It is an important day when a premature baby is transferred from the NICU to the intermediate care unit. This means your baby's medical problems are largely resolved and she can concentrate on gaining weight and learning better feeding skills.

When they leave the NICU, most babies are being fed breast milk or formula through a tube into the stomach. When the baby weighs 1,800 to 1,900 grams (between 4 pounds and 4 pounds, 3 ounces) and is able to suck and swallow, the staff switches to another way of feeding called intermittent nipple feedings. During these feedings, the baby gets milk or formula from a nipple attached to a bottle.

At first, the staff attempts nipple feedings once every 24 hours. You can also begin to put your baby to breast at this time. If this is tolerated, the baby is nipple-fed every third feeding and then every other feeding. Eventually, the baby is able to take all of her milk or formula through a nipple. The volume is gradually increased until she is getting approximately 1.5 ounces about every three hours. Even a baby who is breast-feeding well often needs to receive some feeds of nutrient-enriched milk from a bottle several times a day.

As increased amounts of food are tolerated, the baby will be weaned from the isolette and placed in a crib. When the baby can maintain a stable body temperature outside the isolette, consistently eat well, and remain free of respiratory disease and other medical problems, it's time to go home.