Q: Should I tour the NICU before delivery?

A: Both parents touring the NICU is great way to prepare for the delivery of multiples! The best time to take the tour is generally between 16 and 26 weeks gestation on a day the mother is scheduled for other testing.

For many parents, the more they understand prior to having a baby in the NICU the less scary or overwhelming this medical unit is. Prior to the tour, you may want to create a list of questions to ask and professionals to meet prior to delivery such as the NICU lactation consultant and the NICU social worker. Here are a few topics to get you started:

  • Size: Ask about the total number patients treated in their NICU each year. Larger programs have more expertise and a greater depth of resources. With multiples, the NICU also needs to have enough “Level III beds” for neonates.
  • Around the clock care: Look for NICUs with a Neonatologist, Nure Practioners, and several Respiratory Therapists on site 24 hours a day.
  • Respiratory care: Look for respiratory therapies such as high-frequency ventilation and surfactant therapy Parents may want to ask if surfactant is routinely given in the delivery room or do they wait until the baby has been transferred to the NICU.
  • Environmental controls: Ask about the effects of light and sound are minimized. Studies have shown this causes improvement in Neonatal outcomes.
  • Pediatric cardiology care: Premature babies sometimes need special care for heart problems
  • A pharmacy specifically for preparing infant prescriptions: Neonatal doses are very different than adult doses. A special pharmacy is much safer, more likely to avoid mistakes.
  • Family centered care: look for a setting that is responsive to the priorities and choices of the families offering:
    • unlimited parental visiting privileges
    • sleeping accommodations for parents
    • parent support programs in the NICU
    • a lactation room
    • rooming in prior to discharge
    • counseling and social support services
    • breastfeeding support
    • support for sibling
  • Guidelines for unnecessary tests: Fewer tests mean less stress
  • Nutritional care: Lactation support, a milk bank, and/or special team responsible for nutritional evaluations of each baby
  • Surgical care and bedside surgery: Moving a fragile premature infant is a high-risk task that should be done only in extreme emergencies. Special cabling in the unit allows the surgical team to perform surgeries and transmit EEG, ultrasound and echocardiogram data to pediatric sub-specialists in other parts of the hospital for real-time interpretation.
  • Preparation for release for parents and other caregivers:
    • CPR training
    • Family Care Coordinator
    • Parenting Classes
    • Rooming in prior to discharge
    • NICU Support Group
    • Infant car seat check
  • Ongoing research: The field of Neonatology is constantly changing and improving at a very rapid pace. Up-to-date techniques make a real difference.

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