What to Expect in the NICU

If your baby needs special care in the NICU, we're standing by to make the experience as nurturing as possible.

Your Baby's Care

Upon arriving, your baby will be placed in a special open bed called a radiant warmer, which has overhead heaters that keep your baby warm. Several white pads placed on your baby's skin can transmit vital information to monitors so we can keep watch over your baby's heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing rate.

We may also use an oxygen saturation sensor to monitor your baby's oxygen needs. If your baby requires breathing assistance, a mechanical ventilator may be used. Many special-care infants develop jaundice. If this happens, your baby will be placed under phototherapy lights to reduce jaundice.

Feeding Your Baby

At first, many babies in the NICU can't yet take fluids by mouth, so liquids are given through a small, clear catheter placed into an artery in the umbilicus (navel). Or sometimes a tiny catheter is attached to a clear tube and inserted into a vein in the scalp, hand or foot.

Sometimes nourishment will be given directly into the stomach by a tube inserted into the mouth or nose. This process is called gavage.

Our team includes specialized lactation consultants to help you learn how to breastfeed your premature baby. 

Medical Rounds

Medical rounds typically occur in the early morning hours between 7  and 10 a.m. During rounds, members of the medical team, which is led by the attending neonatologist, discuss each infant's case individually. A neonatologist is a pediatrician who specializes in caring for newborns.

Once the medical plan for the day is determined, the doctor and/or nurse practitioner will update you at the bedside when you come to visit. The doctors will also review your infant's care in the evening with the care team.

Partners in Your Baby's Care 

Although the sites and sounds in NICU rooms may at first be strange and confusing, you'll soon become comfortable with the surroundings. We encourage you to ask questions about your baby's care and to participate in providing some of this care.

Our NICU nurses and physicians welcome phone calls from parents, and we are always happy to provide information about the care and condition of your baby.Please feel free to call us at 858-249-5800

In addition, parents and other family members can interact with their baby via an Internet-based camera placed at the baby's bedside. They can "visit" the baby by logging into a secure account from their laptop, tablet or smartphone for live video streaming and direct, one-way audio. This system promotes bonding even when you're away from the hospital.Watch a video about our Angel Eye cameras

Your family is considered part of your infant's care team. When your baby is stable, parents and guardians will be encouraged to hold their infant against their bare chest. This is referred to as kangaroo care. Research shows this can help your baby. 

We want to provide as much help as possible for parents and guardians who have babies in our NICU. Our UC San Diego chaplain is available to meet with families. We can also schedule in-hospital visits with your clergy person.