Continuing medical care after the NICU
You will probably visit your baby's health care provider about 12 times during her first year. Some of these visits will be routine well-baby visits that help to keep your baby healthy. These visits often include vaccinations.
Your baby will most likely get vaccines to protect him from several different diseases by the time he turns 2. These diseases are very serious and can cause a baby to become very ill or even die. Your baby's health care provider will advise you about the vaccination schedule.
Almost all babies, even those who were born prematurely or with a medical condition, should be vaccinated. If your baby was premature, he will receive vaccines based on his chronological (not corrected) age.
If there are other children in your family, they should be up-to-date on vaccinations, including flu shots, to reduce the risk to the baby. Sometimes the whole family is advised to get flu shots before the baby comes home.
If your baby was premature, you may be advise to get your baby immunized against respiratory synctial virus (RSV). RSV is a common virus that affects virtually all children before the age of 2. Most babies get only a slight cold from RSV.
But for some babies, RSV can be more serious. Babies who were born prematurely, or who have heart or lung problems, may benefit from medication that helps prevent a severe or serious RSV infection. This medication is called palivizumab (Synagis). It is given in monthly shots, usually from fall through spring. Ask your baby's health care provider if she should get this medication.
If you baby has special medical conditions, she may also need care from a team of health care providers, such as:
- Pediatric specialists
- Occupational therapists
- Speech therapists
- Physical therapists
Your baby's health care provider, or the social worker or case manager in your NICU, can help you find the resources you need. They can guide you through the maze of agencies that can help you.
Some NICU graduates also are referred to early intervention programs, either by NICU staff, their follow-up providers or parents. For more information about these programs, read Getting Services for Your Baby.
See also: Share your story
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.