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NICU and Special Care Nursery

Do babies commonly go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN)?
Approximately 10% of newborns go to the NICU or SCN. Some babies have a difficult transition from the womb to the world and need a little extra help. Most of these newborns go to these units because they're premature, multiples, or because they're having breathing difficulties. Newborns also are treated in the NICU for congenital heart defects, genetic disorders, or other disorders that may require surgery.

Can I visit my baby?
In addition to intensive medical care, hospitalized babies need a lot of love and attention from their families. Visitation is 24 hours a day for parents and care partners. Others may visit between 11 am and 8 pm. One parent must be at the baby’s bedside when visitors are present.

When visiting the NICU, we ask that you limit visitors to 4 per family. In the SCN, we ask that you limit visitors to 3 per family. All other visitors must wait in the waiting room.

No visitor with an illness will be permitted. Occasionally, it may be necessary to limit access to the NICU or SCN to parents only. We appreciate your understanding should this occur.
All visitors should follow good hygiene to protect the fragile babies from infection. Good hygiene includes:

  • Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Disposing of tissues in the trash can
  • Washing your hands using soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel

Can children visit?

Yes, children are able to visit the NICU and SCN. Here are the criteria under which they can visit:

  • Children visiting the NICU must be 3 years or older.
  • Children visiting the SCN must be 5 years or older.
  • All children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • We require a copy of the sibling’s immunization record from your pediatrician prior to visiting.
  • Siblings may not visit if they’ve been sick in the last two weeks.
  • If your child is visibly sick, we reserve the right to deny visitation.
  • No other children, besides siblings, are permitted in the NICU or SCN.

Is there a space for my family and I to rest?
Waiting areas are available for visitors. Parents and caregivers can rest and relax in our Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. They provide a warm, home-like atmosphere and are equipped with a microwave, coffee machine, sink and refrigerator.

Are there overnight accommodations?
Moms who’ve just delivered need a lot of rest to heal and recover from delivery. Because you’re most relaxed at home, we recommend sleeping in the comfort of your own home as much as possible. During difficult situations, moms are able to stay overnight once they’ve been discharged for 48 hours. At Virtua Voorhees, overnight accommodations are available in our Ronald McDonald sleep rooms.

Will I be involved in my baby's care in the NICU or SCN?
Parents are the center of their baby's team of caregivers, and are encouraged to be as involved as possible. Virtua’s staff will explain all equipment, treatments and medications that are used to care for your baby. The staff will also keep you updated on your baby’s condition, will address the special needs of you and your baby, and will involve you in decisions regarding your baby’s care. When the baby is first admitted to an intensive care nursery, parents can sit next to the bed, touch and talk to the baby. As the baby improves, parents are able to hold, diaper and feed the baby and become more involved in overall care.

Can I breastfeed my baby in the NICU or SCN?
Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies in the NICU or SCN, and the staff will do everything they can to support them. If a mother is planning to breastfeed but the baby is not yet ready, she can pump milk and store it for later use. Electric pumps are available to rent or purchase. For information, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823). Once the baby begins to breastfeed, mothers may use a separate breastfeeding room in the hospital.

What is developmental care?
The goal of developmental care is to provide a womb-like environment for the baby while in the NICU or SCN. This is accomplished by keeping the lights dim, keeping the nursery quiet, and using special blankets and bumpers to position the baby.

When can I take my baby home?
This is the most frequently asked question, but also the most difficult one. The neonatologists take a number of factors into consideration when deciding if the baby is ready to go home. The baby should be able to do the following:

  • Breathe on his or her own
  • Regulate his or her own body temperature
  • Take all feedings by breast or bottle
  • Show steady weight gain

The course of care for each baby is unique, but the doctor will be sure to let the parents know when the time is getting near to take their little one home.

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