A: There's no set amount of time babies will stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), as each baby faces his own medical challenges. Some full-term babies have trouble breathing at birth and are out in 24 hours, while very young preemies may stay for months. A long stay in the NICU doesn't necessarily mean a poor health outcome for your child. Still, waiting to take your baby home is difficult, particularly for parents who have a preemie who needs to be in the NICU for a long time, because it seems like nothing is happening. However, it's important to realize that your baby is growing like she would in the womb, and that takes time.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2006. Updated 2009