N/IICU Physical Therapy

While in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU) your baby may receive physical therapy from a pediatric physical therapist (PT).

Pediatric physical therapists who work in the N/IICU have been specially trained to work with critically ill newborns and babies, as well as their families. PTs have a thorough understanding of preterm and infant development and behavior. They use this — along with skilled observations — to guide their care of medically fragile babies. PTs also work with families to help them understand their baby’s behaviors.

Medically fragile babies show their response to touch or movement by changing their breathing and heart rates and their oxygen levels. For these babies, the N/IICU environment and routine nursing care can be very challenging. PTs may work with N/IICU staff to tailor the N/IICU environment and the baby's nursing care to the comfort of the baby.

The pediatric physical therapist will:

  • Observe your baby closely, watch breathing, skin coloring and movements to understand what your baby finds stressful
  • Position and handle your baby in ways that support his or her movements, sleeping, waking and self-soothing abilities
  • Work with parents and N/IICU staff to promote comfort and good positioning of babies
  • Track your baby’s development
  • Help your baby’s development by:
           • Improving motor skills by bringing his hand to his mouth, tucking his
              arms and legs to his body, holding his head up, and reaching
           • Working on sensory responses and cognitive skills, such as following with his eyes 
              and turning towards a sound
           • Practicing skills such as calming by sucking on a pacifier

Helping you support your baby

When your baby is ready, PTs will work with you to support your baby’s development. They will:

  • Help you feel safe and more comfortable holding and interacting with your baby
  • Teach you about your baby’s behavior and the signals your baby uses to demonstrate he is ready to interact
  • Teach you ways to bond with your baby. Bonding with your baby helps your baby’s development and growth
  • Teach you about the development of your baby’s motor and sensory responses (feeling, seeing, and hearing)
  • Assist you with your baby’s transition to home by helping you obtain services within the community to support your baby’s development