early experiences, we provide NIDCAP support to every baby in our unit who was born at 34 weeks’ gestation or less. The initial NIDCAP observation is typically completed within the first week after admission to the NICU. Since babies grow and change very quickly, additional observations are made and the care guidelines updated at approximately two-week intervals. Although only babies of 34 weeks’ gestation or less are automatically referred to our program, NIDCAP support is available to any baby in the NICU at the request of parents or the care team.

Read a patient story about NIDCAP.