Newborn Intensive Care Unit
What to Expect

What to Expect Before, During and After Your Baby’s NICU Stay

When your baby needs advanced medical care, it’s natural to feel apprehensive and overwhelmed. We want you to know that whether your child’s stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is days, weeks or months, we are here for you 24/7 with innovative, state-of-the-art care and the support you and your family need.

At Cincinnati Children’s, you are an essential part of the care team. We want you to learn about your child’s condition, ask questions and make suggestions. Let us know when you have concerns, and take advantage of the many supportive services we offer.

Before Your Baby’s NICU Stay

Some parents may know during pregnancy that their baby will need to stay in the Cincinnati Children’s Level IV newborn intensive care unit. Others don’t realize it until medical problems develop in the moments, hours or days after delivery. Whatever your situation may be, our care team will do everything possible to answer your questions, address your concerns and make your family’s experience as comfortable as possible. All while providing your baby with the exceptional care they need.

Transporting Your Child to Cincinnati Children’s

Most babies who come to the NICU at Cincinnati Children’s are born at other hospitals (a small number of babies are born in our Special Delivery Unit). If your baby needs to be transported to our NICU, we will work with the birthing hospital staff to make it happen as quickly and safely as possible. 

Our transport team is the only one in Greater Cincinnati dedicated exclusively to children and infants. With six neonatal-equipped ambulances and access to both airplanes and helicopters, our full-time, dedicated transport team conducts an average of 700 neonatal transports each year.

Each transport team includes a nurse and respiratory therapist and sometimes a physician. This team will safely deliver your child to the NICU, which is located on our main campus on the fourth or first floor of the Critical Care Building. Our NICU team will be expecting your baby and ready to provide the highest level of care possible. 

Visitors Policy

Soon after your child is admitted to the NICU, a nurse will help you create a visitors plan for your baby. Generally, we encourage parents, guardians and other “designated” adults to visit any time (including overnight). Siblings must be 2 years old and immunized to visit. Before entering the NICU, every visitor must sign in and obtain a visitor sticker, available at the Critical Care Building welcome desk. Our staff will provide you with additional information about visitor guidelines when you arrive at the NICU.

What to Expect During Your Baby’s NICU Stay

Many people are surprised to see how busy our NICU is. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the number of providers on our unit, the advanced technology and the needs each baby (including yours) has. You can count on the care team to help you feel at ease in this unfamiliar environment. They are here to answer your questions and make sure you have the information and support you need. 

Your baby’s core team of providers will include:

  • An experienced neonatologist, who is responsible for your baby’s care
  • An advanced practice nurse or another advanced practice provider
  • A bedside nurse
  • A respiratory therapist
  • And, sometimes, a neonatology fellow (a doctor receiving advanced training in neonatal care)

You will see these providers during “daily rounds” and at other times during the day. 

Your child’s care team also will include other providers, including: 

  • Pediatric doctors and surgeons, such as urologists, neurologists and heart specialists
  • Dietitians
  • Lactation consultants from our Center for Breastfeeding Medicine
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains 
  • Music therapists
  • Pharmacists

These providers also participate in daily rounds. They may come to your child’s room at other times to check on your baby’s progress, provide treatments, talk about your child’s medical needs, do health screenings, answer your questions and help you prepare for the day you take your child home. 

Your child’s neonatologist and nurses will make sure your child’s care is well-coordinated. If you have any questions, be sure to ask.

Daily Rounds

During daily rounds, the neonatologist and team will come to your baby’s bedside to discuss updates on your baby’s condition and develop the daily care plan. We hope you will participate in this discussion every day. When you cannot attend, the doctor or nurse practitioner will call you to share what happened. 

Preparing for Your Baby’s NICU Discharge

The day your child comes home from the hospital is filled with excitement. But it can be a little bit scary, too. We will make sure you have the information and support you need so that you are ready for this next phase of your family’s life. 

A nurse coordinator will work with you and the care team to develop a discharge plan before your baby is ready to go home. This plan may include:

  • Having healthcare providers come to your home 
  • Connecting you with a social worker who will ensure you have the resources you need (medical, financial, emotional, etc.)
  • Training you on any medical equipment or supplies you’ll need at home
  • Meeting with a dietitian to develop a feeding plan if your child has special nutritional needs
  • Making an appointment with our Newborn Intensive Care Follow-Up Clinic. There, specialists care for babies with complex medical needs who may need longer-term support to reach their full potential

Your baby’s neonatologist will send your pediatrician a letter detailing the NICU stay and discharge plan. 

If you have questions or concerns after leaving the hospital with your baby, you can always call the NICU to speak with a member of our team. But in most situations, your pediatrician is the best resource since he or she is your child’s primary care provider.