Baby in the NICU during the pandemic? There's an app for that

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DARIEN, Conn. (CBS) Hospitals around the country are limiting visitors, especially in neonatal intensive care units, to protect vulnerable newborns from the coronavirus. Now technology is helping families stay connected and giving them peace of mind during this time of uncertainty.

Anthony Drew Carothers Jr. is thriving in the NICU at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. A.J. was born 12 weeks early, right before the coronavirus pandemic.

His parents say it’s been a stressful time. Their biggest concern?

"Making sure that we don't take anything to the hospital, and the hospital has been great precautions-wise, but we still have that fear," mom Dorothy Washington said.

During the pandemic, the NICU is screening all visitors and limiting visits to parents only. Now, they've rolled out an app that allows parents to check on their babies when they can’t be there. The app, funded by the group Friends of Prentice, gives daily updates on vitals such as weight, breathing and medications. Parents can also share access to the app with their family members and post updates on their baby's progress.

"Being able to provide even just a little bit of control, and a little bit of sense of normalcy to parents, I think will boost their ability to deal with this uncertain time. And that's really what's behind this app," said Dr. Craig Garfield, an attending physician at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

The app also notifies parents about which nurses are taking care of their babies and provides educational materials about how to care for their NICU baby.

"We have evidence that shows that they are more prepared for the discharge home and that they also, the more that they use it, the shorter their length of stay," Garfield said.

"It's a great relief to have that app giving you those constant updates and even educating you about your NICU journey along the way," Washington said.

A.J.'s parents are ready for him to come home. Washington says he’s much stronger and bigger. He’s expected to be released next week.