Caring for your baby

Some babies, both those born prematurely and full term, need special help to adjust to their new lives. The information in this section is designed to provide an introduction to help you care for your baby during your time in the Brandon NICU.

The special ways that a parent can help take care of their baby are depicted on a poster in each room called “My Flight Plan for Home”. You and your nurse will discuss this plan and fill it out together, beginning on admission and throughout your baby’s stay.

As your baby’s condition improves you will be able to change the diaper, help with the bath, hold and rock your baby and give the feeding. Talk to your nurse about what kinds of care you can provide at the various points in time, as shown on the Flight Plan. At first, it may seem as if there is little you can do but ... a finger to hold and the sound of your voice can do much to comfort your baby.


Although your baby may be unable to begin breastfeeding shortly after birth, it is important to establish and maintain a good milk supply. Our breastfeeding support program offers a number of helpful tips, resources and guides that you may find useful.

We also offer a team of lactation consultants and breastfeeding support specialists to assist you while you are here at the hospital. After you leave the hospital, our outpatient breastfeeding clinic can support you with any difficulties you and your baby are having with breastfeeding. Visit our breastfeeding page to learn more about our breastfeeding resources.

Kangaroo care

Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your baby skin-to-skin. In addition to the emotional benefits, this nurturing contact can help maintain your child's body warmth, regulate heart and breathing rates, encourage them to spend more time in deep sleep, and improve breast-feeding. 

Your baby's growth

One of the most frequently asked question that parents of preterm or sick infants ask is "When will my baby catch up?"

Preterm and sick newborns generally follow the same developmental patterns as babies who are full term and not sick. However, full term babies will often reach developmental milestones sooner than babies who are preterm, or who have been sick. It is important to remember that even full term and healthy babies develop at different rates. No two babies are alike. Just because your baby is not doing all the things the neighbor's baby is doing does not mean that your baby is slow; rather, since your baby was either ill or preterm he or she needs a little extra catching up time. For example, most full term babies begin to sit up at six months of age. A baby born two months early may not do this until eight months of age.

Knowing that your baby is making progress, doing something this week that he or she could not do last week is a very good indicator that they are developing properly. For many NICU babies, it may take several years to fully catch up with their peers.

As babies grow bigger and stronger, they develop many new and different skills. These new abilities include mental, motor or movement skills, and eventually, social, communication and language skills.

Babies develop properly when their parents and other caregivers play with them frequently and provide them with a variety of interesting things to see and do.

Mental development occurs with a child's increasing ability to use their senses to absorb information about his or her surroundings and take an active interest in solving problems. The greater the range of experiences that babies are exposed to, the more interested they become in their new world.

Motor development includes the development of skills such as rolling over, sitting, standing and walking, and the fine motor skills required in reaching for and exploring objects. Smiling and talking to babies when they do something new, helps them feel good about themselves and encourages them to practice their new abilities.

Social Development occurs as a child interacts with parents, siblings, family and eventually with friends. Babies gradually learn to recognize familiar and unfamiliar people. It is special for parents to watch their babies begin to smile. At first, babies share their smiles with anyone who smiles at them. With time, a baby often becomes more selective with smiles and may even become fearful of strangers. This is a perfectly normal stage of development.

Language development takes place as a child listens to, imitates and understands words, and eventually speaks. This is why it is so important for parents, family and other caregivers to speak and interact often with their babies.

Neonatal Follow-Up / Developmental Assessment Clinic

The Neonatal Follow-Up Program at the University of Michigan provides periodic check-ups for babies previously admitted to the NICU. Follow-up is important during the first 2 years of life because this is a time of rapid growth and development, especially of the brain. All babies born with a birth weight of less than 2 1/2 pounds, babies who were very sick, and babies who were in some research studies are followed in the program. We also take referrals from families or their doctors if there is a concern about a baby's development. Schedule an appointment for our developmental follow-up clinic by calling 734-232-7888.