After the NICU: How to become an outpatient visit guru

  • Twins side-by-side in the NICU
    Drew and Emma, 2008

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Boston Children’s Hospital is unlike any other place. In the NICU, a team of top-notch providers cares for your child around-the-clock. Once home, you must quickly adapt to caring for your fragile baby on your own, which includes navigating the world of outpatient visits.

Our twins, Drew and Emma, were born nine weeks early. After a long stay at Boston Children’s NICU, my husband Jon and I began juggling multiple outpatient visits with Emma. Here are some tips and tricks we learned along the way.

Before your appointment

  • Try to make appointments around the times your child will be awake (not at naptime). The doctor will want your child awake during the visit.
  • Bring extra formula or milk, a change of clothes and diapers. You may need to bring more clothes and diapers than you think you do.
  • Bring a drink and snack for you, too!
  • You may have to undress your child before he or she is weighed. Dress your child in outfits that are easy to get in and out of.
  • If you’re sitting in a public area or waiting room, bring a blanket to cover your baby’s car seat for privacy.
  • Write down in a notebook or journal any recent events, episodes, or trends of note for your baby. Bring this journal with you to your appointment. Share your notes with your child’s health care provider.
  • It’s helpful if you can bring an extra person with you to tend to your child during the appointment. That way, you can listen closely to what your health care provider has to say without any distractions.

During your appointment

  • To avoid germs, your doctor’s office may allow you to “bypass” the waiting room. Ask a member of your health care team if this is possible.
  • When some people see babies, they like to reach out and touch them. Kindly ask strangers not to touch your baby.
  • During your outpatient visits, the health care team may ask you many questions about your child. Be patient, as they are just getting to know your child in order to provide the best care.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. You may be seeing a new health care provider and if you don’t tell them all the details about your baby, they may not know the whole picture.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse if they can write down the plan or goals for you, especially if you have your hands full holding your baby.

After your appointment

  • Make your next appointment and add it to your calendar before you leave the office.
    • If you’re unable to do this, ask the clinic to send you a reminder to schedule your child’s next appointment or to put a reminder in your personal calendar (such as in your cell phone).

I hope you find these tips helpful, and I wish you all the very best.

Family with twins juggles outpatient visits after a long stay in the NICU


About the blogger: Sarah Morris is the proud mother of 9-year-old twins, Drew and Emma. Emma has spent more than 400 nights at Boston Children’s Hospital. Sarah is a strong advocate for her children and dedicates her experience and insights to the Boston Children’s Family Advisory Council (FAC).