Physical Therapy for Children in the NICU/CCU

Lurie Children’s provides specialized therapy care for babies recently discharged from Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit (CCU). The therapy program depends on the nature of the baby’s condition and can include physical, occupational and speech therapy.

The program treats NICU babies who were born prematurely and/or have various conditions that require pediatric surgery, have different neurological problems or different syndromes. It also treats babies who were discharged from CCU after surgery for various heart conditions.

For the NICU babies, there are a number of goals we set based on their individual condition. Some babies could have specific goals related to their decreased strength or range of motion. There are main goals the therapists set, such as working with the parents on helping the baby get into a more alert, calm and quiet state. We work on various positioning techniques to help the baby gain some midline control, bring hands to the middle and keep their head in the middle. Other goals include:

  • Kicking movements and lifting arms up to the surface
  • Making sure they have correct sitting posture
  • Teaching the parents specific techniques on how to move the baby
  • Showing the parents how to encourage the baby to put their weight on their feet and do supported standing

The goals for the CCU babies are similar, however there are positional precautions for babies who have had cardiac surgery for six to eight weeks after the procedure. Initially we teach the parents about the precautions and what the baby can do during the six to eight weeks of healing time. After the precautions are lifted, we educate parents on how to get their baby to enjoy being on their tummy and also gain symmetry.

Why Choose Lurie Children's?

The physical therapists and occupational therapists who work with our NICU/CCU babies have extensive experience and training. The therapy team learns very specific methods of treatment related to these more complex conditions. 

Usually a baby will begin therapy while inpatient and will often see the same therapist for a few of the first outpatient visits. As the baby and family become ready, a transition to an outpatient therapist occurs. This continuity means there isn’t a disruption in the baby’s and family’s goals and may help to relieve the family’s stress.

What to Expect

Our goal is to ensure the best possible transition from inpatient to home. Our multidisciplinary team, including therapists, meets weekly to discuss the baby’s discharge needs and the best manner in which to meet them.

Our therapy team works closely with family members and caregivers. We provide education materials on topics such as tummy time, development, early intervention and equipment use. At discharge, our therapists review goals, provide a home program and discuss future therapy recommendations, including a date for the first outpatient visit, if applicable.


Initial appointments are made when the baby is discharged. Subsequent appointments are scheduled directly with the therapist.