When babies are born early, have health problems, or a difficult birth they go to the hospital's NICU. NICU stands for "neonatal intensive care unit." There, babies get around-the-clock care from a team of experts. Most of these babies go to the NICU within 24 hours of birth. How long they stay depends on their health condition. Some babies stay only a few hours or days; others stay weeks or months.

You may hear the NICU called :
  • A special care nursery
  • An intensive care nursery
  • A newborn intensive care nursery
Who Can Visit the NICU ?

Parents can visit and spend time with their babies who stay in the NICU. Other family members might be able to visit, but only during set hours and only a few at a time. Children visiting the NICU must be well (not sick) and should have all their immunizations. Check with the hospital staff about which family members can see your baby. Some units require guests to wear hospital gowns. You may need to wear gloves and a mask. Everyone who comes into the NICU must wash their hands before they enter. (There will be a sink and antibacterial soap in the room and near the entrance of the NICU.) This is a crucial part of keeping the NICU as clean as possible so the babies aren't exposed to germs.