NICU Procedures and How They Help Your Baby
Premature or critically ill newborns do not have the ability to regulate body temperature. For this reason, your infant may be placed in either an incubator or under an overhead radiant warmer. These special beds keep your baby warm and allow for close observation. Most babies in incubators or under radiant warmers wear only diapers. Your infant will stay in the special bed until he/she is able to maintain his/her temperature in an open crib.
Blood tests are necessary to provide your baby’s physician with information about the levels of certain chemicals and components of your baby’s blood. These tests depend on your baby’s illness and condition. X-rays are usually taken as indicated by your baby’s type of illness and progress. The X-ray machine is constructed in such a way that the dose of radiation your baby receives is minimal.
One of the most common concerns parents have is how their baby will be fed. This will depend on his/her condition. Babies who are too sick or very small will not be fed by mouth. These babies receive their nutrition intravenously (IV). The common sites for IVs in infants are the scalp, arms, hands and feet. It may be necessary to shave some of your baby’s hair for an IV, but this will grow back. Because babies’ veins are fragile, the site of the IV may change frequently.
An umbilical catheter may be inserted when a baby is very ill or may need IV fluids for a long time. This is a small plastic tube placed in your baby’s umbilical cord. The catheter is used for providing nutrients and for drawing blood for various laboratory studies.
A PICC (pronounced “pick”) LINE may also be inserted if your baby needs IV fluids for a long length of time. This is a special IV line that is very stable and lasts longer that a typical IV.
When your baby is well enough, he/she will be given milk. At first he/she may be gavage-fed by passing a small tube (nasogastric/orogastric, or NG/OG tube) through the mouth or the nose into the stomach. Breast milk or formula is fed slowly through this tube. If you had planned to breastfeed, we encourage you to still do so, and use your breast milk for the feedings. Nurses who have had special training in helping mothers breastfeed (lactation consultants) are available to help you and answer any breastfeeding questions. Please let us know early if you plan to breastfeed your baby so we can help you arrange to collect your breastmilk. We encourage you to come in as often as possible to feed your baby when he/she begins to bottle or breastfeed. Your baby’s nurses will be able to tell you his/her feeding schedule. When babies begin to bottle/breastfeed, it is important to remember that feedings are a developmental milestone, just like walking or talking; there is nothing you can do to push them to do it faster than they are capable of doing. Feedings are a challenging task for most ill or preterm infants. Your baby’s nurse will be happy to show you ways you can assist your baby in recognizing and responding to cues that tell you when your baby is ready to eat or needs a break.
Upon admission and on the evening or night shift, your baby will be weighed. The nurse taking care of your baby can update you about your baby’s weight.
I & O (Intake and Output)
I & O is the total amount of fluid taken in, then lost as urine and stool. I & O is usually tracked and measured for the first part of your baby’s hospitalization, while they have an IV.
Some babies who do not breath effectively on their own need to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. Intubation is the insertion of a tube (Endotracheal Tube – ETT) through the mouth into the trachea (windpipe). The tube is hooked up to the ventilator (machine) that helps the baby breathe.
Occasionally babies need to receive blood or blood products. These are given through the baby’s vein and are called a transfusion. Please ask your baby’s caregiver how you or another family member can donate blood for your baby.