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Home after the NICU

  • Learn about your baby's condition, treatment and care.
  • It's OK to feel worried about bringing your baby home.
  • Find a provider to care for your baby outside the NICU.
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Child care after the NICU

At some point, you may have to go to work outside the home. Deciding when to go and what type of child care is best for the baby can be hard for parents. And parents of NICU graduates have some special concerns.

All babies tend to pick up germs and come down with colds and other common childhood illnesses when they start day care. You may wonder whether day care will be risky for your baby's health.

Talk to your baby's health care provider before you choose a type of child care. If your baby is now healthy, you probably don't have to worry. But if your baby was very premature or had breathing difficulties, he could become quite sick from common illnesses.

The health care provider may recommend that you look into having a child care provider come to your home. If that isn't possible, you may want to find a child care provider who cares for a small group of children in her home.

Make sure the caregiver has a policy about frequent handwashing, especially after changing diapers or handling tissues. She also should never allow sick children to attend child care.

Make sure your baby's immunizations are up to date before he starts child care. And ask his health care provider if he should receive treatment to prevent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

See also: Share your story

August 2009

Call your doctor now if your baby...

  • Has a temperature above 100.4 F
  • Has trouble breathing or is hard to waken
  • Has blood in her vomit or stool
  • Has yellowish skin or eyes
  • Is having a seizure

Most common questions

How do I calculate adjusted age for preemies?

Chronological age is the age of a baby from the day of birth. Adjusted age is the age of the baby based on his due date. To calculate adjusted age, take your baby's chronological age (for example, 20 weeks) and subtract the number of weeks premature the baby was (6 weeks). This baby's adjusted age (20 - 6) is 14 weeks. Health care providers may use this age when they evaluate the baby's growth and development. Most premature babies catch up to their peers developmentally in 2 to 3 years. After that, differences in size or development are most likely due to individual differences, rather than to premature birth. Some very small babies take longer to catch up.

Is it OK to invite people over after leaving the NICU?

Babies who've been in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) are often at higher risk of getting an infection than other babies. Be careful where you take the baby and who comes to visit her. But you don't need to stay in your house alone for the first months after your baby comes home.

If you do have visitors, make sure they wash their hands before touching the baby. Also, don't let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or have been exposed to an illness near her. Lastly, ask visitors not to smoke in your house.

My baby has developmental delays. Where can I find help?

Some babies leave the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) just fine while others may have developmental delays. The earlier these delays are identified and treated, the more likely your baby will be able to reach his potential later in life. Most NICU babies will be evaluated before leaving the NICU to see their strengths and any areas that can be improved. If you think your baby has developmental delays, talk to his health care provider about where to find early intervention services. Contact state and local programs for help.

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