NICU Questions to Ask

I remember the days when my son, Logan, was in the NICU like they were yesterday.

my son in his NICU cot, hooked up to many leads, with soft sunglasses over his eyes to protect from the bright blue UV lights

Logan was admitted to the NICU at Cardon Children’s in 2013 due to extreme jaundice and an unstable core temperature. I had cholestasis of pregnancy which required a 36-week delivery. We called him our little sun tan baby.

It is so overwhelming and confusing already, and then couple that with sleep deprivation, physical recovery from birth, and emotional strain from being separated from your baby – it’s a lot to handle.


If your baby is in the NICU, you might have a million questions. Or maybe you aren’t really even sure what to ask, which can leave you feeling a little helpless.


When I was navigating the NICU, I found it really helpful to have a bit of a framework for what I wanted to know.
Asking a set list of questions at the same time each day accomplished a couple of things:

It helped my husband and I to have a bit of routine to our day in a situation where nothing feels predictable.

It helped us to establish rapport with our care team. Being in the NICU at Cardon Children’s Medical Center, we knew we were in amazing hands and our baby was receiving outstanding care. But building a relationship with the staff who were in charge of Logan’s treatment helped us to feel less isolated.

It helped us to feel in control. When your baby is admitted to the NICU unexpectedly, it can be like someone pulled the rug out from under you. It’s disorienting. Asking questions helped us to remain an active part of our baby’s care team.


Here is the NICU question framework that I found helpful, and that I’ve shared with clients who are now NICU veterans, too:

Each day

When will the pediatrician and neonatologist see my baby?

What are my baby’s goals today?

What medications is my baby on?

What procedures can we expect today?


Each shift

Get to know your nurse’s name. It can go a long way in helping you feel “on the same level” instead of being nervous about their authority, or feeling like you’re bothering them.


What are my baby’s current goals?

Have there been any changes to his treatment plan?

How can I facilitate his healing?


When faced with a decision

If the medical staff is making a change to the treatment plan, it’s obviously because they deem it to be in the best interest of the baby. It’s important to trust your care team!

Sometimes, though, it can be confusing or you might not feel immediately confident in the recommendation. The BRAINED model can help. You may have learned a version of BRAIN during your birth classes, but this is my adaptation specifically for the NICU.


B – What are the benefits of this procedure/medicine/change?

R – What are the risks that might come with it?

A – Are there alternative options?

I – What impact will this have on his treatment plan in general? Will it mean other procedures or medicines are added, removed, or changed?

N – What would happen if we did nothing differently right now (or for 1 hour, or for 1 day, etc.)?

E – Please excuse us for a moment so we can…

D – absorb what you’ve just explained to us and make a decision (if necessary).


Your doctors and nurses are TOTALLY open to questions and want you to be an active part of the care team as your baby’s parents. They’re used to people “bugging” them and they are not going to be annoyed with questions. They know that people are tired and confused and a bit more forgetful than usual at this time in their lives, and they’re understanding and compassionate.

If you don’t understand something, it’s okay to ask follow-up questions and even to get someone else to explain it. If you are truly uncomfortable with someone on your team, it’s always okay to request a different nurse and even a different doctor. They aren’t offended.


Other tips

I also strongly recommend writing things down. Jot some brief notes or write a thorough account. It’s so easy to forget the details, and if you’re in the NICU very long, the days and even the shifts can start to blur together.

And as an additional support, have an objective listener in the room. This can be a friend, a family member, or your postpartum doula. (Yes, our postpartum doulas do absolutely offer care for your family in the NICU!) That way, when questions come up later or you can’t remember something your nurse said, you have someone who can gently remind you of what you need to know.


The time your baby spends in the NICU can be so bittersweet. I hope that you find this list helpful and that it gives you a boost of confidence and control as you walk through this experience.



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