FAQ | Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

How early can your Neonatal ICU care for premature babies?

Halifax Health is the areas only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that is equipped and ready to care for premature babies born earlier than 28 weeks and smaller than 1,000 grams. There is a big difference between a premature baby born at 28 weeks and 32 weeks. Experience matters, and you want to know that the team of nurses and doctors are ready for every situation. Fifty percent of the Neonatal ICU team has more than 20 years’ experience working in a NICU setting, and our Charge Nurses in the Neonatal ICU at Halifax Health have over 60 years of NICU experience combined.

Why is my baby staying in the Neonatal ICU?

There are many reasons why a baby needs the care of a Neonatal ICU.  Some babies are born early or premature so their lungs and other body systems are not fully developed.  Babies may also require oxygen or special equipment to help them breath.  Premature infants may be too sick or immature to feed by breast or a bottle so an IV is needed until the baby is ready to begin feeding.   Full term babies can also have problems with their breathing or their blood sugar.  These babies also receive specialized treatments in the Neonatal ICU.

What happens if my baby needs a specialist?

At Halifax Health we have a Neonatologist on-call 24/7. A Neonatologist is a doctor that specializes in the treatment of sick and premature newborns. Our Neonatologists also collaborate closely with Level III Neonatal ICUs in Jacksonville and Orlando. We all work together to make sure that your baby receives the proper care they need.

How can I bond with my baby in the NICU?

Our NICU has almost 24 hour “parenting hours”.  Parents are encouraged to participate in their baby’s care as much as possible with routine baby care, skin to skin bonding (Kangaroo care) and breastfeeding.

When will my baby go home from the NICU?

This is one of the most important questions that parents ask the Neonatal ICU staff.  Planning for your baby’s discharge begins at admission.  We want to help you feel comfortable caring for your baby.  We will help you learn both routine baby care as well as any specialized care your infant may need. Most parents ask us for an exact homecoming date.  Unfortunately, every baby progresses at their own pace and it is difficult to predict a discharge date. In general, in order to be discharged from the Neonatal ICU your baby needs to:

  • Be growing well and gaining weight
  • Be able to maintain their temperature in an open crib
  • Be able to take an adequate amount of nourishment by breast or bottle
  • It is also important that parents are comfortable with any specialized care or medications that the baby will go home with

I want to breastfeed. Can my baby breastfeed in the NICU?

Yes, we encourage breast feeding in the Neonatal ICU or pumping of breast milk if your baby is too sick or premature to go to breast. Breast milk is the best food for your baby.  It is specifically designed for your baby for whatever gestational age your baby is born, term or premature.  Your nurse and the lactation staff can assist you with pumping and storing pumped milk for your infant in the Neonatal ICU. Freshly pumped milk is best however; there is a refrigerator in Neonatal ICU for storing milk that you have pumped.

Who are the people on the Neonatal ICU team?

You will meet many people during your baby’s stay in the NICU.  The Neonatologist is the doctor who will care for your baby while in the NICU.   A neonatal nurse is specially trained to care for sick and premature infants.  Your baby will have a day shift and night shift nurse as well as a respiratory therapist who has experience in caring for sick and premature newborns. Other staff that you will meet include Lactation nurses who can assist with breastfeeding, as well as a case manager and social worker who work with insurance companies to assist with discharge and home care needs.

What does the NICU look like?

The Halifax Health, Neonatal ICU just completed a $1 million dollar construction project. The design was created with the babies in mind. Our open-concept Level III Neonatal ICU includes 14 beds where every baby is closely monitored using state of the art heart monitors and oxygen equipment.  Some babies may need a lot of equipment at the bedside including IV pumps and feeding pumps.  Many of the pieces of equipment in the Neonatal ICU do have alarms which can make visiting very scary and stressful. Your nurse will answer any questions that you have concerning the equipment at your baby’s bedside.

Does the NICU have security?

Halifax Health – Center for Women & Infant Health has a state of the art infant security system. For our patient’s protection, the Labor and Delivery area, Neonatal ICU and Post-Partum units all have secure access areas with 24 hour camera surveillance and infant security devices in addition to special identity bracelets.   We understand that family and friends are eager to hear about your new family member. However, for your privacy and protection the Neonatal ICU staff does not give information about your baby to anyone.  Please have your family and friends call you at home to receive updates on your baby.

What is Kangaroo care?

Touch is the first sense a baby develops even before they are born.  Skin to skin (sometimes called Kangaroo Care) is the natural process of having the baby simply wearing a diaper and being placed on the mother’s bare chest.  It is highly recommended for Neonatal ICU babies once they are well enough to be handled.  Many hormonal changes happen during skin to skin, for both mom and baby.  Skin to skin reinforces the natural bond between you and your baby.  Your breathing and heart rate actually help keep your baby’s heart rate and breathing steady.  Kangaroo care also signals a mother’s body to increase in temperature so that the baby stays warm.  Skin to skin can also help increase a mother’s breast milk production by increasing the hormones that affect lactation (milk production).

Can brothers and sisters visit the baby?

Yes, Brothers and sisters of the baby are welcome to visit.  We realize that family and friends are excited to meet your new family member.  However, please remember that all babies have immature immune systems, especially babies in the Neonatal ICU.  For the protection of our tiny patients we ask that family and friends not visit if they have cold or flu symptoms.

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