Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP)

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Target Population: 
Families, Children, Parents
Medical setting
Early Intervention, Parenting, School Readiness, Sleep, Social Competency
Target Audience 

This program is delivered to premature infants, their parents, and other family members and is intended to impact premature infants.


The Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP), a comprehensive, family-centered intervention, is designed to reduce the possible negative impact of the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) (e.g., bright lights, frequent interruptions of sleep) and to provide a NICU environment and care system that supports early brain development.  The program's long-term goal is to improve preterm-born children's development.


Many studies have been conducted evaluating NIDCAP, including multiple randomized trials.  Three of these trials demonstrated better brain development (i.e., structure and function) on some but not all outcome measures for children who are 8 to 9 years old.  For example, NIDCAP youth performed better than youth who had not experienced NIDCAP on some measures of executive function and visual and spatial abilities.  For secondary outcomes reported on the program's website, namely reduced days in NICU and improved weight gain, outcomes are mixed; some studies show positive effects on these outcomes, and others show no significant difference between NIDCAP and non-NIDCAP infants.


NIDCAP, which is implemented by certified NIDCAP professionals, intends to adapt the NICU experience to meet the unique needs of each newborn.  The intervention begins when the infant is admitted to the NICU and includes the following:

  • Present suggestions generated from neurobehavioral observations and reports to parents and staff regarding how to support the infant's development;
  • Time medical procedures based on the infant's sleep-wake cycle and provide relaxation periods;
  • Support and guide caregivers in understanding the infant's stress and comfort signs and in adapting care in response to those signs;
  • Encourage parents to hold their infant as much as possible and cradle the infant during stressful and difficult procedures; and
  • Offer supportive accessories, such as terry cloth buntings, hammocks, pillows, and special pacifiers.
Previous Use 

NIDCAP was developed in 1984 in the United States.  Currently, there are NIDCAP training centers in the United States, Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.


Preparation to implement NIDCAP occurs at the nursery-wide level, and sites are encouraged to develop a 5-year plan.  Training for individuals typically lasts 12 months and includes readings, an initial 3-day session, practice observations, and work sessions with trainers.  For more information, please contact the training center closest to you


Considerations for implementing NIDCAP include obtaining funding for program costs (i.e., nursery certification), allocating time for training, and recognizing that this is a comprehensive intervention that requires long-term commitment and may involve significant changes to NICU operations.

The Clearinghouse can help address these considerations. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


If you are interested in implementing NIDCAP, the Clearinghouse is interested in helping you!
Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


Implementation time will vary as NIDCAP provides daily support to infants and their families while infants are in the NICU.


Nursery certification is $29,220.  For more information, please visit

Evaluation Plan 

To move NIDCAP to the Effective category on the Clearinghouse Continuum of Evidence, the studies that found positive effects for brain development beyond the 2-year follow-up point need to be replicated by an independent research team.

The Clearinghouse can help you develop an evaluation plan to ensure the program components are meeting your goals.  Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


Contact the Clearinghouse with any questions regarding this program.
Phone: 1-877-382-9185 Email:

You may also contact the National NIDCAP Training Center by email, phone 617-355-8249, mail Sandra M. Kosta, Enders Pediatric Research Laboratories, Room EN107, Children’s Hospital Boston, 320 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, or visit


McAnulty et al. (2010) and

*Resources and associated costs reflect those identified at the time of fact sheet publication.