Women's Health

Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)

Why is a baby placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?

A baby is placed in the NICU because it is the best place for the child to be observed, treated and cared for, when needed. There are many answers to this question depending on the history and gestational age of the baby. After being admitted and examined, the team can give the parents or guardians a more detailed explanation.

What happens if my baby needs to be transported to the NICU from another hospital?

Baptist Health’s Neonatal Transport Team is available 24-hours-a-day and will travel by ground transportation or MedFlight helicopter to any hospital in Arkansas. The Neonatal Transport Team consists of a transport nurse and respiratory therapist working under the direction of one of our board-certified neonatologists.

Who takes care of my baby while in the NICU?

To provide excellence in every aspect of care, Baptist Health NICU provides a “Primary Care Team” that consists of a primary nurse, core group of registered nurses and a neonatologist. The primary nurse establishes the plan of care and coordinates efforts with all staff members. The neonatologist, a physician specializing in the care and treatment of sick and pre-term newborns, is the NICU team leader. This team assignment not only ensures consistency of care but also provides you with an immediate point of contact so your needs are always met.

When can I visit my baby?

Baptist Health’s NICU is family-based meaning that we involve the family as much as possible and allow 24-hour-a-day visitation. We respectfully request that there be no visitors during shift change, 6:30 to 7 a.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m.

All other visitors will need to be accompanied by a parent and be at least 14 years of age, unless they are a sibling. Anyone who has been ill, has a cold or cold-like symptoms or has been exposed to chickenpox within three weeks should not visit.

After the baby’s parents have been discharged, they can call the NICU 24-hours-a-day at (501) 202-2812.

What contact will I have with my baby?

Many times, when a baby requires intensive care, the parents will have had little or no contact with the baby right after birth due to circumstances. To thrive, premature or sick babies need the loving attention of parents as much as they need food, warmth and oxygen.

Working with the doctors and staff, parents can do a lot to protect and comfort their baby in the NICU. Slowly and carefully, they can introduce stimuli that nurtures baby's development. At first, it may be hard for you to recognize your baby's responses. But with practice and guidance, parents and babies can respond to each other in a positive way. Our NICU staff is committed to helping you understand your baby's behavior.

The types of positive touch that are added as your baby grows or his/her health becomes more stable include:

  1. Hand containment is the foundation for all comforting touch and involves cupping your hands and holding your baby’s head, chest, back, bottom, legs and feet.

  2. Skin-to-Skin or “Kangaroo Care” involves nestling the baby on either parent’s bare chest, clothed only in a diaper. Even if your baby isn't ready to nurse, Kangaroo Care can help to increase the mother’s milk production.

  3. Non-nutritive sucking allows the baby to suck without taking milk.

What if I want to breastfeed my baby?

Until your baby can be put to breast you will need to pump and freeze your milk. NICU nurses are able to help teach you what you need to do to save your milk. Click here to learn more about breastfeeding an infant in the NICU.

When will my baby get to leave the NICU?

There is not a specific weight requirement for discharge from NICU, but your baby must meet the following criteria: be able to maintain his/her body temperature in an open crib, be actively gaining weight on breast/bottle feedings and not have any apneas (pauses in breathing) causing bradycardias (slowing of the heart rate) for several days. Most babies meet these criteria during a four week period around their original due date.

If your baby was admitted for observation or infection, feeding problems, etc., and you are still a patient at Baptist Health, your baby may be able to be transferred to the nursery or your room when his/her problem resolves.

What kind of follow-up will my baby need?

There are several routine screening tests performed on your baby in the NICU that may need to be repeated or require follow-up. Before discharging your baby home, all of his/her present medical problems will be addressed.

  • PKU (Newborn Screen) is a state-mandated blood test that screens for a number of diseases. Sick, preterm infants often have "false positive" results on the PKU and need to be retested when they are older and healthier.
  • Hearing Screen is performed on every newborn in the state prior to discharge.
  • IVH (Intraventricular Hemorrhage) Screen is done with a head ultrasound on any infant 34 weeks gestation or less. If this test is negative, no further testing is necessary. If the result is positive, the ultrasound is repeated often until the bleed is stable or until it has resolved. It is still possible that some follow-up care will be necessary. If your baby needs follow-up care with a neurologist, it will be arranged for you before discharge.
  • Eye Exam. If your baby is less than 30 weeks gestation or less than 1,250 grams at birth, he/she will have an initial eye exam by the pediatric ophthalmologist at four to six weeks of life. If this initial exam is normal, follow-up will be as recommended by the ophthalmologist. However, if the initial exam is abnormal, follow-up exams will be scheduled.
  • Cardiac Testing. About one percent of all babies are born with hearts which are abnormal and most of these heart abnormalities do not pose an immediate threat to the baby. However, in other cases, the abnormality can be life threatening. These infants require early detection and immediate medical and sometimes surgical treatment - before hospital discharge. To assure that early detection occurs, all babies cared for at Baptist Health undergo cardiac testing. This assures that babies with serious heart disease receive lifesaving therapy.

What are the patient outcomes?

The best advocates for the care you can expect from Baptist Health are the patients themselves. Hear success stories from a few of our patients.