NICU nurse baptizing infants?


I have a question about baptizing infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit.
I work at a Catholic hospital where we have a policy in place about baptizing infants. I know that generally it should be the parents’ choice to baptize their babies, and that they should be practicing Catholics and promise to raise them in the faith.
But what about the little ones that we know we are sending home to an environment that we don’t expect them to thrive? For example…with a mother whose breastmilk tested positive for illicit drugs, and who has had all of her other children removed from her custody? Does that constitute an emergency? Is it OK to do it in secret?
Or should we just follow policies, pray for those babies, and send them on their way unbaptized?
It just breaks my heart, especially to think of something happening to them once they get home and me not baptizing them if I have an opportunity. :frowning:


Wow-what a tough position to be in…I would pray on it and talk to your priest, but I know it goes against rules in the church…I wonder if a blessing is ok, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy SPirit.


I know a former paramedic who baptized little kids that weren’t baptized on the way to the hospital in the ambulance.


If they’re going to die unbaptized… is that really in the catechism?


In an emergency, any layperson may baptize. They still have to use water and the Trinitarian formula, but any Catholic who is educated enough to know that they can baptize in an emergency understands that already.

I don’t know if the situations the OP describe count as emergencies… but with the number of babies killed either directly or by neglect when they go home with drug-addled parents… I might consider those emergencies. :frowning: How heartbreaking!


Yeah, there are certain situations that I know would clearly constitute an emergency.

But when babies are well enough to go home, they are not generally in danger of death.

Unless maybe baby weighs 4.6 pounds, will need an apnea monitor and a daily dose of medicine to stimulate him to breathe, and is being sent home with a mother who has proven to not take care of her other children…

I’ll talk to my priest about it. Or maybe the priest who is our hospital chaplain.
This has just been bothering me for several days. :frowning:


Here comes the “militant” in me.
I would baptize, if possible - whether or not they were in danger of death. To my knowledge, Mother Theresa didn’t baptize dying Hindus but gave those she ministered to peaceful passing by including water from the Ganges (perhaps, their religious custom). But our religion dictates more to save a soul. (I’m hoping she quietly won alot of souls over without their knowledge.)

To my mind, whether or not a baby was in danger of dying - sending them home to a household where they stood the chance of never being baptized - better safe than sorry, whether they knew it or not. I know I’m going to get alot of argument on this one,:frowning: and if Church teachings say otherwise, I can hear the keyboards clicking madly alread!) - but Our Lord’s words were “unless a man be baptized of water and the spirit” — a soul’s a soul - saved, please God. And I suppose anyone in that position would probably then be disciplined, if not lose their jobs, if caught baptizing.

I DO know of several cases of grandparents concerned that their grandchildren weren’t being baptized. In one case, the grandparent did it themself. In another case, the grandparent kept insisting to their children…but told the Baptism wouldn’t be valid/recognized if done secretly…Anyone?


I really had every intention of baptizing this baby anyway, feeling that God would know my heart was in the right place. I was thinking of it when feeding him, eyeing the sink and thinking that regular water could be used in an emergency. (He was going to room in with his mother the next day, and then be discharged after that.)
But my other baby needed so much attention, I had to put him down to run into the next room so often…I got so busy…the opportunity slipped past me… :frowning:


I suppose I was very fortunate. When my daughter was born by emergency C-section and immediately put in NICU, I was asked by the Doctor if I wanted her baptized, because if I did want her to be baptized, I had better make it quick…

My husband and I had her baptized two days after her birth. THe doctors didnt expect her to make it through that night, but the I guess God heard our prayers…
THey allowed both sets of Grandparents in the ICU as well as my husband and I for her baptism.

THe Doctor even asked at one point if my husband and I wanted her taken off life support as she suffered so much brain damage, that she would most likely be a vegetable in a wheel chair if she made it. We said, no lets see what God has planned.

Why I say this…is we never really know what constitutes an emergency, but I think that it makes sense that the parents be asked if there is a chance the child may not make it home from the hospital. I personally am glad the Doctor asked me, and I am glad I put things in GOd’s hands too as the Doctors are only human and do make mistakes. My daughter survived and you cannot even tell she suffered a bilateral stroke. She only has a learning disability and a slight tremor when she is tired (in her right hand)

As a parent, if I was around to be asked…I would want to be asked before my child was baptized. I would most likely to it myself if no chaplain, minister or priest was nearby.

ps. I am glad I am in the process of returning to the faith of my baptism…
I never had the opportunity to be raised as a Catholic or even in any religion, and I am now 42. TO all you who were born and raised Catholic, may you all know how fortunate you are

God BLess


Re the italicized portion of your reply - THANK YOU, and ABSOLUTELY it’s the obligation of medical personnel to advise family as to the seriousness of situations - just for the reason you described ! I was in similar position with family member and instructed otherwise by family, one aide, etc. In a serious dilemma, I made the decision based on what the Church dictated - and, thank God, - it was an excellent decision. There are no absolutes - except those question marks. In the end, only God has the answer, and we must beg Him that our actions follow His Holy Will, despite the gift of free will.

God bless you and your family.


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