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parent resources for NICU

NICU basics

when can I visit?

  • As a parent, you are the most important member of your baby's care team and can visit anytime. We want you to voice any concerns and questions, and be very involved in your baby's care. 
  • For the safety of all the babies, when you get to Dayton Children's, stop at the main entrance welcome center by the Up Cafe. Our guest services team will get you a visitor badge. All visitors need a badge before going up to the NICU.
  • When visiting after hours (8:00 pm - 8:00 am), know that security is enhanced and you may be asked questions by our security officers to ensure everyone's safety.
  • Family lounges and waiting areas are open for the comfort of families and visitors. However, for safety reasons, overnight sleeping in lobbies, waiting rooms or open public areas is not allowed. Rooms are also available across the street at the Ronald McDonald House.
  • Please note that there may be visitor restrictions anytime there's a community-wide contagious disease outbreak. This will be communicated on our website.

how we help babies grow

When your baby first gets to the NICU, many staff members will be caring for and examining your baby to make sure he is comfortable and getting the appropriate care. During the first hours and perhaps days, your baby will be watched very closely. 

NICU babies:

  • Are checked often by the nursing staff and medical team
  • May need help breathing
  • Often need X-rays and other tests
  • May not be eating and need IVs (nutrition through an intravenous tube)
  • Need lots of rest to help them grow and heal

family-centered care

We are passionate about providing family-centered care in a child-friendly, healing setting. Our family-centered care ensures that you will be a partner in your infant's care and treatment. Your family is an important part of our team. We believe families are powerful partners in health care and vital to the healing process of critically-ill newborns.

family-centered rounds

Please join family-centered rounds in the NICU. Rounding means neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners and resident physicians will meet at your baby's bedside to talk about his or her medical condition, plan of care, updates and your concerns. We want you to take part in rounds as often as you can, as you are the most important caregiver in your baby's world. Rounding usually happens in the morning.

If you cannot attend family-centered rounds, give a member of the NICU your cell phone number so they can update you on your baby's condition. A provider will always be available after rounds to update you on your baby's status.

amenities to make your stay more safe and comfortable

New technology brings added safety and comfort to our tiniest patients and their families. Parents and family members can check in on their baby through NICVIEW. NICVIEW shares a live feed of the baby by putting in a specific code into the website.

Refrigerated drawers in all of the rooms helps make sure the right baby gets the right milk.

Each room also has GetWellNetwork, an education and entertainment system where family members can watch TV, play games and watch videos that fit their child's health needs. All of these technologies help make sure that you and your child are as safe and comfortable as possible throughout your stay.


Visiting hours: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm

You may identify up to 10 people who are able to visit your child. This includes you, parents, step-parents, grandparents and siblings over 18 years of age. You do not need to list visitors under 18, but any visitors under 18 need to be accompanied by an adult on this list

If a visitor arrives to Dayton Children's Hospital and they are not on this list, they will not be granted permission to visit.

All visitors on this list must check-in at the welcome center to receive a visitor badge. Badges are required to enter a patient unit.

your baby's safety

We take many steps to keep babies safe:

  • Security cameras monitor the NICU at all times.
  • The NICU is a locked unit. Parents, siblings, and visitors need a name badge to enter. Get one at the welcome center when you come in the main entrance.
  • If your baby needs to leave the NICU for a test or procedure, a NICU staff member will go with him/her.
  • Only parents should call the NICU. When parents call, they will be asked for a code they were given at transport. Parents should identify themselves by this code whenever they call the NICU.
  • Only bottled water is allowed at your baby's bedside.



how well is my baby growing?

For the first week or so, babies usually lose weight. Your baby will be weighed every night. Head size and body length are measured once a week. The information is placed on a graph so that they NICU staff knows how well your baby is growing.

Everything that goes into your baby (IV nutrition or feedings) and everything that comes out will be carefully measured. Your baby's care team includes a neonatal dietitian who will work with the team to make sure we are giving your baby everything he or she needs to grow.

should I breastfeed?

Yes! The American Academy of Pediatrics and Dayton Children's staff believe that breast milk is the best food for babies. Premature or sick babies have a greater need for the nutrition that only breast milk can offer:

  • It has antibodies and other immune factors that can help keep your baby safe from some infections.
  • It is easier for many babies to digest.
  • Mothers of premature babies produce milk that is different from the milk of moms with full-term babies. This milk is uniquely suited to premature babies.

do I need to eat any special foods while breastfeeding my baby?

Eating a healthy diet will make you feel better. Many calories are used up when breastfeeding, so you may feel hungry often. A healthy, well-balanced diet should be eaten. Be sure to eat plenty of meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, citrus fruits, green and yellow vegetables, whole grain cereal and bread products, and few fatty foods and sweets.

donated breast milk program

We believe that breast milk gives our NICU babies the healthiest start. On average, Dayton Children's NICU sees 50 very low birth weight babies each year. Breast milk is very important for any baby, but for very premature babies it can be lifesaving. While we strongly encourage mothers to provide as much of their own breast milk as they can, some mothers may not make enough milk or be able to pump milk.

For these reasons, Dayton Children's has partnered with The Mothers' Milk Bank of Ohio to make sure the most fragile newborns receive the benefits of breast milk. All babies born weighing less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces may receive donated breast milk. Lactation consultants are available to answer any and all of our questions. 

If breast milk is not being used, a member of the team will talk about the risks and benefits tied to the use of formula and/or other fortifiers.

clinical nutrition lab

The clinical nutrition lab is a state of the art lab staffed with specialty trained technicians who oversee your baby's nutritional needs. Technicians can help if your baby is in need of a specialized formula, or higher calories in your breast milk. The clinical nutrition lab technicians will be entering your baby's room to collect your breast milk 1-2 times daily. The breast milk will then be entered into our bar code scanning system with time, date, expiration date and fresh or frozen status. Once your breast milk is scanned into the system, the technicians will bring your breast milk back to your baby's room and place it in their refrigerated drawer. 

The breast milk barcode scanning system will track all of your breast milk while you are with us. Then, when it is time for your baby to eat, the barcode is scanned to ensure the right milk, expiration date and time, and correct fortification (if needed), is given to your baby. The clinical nutrition lab will also store your extra milk in a deep freezer located in a secure location to extend how long you can keep it.

For any additional information needs, please reach out to your clinical nutrition lab technician.

how often should I breastfeed my baby?

Newborn babies have very small stomachs and breast milk digests quickly and easily, so your baby will need to eat often. It is best to breastfeed your baby whenever your baby seems hungry. Between one to three hours after feeding, your baby will have an empty stomach. The baby may act restless because an empty stomach will be uncomfortable.

You may expect to offer the breast for eight or more times in 24 hours. If your baby needs to eat on a regular schedule, your doctor or nurse will tell you this. Signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk are weight gain, three or more poops per day and more than six wet diapers per day.

how long should a feeding last?

Length of time and amount of feeding is different for every baby. Let your baby nurse until satisfied. Listen for swallowing. Your baby should have at least 20 minutes of swallowing time at each feeding. Let your baby let go of the first breast when done. Burp your baby and offer the second breast if your baby still seems hungry. Most milk is emptied from your breast within five to eight minutes. 

will drinking alcohol hurt my baby?

An occasional drink is considered safe, but daily alcohol use may cause your baby to be sleepy, weak, uncoordinated and unable to grow well. If you have more than two alcoholic drinks, you should pump your milk (through two feedings) and throw it away for 6-8 hours. Feed your baby milk that you have already pumped or formula instead during that 6-8 hour period.

will my smoking cigarettes hurt my baby?

It is best for you and your baby if you quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes during breastfeeding may lessen your supply of milk. Breathing cigarette smoke may cause your baby to have more colds and other health problems. There is also a higher risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in babies whose parents smoke. 

You should not take your baby into smoke-filled rooms or allow people to smoke near your baby.

If you cannot quit, it is still better for your baby's health to breastfeed. Talk with your health care provider about ways to reduce your baby's nicotine exposure.

will drugs/medicines that I take hurt my baby?

Many drugs or medicines that the breastfeeding mother takes go through to her milk. A few drugs may be very harmful to the baby. Be sure to tell your doctor that you are nursing your baby, pumping milk for your baby or planning to nurse your baby when they prescribe medicines for you. If you are already taking a medicine, be sure to check with your doctor or your baby's doctor to see if it is safe for your baby. Most prescribed drugs a mother needs are safe for breastfeeding.

Do not take any over-the-counter medicines without first checking with your doctor or your baby's doctor. This includes medicines you may take for a cold. Be sure to tell the doctor that you are a nursing mother. Sometimes, breastfeeding must be stopped if the medicine you need is not safe for your baby. You may need to pump and throw out your milk while you are on the medicine. 

what if I occasionally use "recreational" drugs?

You should not take any drug or medicine sold on the street if you are nursing your baby. Not only are the drugs harmful to you and your baby, but these drugs are often mixed with other drugs and even poisons.

the right technology

Your baby will be closely monitored throughout his/her stay. This means wires, tubes, patches, probes and machines - which can all be scary. However, knowing that it's all for his/her own good, and understanding a little bit about what you're seeing and hearing may help to ease some of the fear.


Giraffe® OmniBed

The Giraffe bed makes your baby feel like he/she is still in the womb. It provides the quietest and most soothing setting to promote healing. Giraffe beds are a care station that greatly improve the quality of care for premature babies by decreasing trauma from frequent moving and manipulation. Because these beds allow for easy access, fragile, critically-ill babies can stay in the same bed before, during and after most procedures. Also, the bed can control the temperature and humidity along with other features that ensure the best place for healing the tiniest newborns.

The Giraffe bed creates a healing environment for the family members, too. They can hold their baby and touch him/her through the portholes (health permitting).


These are small beds enclosed by clear, hard plastic with an internal heat source. The temperature of the bed is controlled and closely watched because premature babies often have a hard time maintaining their body temperature.

infant warmers

These are beds with radiant heaters over them. Parents can touch their babies in the warmers, but it's always a good idea to talk to the staff first, just in case.


A small plastic bed on a wood frame with no heat source. When your baby is placed in a bassinet, he/she usually is close to going home.


what does the monitor do?

Babies are attached to monitors so the NICU staff always knows their vital signs. The single monitor (which picks up and displays all the necessary information in one place) counts your baby's heart rate and breathing rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation.

alarms should not alarm you...

You may find yourself watching the monitor. With numbers blinking and alarms ringing, the monitor seems hard to ignore. Please feel safe knowing that these machines are always keeping track of your baby's health - even when a health care provider is not right at the bedside. Sometimes a monitor will alarm for a non-emergency reason, such as a loose lead, an extra heart beat, hiccups or increased muscle activity when your baby moves. Nurses closely watch these alarms and will respond appropriately.

Here's a brief look at what some of the unfamiliar equipment does and how it may help with your baby, depending on your baby's condition and diagnosis:

Blanketrol III

Dayton Children's was the first in the region to use therapeutic hypothermia. This technology interrupts brain damage, reducing significant disability or death. Cooling is used to treat babies with a condition caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain before or during delivery.

With the Blanketrol III, the baby is placed on the blanket and is cooled to maintain a certain state of hypothermia for 72 hours. The baby is then re-warmed slowly over several hours. Research has proven that if a baby's brain can be cooled down below normal body temperature (37°C) within six hours of birth and kept that way for 72 hours, the treatment may stop progressive damage to the brain and reduce or prevent significant disability or death.

IVs and lines

An IV is a thin flexible tube placed in the vein with a small needle. Once in the vein, the needle is removed, leaving just the soft plastic tubing. Instead of giving your baby injections every few hours, IVs allow certain medicines to be given continuously, several drops at a time. Further, it allows your baby to receive proper nutrition when he/she cannot breastfeed or drink formula.

arterial lines

Arterial lines are very similar to IVs, but they are placed in the arteries, not veins, and are used to monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood (although some babies may simply have blood pressure cuffs instead).


Both premature and term infants may be born with jaundice. Jaundice is a common newborn condition where the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. Phototherapy is used to help get rid of the bilirubin that causes jaundice.


Babies sometimes need extra help to breathe. An infant is connected to the ventilator (or breathing machine) with a soft plastic tube placed into the windpipe through the mouth. It is important to note that there are different types of ventilators. Some of them require you to turn your cell phone off for your baby's safety. Signs will tell you when you are in an area where your cell phone needs to be off. 

refrigerated drawers

Every room has a refrigerated drawer for an extra layer of safety and convenience. The drawers will hold breastmilk and formula at an ideal temperature


NICVIEW lets parents, family and friends see your baby live from anywhere in the world. This helps families bond with their baby even when they can't be at the baby's bedside. You will be given a password to login to the secure website. Only friends and family that you've given your code to will be able to see your baby.

baby's big day (and yours)... going home!

when can my baby come home?

This question is asked the most often. Every baby is different, and your baby's going-home date will depend on how early your baby was born or how sick your baby was at birth. Keep your original due date in mind as a sign of when your baby might be ready to go home. The actual date may be earlier or it could be much later, but the due date gives a general idea. 

Once your baby is able to do the following things, he/she is getting closer to going home:

  • Keeps him/herself warm
  • Sleeps in a crib, not in a warming bed
  • Weighs about four pounds or more
  • Has learned to breast or bottle feed
  • Breathes on his/her own

why the wait?

Like many new parents, you're probably eager to take your baby home. And like many other parents, you might be wondering, "What's taking so long?" Before leaving, parents will get one-on-one teaching to help ease the transition.

It is important to note that discharge may take an entire day. For instance, you may be instructed on how to give medicine and use medical equipment at home.

Your baby has been an in intensive care unit and you need to be fully educated and feel comfortable taking care of your baby at home. Remember, you must already have a rear-facing, infant car seat and a doctor's appointment scheduled before you leave.

before you leave, NICU staff will review:

Infant care: Temperature, bath, diaper change, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, choking care and bulb syringe.

Routine needs: Hearing forms and state screening, car seat check, car seat test (for babies born at less than 37 weeks) and a car seat video.

Within 48-72 hours of going home, a nurse will call to check on your baby.

state requirements

Ohio currently requires testing of all newborns for 35 disorders, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease. Visit the Ohio Department of Health for a list of the required newborn screenings at All babies will be screened in the NICU to meet the state requirements.

congenital heart disease screening program

Congenital heart disease screening is a simple screening test that will show if your baby is at risk and needs more testing. It involves using pulse oximetry. Your baby will get this screening test before he/she goes home.

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect. Babies born with heart disease have abnormal structure to their heart which causes abnormal blood flow patterns. About eight out of 1,000 babies born have a form of congenital heart disease. 

Pulse oximetry is a simple and painless test that measures how much oxygen is in the blood. Another term for pulse oximetry is "pulse ox." Pulse ox is used routinely to keep an eye on an infant's oxygen level during procedures or treatments. It can also be helpful in deciding if an infant's heart and lungs are healthy.

basic newborn care

Now you're ready to head home and start life with your baby. Once home, though, you frantically realize you have no clue what you're doing! Brushing up on these tips can help first-time parents feel good about caring for a newborn in no time.

handling a newborn

If you haven't spent a lot of time around newborns, a fragile baby may be intimidating. Here are a few basics to remember:

  • Wash your hands (or use a hand sanitizer) before handling your newborn. Young babies have not built up a strong immune system yet, so they are likely to get an infection. Make sure that everyone who handles your baby also has clean hands.
  • Be careful to support your baby’s head and neck. Cradle the head when carrying your baby and support the head when carrying the baby upright or when you lay her down.
  • Be careful not to shake your newborn, whether in play or in frustration. Forceful shaking can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake your baby, don’t do it by shaking — instead, tickle your baby’s feet or blow gently on a cheek.
  • Make sure your baby is securely fastened into the carrier, stroller or car seat. Limit any activity that would be too rough or bouncy.
  • Remember that your newborn is not ready for rough play, such as being jiggled on the knee or thrown in the air.


Swaddling is a soothing technique first-time parents should learn. Hands need to be close to the baby's face when swaddling.

Not only doe this keep a baby warm, but the pressure seems to give most newborns a sense of safety and comfort. Swaddling also helps limit the startle reflex, which can wake a baby.

how to swaddle a baby

  •  Spread out the receiving blanket, with one corner folded over slightly.
  • Lay the baby face-up on the blanket with his or her head above the folded corner.
  • Wrap the left corner over the body and tuck it underneath the back of the baby, going under the right arm.
  • Bring the bottom corner up over the baby’s feet and pull it toward the head, folding the fabric down if it gets close to the face.
  • Wrap the right corner around the baby and tuck it under the baby’s back on the left side, leaving only the neck and head exposed, keeping hands close to the face.

diapering do's and don'ts

Your baby will dirty diapers about 10 times a day, or about 70 times a week.

Before diapering a baby, make sure you have all supplies within reach so you won't have to leave your baby alone on the changing table. You'll need:

  • A clean diaper
  • Fasteners (if cloth prefold diapers are used)
  • Diaper ointment if the baby has a rash
  • A container of warm water
  • Clean washcloth, diaper wipes or cotton balls

After each poop or if the diaper is wet, lay your baby down on his or her back and remove the dirty diaper. Use the water, cotton balls and washcloth or wipes to gently wipe your baby's private area clean.

When changing a boy’s diaper, do it slowly because exposure to the air may make him pee. When wiping a girl, wipe her bottom from front to back to avoid a urinary tract infection. To prevent or heal a rash, apply ointment. Dry the baby’s bottom first before applying ointment. Always remember to wash your hands well after changing a diaper.

what should a "normal" stool (poop) look like?

In the first few days of life, baby stool is thick, sticky and almost black. This is called a meconium stool and is normal. Slowly this will turn lighter and be less thick and sticky. This is called a transitional stool.

After about a week, breastfed babies will have light yellow, loose stool several times a day. Babies who are fed formula have more formed, “thicker” stool less often. If your baby has not had a stool for over 48 hours and seems uncomfortable, call your baby’s doctor. If you think your baby’s stool is not normal in color or texture, check with your baby’s doctor.

diaper rash

Diaper rash is a common concern. Typically the rash is red and bumpy and will go away in a few days with warm baths, some diaper cream and a little time out of the diaper. Most rashes happen because the baby’s skin is sensitive and becomes irritated by the wet diaper.

to prevent or heal diaper rash, try these tips:

  • Change your baby’s diaper often, and as soon as possible after bowel movements.
  • After cleaning the area with mild soap and water or a wipe, apply a diaper rash or “barrier” cream. Creams with zinc oxide are preferable because they form a barrier against moisture.
  • If you use cloth diapers, wash them in dye- and fragrance-free detergents.
  • Let the baby go without a diaper for part of the day. This gives the skin a chance to air out.
  • If the diaper rash doesn’t go away after three days or seems to be getting worse, call your doctor. It may be caused by an infection that needs a prescription.

baby skin care in the NICU

Skin is the largest "organ" of the human body and is important in protecting against infection. The skin of all newborns, and especially premature newborns, is thinner and has less protective layers. This developing skin is more likely to get an infection and irritation, so chemicals should be avoided.

products with less ingredients

Bath products with less ingredients may be better for the babies we care for. We recommend Earth Mama Angel Baby bath products. While these products don't have the "baby scent" that you may be used to, the scent comes from natural products. Our nursing team feels these are the best for your baby's skin.

ingredients to avoid

If you would like to bring your own bath products, please consider reading labels and not using products with:

  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • 1,4 dioxane
  • Quaternum 15 (Q15)
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Preservatives
  • Fragrances

bathing your baby

Before you start, get all bath supplies you will need:

  • Mild soap
  • Washcloth
  • Towel, comb or brush
  • Clean clothes and diapers (pins, if needed)
  • Baby shampoo
  • Tub, dishpan or clean sink

bathing tips (for sponge or tub bath)

  • Never leave your baby alone during a bath! If the phone or doorbell rings and you must answer it, wrap your baby in a towel and take him/her with you.
  • Always test the bath water before bathing to prevent chilling or burning. Place your wrist or elbow in the water to make sure it feels comfortably warm.
  • Be sure to get under all folds of the skin, especially under the chin, behind the ears and in the diaper area. Remember to dry these areas well.
  • Check your baby for rashes, sore areas or other problems at bath time. Sometimes a baby may have white spots or “pimples” on their nose or forehead. These are called milia and are normal. Do not pinch or squeeze them. They will go away as the baby grows.
  • Check the cord or navel area. If there is any drainage, redness or bad odor, call your baby’s doctor. The cord should be cleaned with soap and water. Be sure to dry the cord area well.

how do I give a sponge bath?

  • Start by cleaning your baby's face with a clean wet washcloth. Do not use soap on your baby's face.
  • Clean your baby's eyes using a wet washcloth and plain water. Wipe the eye gently, starting close to the nose and wipe across the eye. Use a clean area of the washcloth for each eye.
  • Clean the ears and nose using your finger, covered by a washcloth. Never use a Q-tip® swab.
  • Shampoo the head using a gentle baby shampoo. When you are done, hold your baby’s head over the water, supporting his or her back and head and rinse off all the soap. Be careful not to get soap and water in your baby’s eyes. Gently rub the head dry with a dry cloth.
  • Wash, rinse and dry the chest, arms and hands. Turn your baby over and wash his/her back.
  • Cover your baby with a towel to keep him/her warm.
  • Wash and dry the legs and feet.
  • Wash and dry the diaper area last.

how do I give a tub bath?

  • Clean the baby's diaper area well, before placing him or her in the water.
  • Place your baby in the water, lowering him or her slowly so you do not scare him or her. 
  • Do not use soap products on the face.
  • Wash, rinse and dry the chest, arms and hands. Turn your baby over and do the back.
  • Wash and dry legs and feet. Wash and dry the diaper area last.

how often should I bathe my baby?

Your baby only needs a bath two to three times a week, but you may bathe him/her more often when it is hot. A bath in hot weather can make your baby feel more comfortable. Be sure to give your baby plenty of time to become completely dry (especially hair) before you take him/ her outside in the colder weather.

circumcision and umbilical cord care

Immediately after circumcision, the tip of the penis is usually covered with gauze coated with petroleum jelly to keep the wound from sticking to the diaper. Gently wipe the tip clean with warm water after a diaper change, then apply petroleum jelly to the tip so it doesn’t stick to the diaper. Redness or irritation of the penis should heal within a few days, but if the redness or swelling increases or if pus-filled blisters form, infection may be present and you should call your baby’s doctor immediately.

Umbilical cord care in newborns is also important. It’s recommended to leave the area alone.

The infant’s belly button shouldn’t be submerged in water until the cord stump falls off and the area is healed. Until it falls off, the cord stump will change color from yellow to brown or black — this is normal. Talk to your doctor if the belly button becomes red or if a foul odor or discharge develops.

feeding and burping your baby

A newborn needs to be fed every 2-3 hours. If you're breastfeeding, give your baby the chance to nurse about 10-15 minutes at each breast. Your baby may let you know they are hungry by crying, putting fingers in his or her mouth, or making sucking noises.

If you’re formula feeding, you can easily check if your baby is getting enough to eat, but if you’re breastfeeding, it can be a little trickier. If your baby seems satisfied, has about six wet diapers and several poops a day, sleeps well, and is gaining weight regularly, then he is probably eating enough.

Another good way to tell if your baby is getting milk is to notice if your breasts feel full before feeding your baby and less full after feeding. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your child’s growth or feeding schedule.

burping your baby

Babies often swallow air during feedings, which can make them fussy. You can prevent this by burping your baby frequently.

If your baby tends to be gassy or seems fussy during feeding, try burping your little one every ounce during bottle feeding or every five minutes during breastfeeding.

The following are burping techniques:

  • Hold your baby upright with his or her head on your shoulder. Support your baby’s head and back while gently patting the back with your other hand.
  • Sit your baby on your lap. Support your baby’s chest and head with one hand by cradling your baby’s chin in the palm of your hand and resting the heel of your hand on your baby’s chest. Use the other hand to gently pat your baby’s back.
  • Lay your baby face-down on your lap. Support your baby’s head, making sure it’s higher than his or her chest, and gently pat or rub his or her back.
  • If your baby doesn’t burp after a few minutes, change the baby’s position and try burping for another few minutes before feeding again. Always burp your baby when feeding time is over.


A baby can choke on food, spit up or small foreign objects. The food, liquid or object may go down the windpipe instead of the esophagus, which leads to the stomach. A choking baby may cough or cry and may not be able to breathe if the windpipe is totally blocked. A baby may try to cry, but instead make odd noises or no sound at all. The baby’s skin may turn bright red or blue if the windpipe is totally blocked.

what should I do if my baby is choking?

If the baby looks like he is choking and is having trouble crying, coughing or breathing, the airway may be slightly blocked. If the child’s own cough does not relieve the situation or if the baby is not breathing, place the baby’s head (turned to the side) and chest downward on your outstretched arm. If your baby is choking, give a firm thrust with the heel of your hand between the baby’s shoulder blades. Repeat if your baby is still choking. This should clear anything that could be lodged in your baby’s throat. If your baby continues to choke or has trouble catching his breath, call 911 immediately

how can I lessen the chances of my baby choking?

  • Hold and feed your baby in an upright position. • After feeding, burp your baby well.
  • If your baby throws up a lot, ask your child’s doctor about sleep positions. The suggested sleep position is on the back.
  • Grind or cut food for infants and young children into small pieces.
  • Avoid round shaped foods such as popcorn, peanuts and hot dogs unless cut into small pieces.
  • Beware of buttons, coins, rocks, balloons or toys with small pieces.

sleeping basics

As a new parent, you may be surprised to learn that your newborn, who seems to need you every minute of the day, actually sleeps about 16 hours or more! Newborns typically sleep for periods of 2-4 hours. Don’t expect yours to sleep through the night — the digestive system of babies is so small that they need nourishment every few hours and should be awakened if they haven’t been fed for four hours (or more often if your doctor is concerned about weight gain).

when can I expect my baby to sleep through the night?

Many babies sleep through the night (between 6-8 hours) at 3 months of age, but if yours doesn’t, it’s not a cause for concern. Like adults, babies must develop their own sleep patterns and cycles, so if your newborn is gaining weight and appears healthy, don’t get upset if she hasn’t slept through the night at 3 months.

safe sleep tips for newborns

It’s important to place babies on their backs to sleep to lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, remove all fluffy bedding, quilts, sheepskins, stuffed animals and pillows from the crib to make sure that your baby doesn’t get tangled in them or suffocate. Also be sure to switch the position of your baby’s head from night to night (first right, then left and so on) to prevent the development of a flat spot on one side of the head.

back to sleep

ABC's of safe sleep: babies sleep best alone, on their back, in a crib.

One of the most important things for parents and caregivers to remember is to be responsible for their baby's sleep safety. There are ways to reduce the risk.

Everyone who cares for your baby know all of the sleep rules you follow in the normal care of your baby.

A - babies need to sleep alone

Some moms and dads sleep with their babies in an adult bed or they allow babies to sleep with other children or pets. This is not safe. The baby's mouth or nose can become covered, keeping the baby from breathing.

B - put babies to sleep on their backs

The safest position for babies to sleep is on their back. Put your baby in a one-piece sleeper or sleep sack without a blanket.

C - always put babies in a crib

A safe crib is the best place for your baby to sleep. It is not safe for a baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, chair, bean bag, waterbed, featherbed, futon or recliner. For the safest sleep, use a safety-approved crib (Consumer Product Safety Commission) with a firm, tight-fitting mattress. In order to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome or sleep-related death, a safe crib shouldn’t have the following: pillows, bumper pads, quilts, lamb skins, blankets, stuffed toys or drop-down side(s).

Give your new baby a safe and healthy start with these additional safe sleep tips from Dayton Children's and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Make an appointment and go to all well-child visits.
  • Place your baby to sleep in the same room where you sleep, but not the same bed.
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets and bumper pads.
  • Wedges and positioners should not be used.
  • Don't smoke while pregnant or after birth. Keep your baby away from smokers and places where people smoke.
  • Breastfeeding is advised.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid covering the infant's head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or devices marketed to lower the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should get all recommended shots.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is advised daily to help growth and lessen the chance of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).

how to dress your baby for sleep

Set the room temperature comfortable for a lightly dressed adult. The room should not be too hot. Dress the baby lightly for sleep using a sleep outfit (gown or sleeper).

Try not to let your baby get too hot. Your baby could be too hot if you see sweating, damp hair, red cheeks, heat rash or rapid breathing.

House temperature is best around 68-70°F in the winter. Do not overheat (too much clothing, heavy bedding or increase the thermostat too much), even if your baby has a cold or is sick.

tummy time

All babies should sleep on their back to lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related deaths. But during waking hours, tummy time is essential from day one. Babies who don’t spend time face-down often have some delays in their development of motor skills.

Below are tummy time tips for your baby. Remember, never leave your baby alone during tummy time.

keep your baby company

One mom-tested strategy is to distract your baby from the unfamiliar feeling of being face-down until he gets used to it.

The best thing you can do is join your baby on the floor. Encourage him, talk with him, shake his rattle, make funny faces, play peekaboo.

provide entertainment

Prop a board book open in front of your baby, or place a favorite toy within reach. Invest in a tummy-time toy or gym, designed especially for babies to play with while on their belly. Some have lights, mirrors, moving pictures, music and/or squeaky toys attached.

prop your baby up

Some parents find that giving their baby a new perspective — by propping her on a rolled towel or nursing pillow, for example — makes all the difference.

If your child has some neck strength and head control (by age 3 or 4 months), but can’t get up on their forearms, simply place the towel or pillow under his/her chest and armpits, with his/her arms in front of it. (If your baby tends to roll forward, keep your hand on his/her bottom.) When your baby can get up on his or her forearms independently, remove the pillow and let him/her work on their motor skills without it.

time it right

Make sure your baby isn't hungry or tired when you set him/her tummy-down. On the other hand, don't place him/her on a fully belly, which might be uncomfortable.

tune into your baby

Try to figure out if there's something about tummy time that your baby finds scary. Maybe his blanket is too scrunched under him for comfort. Maybe it's too cold on the floor.

when to call the doctor

when should I call my baby's doctor?

Sometimes it is hard to know when to call your baby's doctor. Most doctor's/nurse practitioner's offices have staff who can answer questions and make appointments for your baby as needed. Your doctor's/nurse practitioner's office may direct you to take your baby to urgent care or the emergency department to get care if needed.

call your baby's doctor/nurse practitioner if your baby:

  • Has a fever that does not go down with Tylenol® or Motrin® (based on your baby’s age and medicine recommendation). Check your baby’s temperature before you call the doctor. Write it down and tell your doctor how it was taken (example: by mouth, by bottom, under the arm, in the ear or on the forehead).
  • Has a rash, especially if there is also a fever.
  • Is less active or is fussy.
  • Will not eat.
  • Throwing up (not including gastroesophageal reflux) and diarrhea that lasts more than a few hours.
  • Has a cough or wheeze.
  • Has a runny nose or cold lasting longer than two weeks.
  • Has eye drainage.
  • Has watery, frequent poops or blood in stool.
  • Has pink or cloudy urine.
  • Has less than 6 to 8 wet diapers per day.
  • Looks or acts sick.

call your baby's doctor/nurse practitioner immediately if your baby:

  • Has a fever (fever > 100.5°F - infant 3 months or less)
  • Has blood in their urine
  • Has bloody diarrhea

what is a normal temperature?

Temperatures normally range from 97-100.5°F or 36.2-38°C. However, it's important to know that a "normal" temperature may be different for each child. Body temperatures change with activity, emotional stress, types of clothing worn and air temperature.

call your doctor if:

  • over 100.4°F (38°C.).
  • Your premature baby has a temperature over 100.4°F (38°C.) (even if he or she is older than 3 months).
  • Your baby has a temperature over 100.4°F (38°C.) and/or the following symptoms:
    • Crying or fussy
    • Not eating well
    • Floppy or listless (limp)
    • Difficult or trouble breathing
    • Coughing
    • Does not look good
  • Your baby has a temperature less than  97°F (36.1°C).
  • If your child feels hot and you can’t read a thermometer.
  • Your baby has a fever for more than three days.
  • There are seizures with the fever.
  • Your child has a long-term illness and has a temperature 2 degrees or more above his or her baseline (normal) for a certain length of time (follow your care provider’s instructions about temperature and when to be concerned).


buy a car seat

A safe car seat is one of the most important decisions you will make. Ohio's car seat law states that children under 4 years old and 40 pounds must ride in a car seat. Babies should be in a rear-facing car seat from birth until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. Therefore, you are required to have a car seat before you leave the hospital. Before you buy a car seat, make sure it's suitable for a smaller baby and avoid secondhand car seats because they could have been in a crash.

Ohio's child restraint law

children ages 0-4

Any child who weighs less than 40 pounds or is younger than 4 years old must be properly secured in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions in a car seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards.

children ages 4-8

Any child younger than 8 years old and less than 4 feet 9 inches in height must be properly secured in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions on a booster seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards.

your guide to Dayton Children's

our campus

where to park

For the convenience of families and visitors, parking is free. The garage in front of the hospital can be accessed from the main driveway off Valley Street. RTA bus tokens are available in the Altitude gift shop.

handicap parking

There are handicapped spaces in the lower level of the parking garage.

smoke-free campus

For heath and safety reasons, Dayton Children's is an entirely smoke-free campus. No one may smoke or use electronic cigarettes anywhere inside the building or outside in hospital property.


For your convenience, a pharmacy is available at our main and south campus. Our pediatric pharmacists have specialized training to help ensure the safe and effective use of medication in children, from infants to young adults. The main campus pharmacy is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is located on the first floor by the yellow elevators across from the fish tank.

For more information, visit our amenities page.

safety and security

security 937-641-3636

Dayton Children's goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of patients and families. Security cameras are located throughout the hospital and parking lots. Security officers are available 24 hours a day. All security staff wear identification badges. Upon request, security can escort you to your vehicle or provide a courtesy ride to the Ronald McDonald House. If you need security anytime night or day, call 937-641-3636, or stop by the security office located straight off the yellow elevators.

care signs

Outside each room is an electronic alert screen or a card. These screens or cards share patient-specific safety precautions, like isolation status. They help our team, family and visitors know what to wear to help prevent the spread of germs. Our alert screens could also show things like fall risk, patient napping, mother breastfeeding and happy birthday! Take a look at the screen or cards and tell any visitors to look at these before entering your child's room. 


Through Dayton Children’s MyKidsChart, you have a secure, online health connection to your child’s health information. You can review your child’s health history, immunization records, test results and more, all online. You can also request an appointment or a prescription refill and send a medical advice question. Visit to view or set up MyKidsChart. Ask your nurse or a member of your care team for more information and directions to sign up.