k. Ongoing medical care

Your baby will get several checkups with her provider during her first year. Here are some ways to take care of your baby’s health.

Get your baby vaccinated. All babies, including those who spend time in the NICU, need vaccinations. These vaccines help protect babies from serious diseases. Check with your baby’s provider about when your baby needs her vaccines. Brothers and sisters of the baby also need to be up-to-date on their vaccines. This helps keep them from passing infections to the baby. Everyone in the family, including parents, should get a flu shot before the baby comes home. Also, any adult who will have contact with the baby should get a Tdap vaccine to help prevent pertussis (also called whooping cough).

Protect your baby from RSV. RSV (also called respiratory syncytial virus) is a very common virus. It affects almost all children before they reach the age of two. Most of the time, it causes a slight cold. But, for babies who were born early, this virus can be more serious. Babies born early or who have heart or lung problems may benefit from a medicine to keep them from getting RSV. Ask your baby’s health care provider if your baby should get this medicine.

Follow-up with your baby’s health care provider. Check in with your baby’s provider to make sure that your baby is developing in a healthy way. Is she rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking at certain points in her life? These are called developmental milestones. You may need to remind the provider that your baby spent time in the NICU, because this may affect when she reaches the milestones.

What to do if your baby gets sick. All babies get sick from time to time. But babies who were in the NICU are more likely to get an infection. You need to watch for signs that your baby may be sick, so you can get medical help right away.

What to do if your baby has ongoing medical needs. If your baby has a medical condition, she may need ongoing care from different health care providers such as an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist.

If your baby has a birth defect, he may need a team of health care providers to treat him. Even if he needs to see only one provider, that person will need to coordinate care with your baby’s primary health care provider. Keeping a journal or file with all of your baby’s health information will help you when you are working with a team of providers.

If your baby needs medicines

Some babies go home from the NICU still taking medicines. You need to learn how to give your baby his medicine before he leaves the hospital. This will make it easier when you are caring for your baby at home. Write down all the instructions.

Make sure you know:

The medicine
• When to give the medicine
• How often to give the medicine
• If it should be given before, during or after feedings, or if it doesn’t matter
• How much to give
• How to give it
• If the medicine needs to be refrigerated
• If the medicine needs to be prepared or mixed together
• What to do if you miss a dose
• Where to get the medicine
• When to stop giving the medicine
• If your baby needs more than one medicine, can they be given together or do you need to give the medicines at different times

Your baby
• What position the baby should be in
• What to do if the baby spits up or vomits the medicine
• If there are any side effects from the medicine you should watch for
• If you need to give your baby more medicine as he grows and gains weight

 When to call the provider

Call your baby’s health care provider if your baby:
• Looks blue around the nose or lips or on the skin
• Is paler than usual
• Refuses to eat or eats too little
• Is more irritable than usual
• Is less active than usual
• Throws up – this is more serious than spitting up
• Has trouble breathing or a change in his breathing pattern
• Has less than six wet diapers in a 24-hour period
• Has diarrhea for more than a day or has a change in bowel habits
• Has a temperature higher than 100.4 F or less than 97F (using a rectal thermometer)
• Has apnea. This is when the baby stops breathing for 15 seconds or more.
• Isn’t acting like he normally does. Or just doesn’t seem “right” or well to you.

Remember, you know your baby best. If you think something is wrong with your baby, get him checked out.