Women and Infant Services

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Staff: A multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals staff the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Neonatologists: The NICU team is directed by neonatologists who are pediatricians with advanced training in the care of sick and premature newborns. This level of care is available in the hospital 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Nurses: All registered nurses working in the NICU have special training in the care of premature and sick newborns. In collaboration with our physicians, nursing staff plan many aspects of care in addition to parent education and discharge planning.

Respiratory Therapists: Respiratory therapists with skill and experience working with newborns provide care in the NICU.

Physical Therapists/Occupational Therapists: Developmental assessments and treatment are provided, if needed, to promote normal muscle tone and motor skills. Parent education for positioning and handling techniques for special-needs infants is also provided.

Lactation Consultants: Registered nurses with advanced certification in breastfeeding are available through the NICU to provide education, support, and problem solving to help breastfeeding mothers achieve success.

Dietitians: Registered dietitians with specialty training in neonatal nutrition will work with nursing staff and physicians to provide nutrition information to meet the specific needs and optimal growth of your newborn.

Social Workers: A professional licensed clinical social worker with special training in the needs and concerns of families with special care infants can assist with a variety of health care and financial arrangements for NICU patients.

Visiting Policy: Parents are encouraged to visit their baby as often as possible. Grandparents can visit the baby accompanied by a parent. You are limited to two visitors at the bedside at one time. All visitors to the NICU must be free from illness.

What You Can Do: While visiting, parents are encouraged to participate in the baby’s care as the medical condition allows. Talk to your baby in a soft, gentle tone. You may bring pictures for your baby to look at or a small toy that can sit next to the baby's bed. Parents are encouraged to hold their baby skin to skin (kangaroo care) to provide warmth, comfort and bonding.

Feeding Your Baby in NICU: In many instances, babies in the intensive care nursery are unable to be fed in the "traditional" ways (breast or bottle). Your baby may receive nutrition by IV (intravenous) fluids or a feeding tube. Your baby’s physician will determine when he/she is able to feed orally.

Breastfeeding Your Baby: Breastfeeding is very beneficial for all babies, even those requiring special care. If you would like to breastfeed your baby, please make sure your baby’s physician and our NICU staff are aware of your preference. An electric pump is available for you to use while visiting your baby and you can bring your breast milk to the NICU from home.

Camera Policy: You may photograph or videotape your own baby as often as you wish; we ask that you not photograph any other baby, nursery surroundings, hospital staff or any of the equipment in the NICU.

When Your Baby Is Ready to Go Home: A comprehensive discharge plan is arranged for your baby from the moment he or she enters the NICU. Our case manager will meet with you early on and help you through the transition from hospital to home; to obtain specialists, services and equipment if necessary; and help ease any concerns you may have. If your baby should need any special equipment or skilled nursing services, one of our staff members will work with you to meet your baby’s needs and prepare you for going home.

The NICU cares for 500 babies a year. A Baby Friendly® hospital, St. Mary Medical Center promotes breastfeeding, skin-to-skin bonding with infants and in some cases, rooming-in prior to infant discharge in the neonatal nursery.

Discharge Policy: Because the NICU staff matches both baby and mother ID bracelets at infant discharge, mothers of infants in NICU need to keep their ID bracelet on until their baby is discharged.

Car Seats: Under California state law, any child under the age of seven riding in a car must be in a federally approved car seat. Any baby less than 37 weeks of age will have a car seat evaluation done in the NICU prior to discharge.

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