Parenting in the NICU - a quick look

quick look preemiehelp

Learning about the NICU and ways of helping and bonding with your preemie can help you manage some of the stress and uncertainty associated with a preterm birth.


Finding special ways to connect & understand preterm birth

The joy of childbirth is often short-lived for parents of preterm babies. Isolation from your newborn, extended hospital stays, and the uncertainty associated with medical procedures, takes a massive emotional and physical toll. This section has been created to help you navigate your way through some tough times. It covers everything from family-centred care, tips on how to bond with your preemie, helping out in the NICU, what to bring, to learning to read your prem's body language


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Who does what - Preemie professionals

There are so many people involved in preterm birth. From professionals to research and support groups you need to know who does what for your preemie baby. Let's find out who does what.

In this section you’ll find information about the professionals who will be caring for your preemie baby, you’ll learn about research groups who may approach you to be involved in various studies investigating issues relevant to preterm birth, and you’ll find some details about a number of support groups run by parents who organise morning teas and a forum with which to share your experiences.


Whether you knew early that your baby would be born early, or whether it happened all of a sudden, you will have a number of care providers looking after you and your preemie baby. It can be very daunting to be surrounding by unfamiliar equipment, sounds, and people, while your primary concern is for your preemie. It may help you learn who is who and who does what. There are a number of professionals that make up a team in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Some of these professionals you may have met before your birth, others during the birth, and some while you’re in the NICU. You will likely get to know some of these people. These professionals work as part of a team of carers and will be working hard to make sure your preemie gets the best possible care.

The Nursing Team

Nurses are those most responsible for the day-to-day care of your preemie. You may come to know them very well and rely on them to give you information and reassurances about your baby. Like many other professionals, nurses often chose different specialities within their field, so you might find that the nurses caring for your baby have different roles. The following nursing titles may vary between countries.

Charge Nurse

The charge nurse is in charge of the shift and leads the nursing team; they will oversee the nursing plan and provide supervision.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse, or RN, will be the person providing the moment to moment care. A neonatal nurse will be at your baby’s bedside 24 hours a day. They will provide ongoing assessment of your baby’s current status and progress, and let relevant members of the team know when there are changes. The RN will usually plan and implement nursing care, which will include feeding, positioning, bathing, and administering medications. Nurses will work collaboratively with other members of staff.

Clinical Nurse Specialist or Clinical Nurse Consultants

A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice nurse, who would have earned a masters or doctorate degree. Clinical nurse specialists work with other nurses; they provide their expertise to improve nursing practices with the aim of improving patient outcomes.

Medical Team

The following section describes the roles of a number of medical professionals who will contribute to the care of your preemie. There will be a member of the medical team present in the NICU 24 hours a day.


Neonatologists train as a paediatrician and specialise in the medical care of newborn infants (neonates), particularly the seriously ill and premature infants in the NICU. They will be the ones managing the care of your preemie and once your baby’s health improves will usually hand over care to your private paediatrician.

In Australia, neonatologists usually care for infants in the public Medicare system.


Paediatricians are doctors who specialise in the care of children; paediatrician in Latin literally means a “healer of children.” Paediatrics is a very broad medical specialty; your paediatrician may not have specific training for care in the NICU so may refer your baby’s care to a neonatologist.

Once your baby has been discharged from the NICU, your paediatrician will likely become your baby’s primary care provider.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

These nurses have specially trained to care for critically ill and preterm babies in the NICUs Neonatal nurse practitioners sometimes have the authority to make decisions about types of care based on urgent or emergency requirements; the degree to which orders are overseen by physicians and neonatologists varies between hospitals.

Many families of preemies find the nurse practitioner to be a wonderful source of information and are usually more accessible than neonatologists who you are unlikely to see as frequently.

Neonatal Physician Assistant

As the name implies, a Neonatal Physician Assistant, treats newborns under the supervision and guidance of a paediatrician.

They may be required to assist with medical procedures that some preemies must undergo, such as cryotherapy for retinopathy of prematurity, surgery for patent ductus arteriosus, bowel surgery, tracteostomy, or inguinal hernia repair.

They may also provide help for pre- and post-operative care, perform physical exams, order tests, and prescribe medications.


A paediatric hospitalist is a doctor who specialises in the medical care of children in a hospital setting. A paediatric hospitalist would have completed additional years of paediatric residency training.


A resident is professional who would have graduated from medical school and is participating in a hospital-based specialised training program. Residents are sometimes referred to as an R1, R2, or R3, depending on how many years they have been a resident.

Residents will be involved in the daily care of your baby; they will assess your preemie daily, plan, and revise medical care as required. They will perform numerous procedures required in the NICU, such as intubation, placement of IVs, and lumbar punctures.

Neonatal Fellow

A neonatal fellow is medical professional in training to become a neonatologist.

Other Medical Personnel

There are a number of other medical professionals that may be involved in your baby’s care depending on their health requirements.

Cardiothoracic surgeon

field of medicine involved in surgical treatment of diseases affecting organs inside the thorax (the chest). They perform surgery on the heart or lungs.

Paediatric cardiologist

a specialist in diagnosis and treatment of heart problems (nonsurgical)

Paediatric gastroenterologist

a specialist in diagnosis and treatment of stomach and intestinal problems (nonsurgical)


is a scientist who studies the heredity and variation of organisms, for example the causes of birth defects.

Paediatric haematologist

a Medical Practitioner with a recognised qualification as a Paediatrician. They are involved in the medical management and diagnosis of blood disorders in infants and children.

Paediatric nephrologist

a specialist in diagnosis and treatment of kidney and related diseases.

Paediatric neurologist

a specialist in diagnosis and treatment of nervous system problems


is the surgical specialty involved in the treatment of disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves

Paediatric surgeon

specialises in performing general surgery for infants.


a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, and head and neck disorders.

Support Team

Respiratory therapist

Helps manage the equipment and monitoring devices for preemies who have difficulty breathing by themselves.


Help optimise growth and development of your baby by recommending specific nutrients to add to breast milk or formula.

Lactation Specialist

Provide breast feeding support

Infant Development Specialist

Specialists who assess your baby’s development.

Family Clinical Psychologist

Specialise in providing psychological support for parents.

Therapists (occupational, speech, physical)

A number of different specialists can help optimise your baby’s neurological and physical development.

Chaplain or spiritual representative

A chaplains role is to help you use any spiritual resources that you might find useful.

Research Groups

Research is essential to increasing our understanding of outcomes, treatments, causes of preterm birth, and ensuring continuous improvements in patient care. Research depends on volunteers from our community.

Support Groups

Australian Support groups

    • Early Buds

      Offers free support packs for NZ residents

  • National Premmie Foundation

    New Zealand



AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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Preemie Help is also looking to provide a resource for any professionals that have contact with preterm babies and children in order to help them best understand the challenges that face a preemie. Get in contact to help us impact preemies.

Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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