NIDCAP Cincinnati

NIDCAP Training Center: A National Leader in Developmental Care

NIDCAP (Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program) is a comprehensive training program created by Heidelise Als, PhD, out of Harvard University. The NIDCAP theory is systems based, and the NIDCAP philosophy assists complex hospital systems in assessing, building, and changing their methodologies of providing care to create whole-system approaches and strategies that are individualized and supportive for both the infant and family.  Although our tiniest premature and most fragile full term patients may require technology in order to survive, the way we use this technology to provide care WITH them and INCLUDING their families can create humane, caring, and brain supportive experiences instead of stressful, painful ones, filled with avoidable physical and emotional trauma.  It is incumbent upon us to listen to these infants’ voices, that is, to observe and understand their behaviors, and to support them to grow and develop as we protect them.  Caregiving in this manner is different or individualized for every infant; it is preventive care at its finest, with the goal of “doing no harm.”  This is the gold standard of developmental care.

Research indicates that infants who receive NIDCAP or developmental care require less breathing support, fewer days on the ventilator and in oxygen therapy, experience fewer complications, gain weight faster, build stronger and healthier family relationships, and are ready to go home sooner than infants who do not; additionally, this research suggests that these improved outcomes persist far beyond infancy.  There is increasing evidence that early life stress is harmful to the developing central nervous system.  As an infant’s brain is growing faster than at any other time in life, the infant’s brain will be impacted from his or her hospitalized experience in positive and negative ways with immediate and long-term consequences to every experience.  Caregiving impacts brain development to impact relationships, which impact quality of life.

The holistic approach of a NIDCAP based nursery involves many disciplines who learn to observe infant behavior to guide interactions with the infant, encouraging the infant to be an active participant in the experience.  A plan of care is created with the observations of the infant, with parents and the infant’s care team, who partner together to support the infant’s strengths and challenges; these are the first steps in supporting the infant’s growth and development outside the womb.   Understanding the concept that every experience matters, NIDCAP training can help professionals to create a hospital experience that is least stressful and most supportive for the infant and family.  This can be accomplished by softening the environment to support the infant’s sensory systems, by slowing and supporting our approaches during caregiving, by protecting sleep, by assessing and managing pain, and by working as a team to make our approaches consistent for the infant and family.  Measurements can ensure reliability of our processes and approaches.  The NIDCAP approach invites us to change our perspectives from:

Task-oriented to relationship-based
Being based upon staff schedules to following the infant’s rhythm
Technology focused to person or process focused
Action and reaction oriented to reflection based
Crisis oriented to developmentally oriented
Focus on organ by subspecialty to whole person, holistic (mind, body and spirit) oriented 
Deficit repair to strength based nurturing
ICU environment to family environment
“Doing to” becomes “engaging with”

NIDCAP Cincinnati began our developmental journey in 1997 and became a NIDCAP Training Center in 2007; we are interested in and excited to share our knowledge with other professionals and NICUs across the world.  Multidisciplinary NIDCAP trained staff (NIDCAP Professionals) are experts in observing and interpreting infant behavior; we consistently support the NIDCAP philosophy in the NICU and across our organization for any infant who is hospitalized.  A Neuro-protective Task Force meets bimonthly to create and support developmental care.  Our Family Centered Care Committee is an important venue utilized to engage and utilize parent feedback to make changes in the NICU.  We recognize parents as our most important resource.  All disciplines are welcome to contact us in an effort to increase their knowledge and awareness of the infant’s experience, to explore the scientific evidence in support of this philosophy, and to develop skills that can manage the infant’s experience through relationship-based, in-the-moment, responsive caregiving to minimize the infant’s stress and to support his or her strengths.  Our mission at NIDCAP Cincinnati is to be a leader in teaching organizations and individuals how to provide consistent and reliable individualized caregiving to every infant and family in the NICU.  Caregiving changes outcomes; every infant and family deserve this type of care.  The health of our infants changes the health of our communities.  Join us in learning how to observe infants. 

Become leaders in developmental care; let us share our knowledge and experience with you!

Contact NIDCAP

Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cincinnati Children's.

For questions or information about NIDCAP Training or developmental support in your unit or organization, please contact Linda Lacina, NIDCAP Trainer or 513-636-7434.

For additional resources, browse the NIDCAP website at