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What kind of care will my baby receive in the NICU?

Once your baby arrives in the NICU, he will receive individualized care tailored to his specific needs. Many premature and sick babies cannot be given anything by mouth and must be fed intravenously or via a feeding tube that runs through the mouth and into the stomach. The IV solution contains the calories, vitamins and minerals your baby needs to grow and thrive.

Medications are another crucial part of NICU care. Your infant may need several medications such as antibiotics, medicine to stimulate breathing or drugs to help blood pressure or heart rate.

Your baby will be monitored very closely 24 hours a day. To ensure your baby is responding to care and making progress, your doctors will order various tests, which may include periodic blood and urine tests, X-rays and ultrasounds. For infants whose care is more complex, your doctor or nurse may place a line into an artery or vein so they can draw blood without having to repeatedly stick the baby. Despite the intense care your baby will be receiving, the goal of our NICU staff is to make yours and your baby's stay in the NICU as comforting and positive as possible.

The use of high-tech equipment will likely play a major role in helping our staff monitor and care for your baby. Your baby will be connected to a variety of equipment that will help our staff keep a close watch on your baby's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing and body temperature.

Other specialized equipment that you may see in the NICU include some of the following:

Warmer:  Babies are first placed in open beds with a heating lamp above them, which provides warmth. Later, most babies are moved to isolettes or incubators.

Isolette:  An enclosed incubator that provides warmth and humidity. Portholes on the sides allow nursery staff and parents to provide care to your baby without removing your baby from the incubator.

Sensor for Temperature Control:  A small wire covered with a shiny sticker is stuck to the baby's skin and measures the baby's temperature. This wire tells the baby's bed to warm or cool to keep the baby at the right temperature. The wire will alarm if the baby's temperature moves out of normal range.

Heart Monitor:  A machine that measures and records your baby's heart rate and respiratory rate. The baby's blood pressure and oxygen level also can be measured on the same machine.

Pulse Oximeter:  This device measures the amount of oxygen in your baby's blood by shining a special light against the skin.

Ventilator:  This machine helps the baby breathe.

Endotracheal (ET) Tube:  A soft, plastic tube placed into the wind-pipe through which the ventilator helps your baby breathe.

Oxyhood:  A clear plastic box placed around your baby's head to give oxygen.

Phototherapy Lights:  Special lights called "bili-lights" that treat jaundice. The baby's clothes are removed to allow more skin exposure. Special patches are placed over your baby's eyes to protect them.

Umbilical Catheters:  Soft, thin plastic tubes placed in blood vessels of the umbilical cord. They can be used to give fluids and medicines, measure blood pressure and draw blood. They do not cause any discomfort. Other names you may hear the staff use for this are UAC or UVC.

Intravenous (IV) Catheter:  A soft, thin plastic tube in an arm, leg or scalp vein through which medicines and fluids are given.

Percutaneous Inserted Central Catheter (PICC line):  Some babies may need a different type of IV called a PICC line. This IV is inserted by a nurse practitioner. You will be asked to sign a consent form if this is needed for your baby.

IV Infusion Pumps:  Various kinds of electronic pumps are used to deliver fluids and medications to your baby at the correct speed.

Feeding Tube:  A small, soft plastic tube that is passed through the nose or mouth into the stomach and taped in place. Feedings and medicines are given through this tube until your baby is able to take feedings by mouth. You may hear the staff call this tube an NG or OG.

Outside Equipment:  Any electrical appliances you want to use at the bedside need to be discussed with your nurse when brought into the hospital. They will be checked by our Bio-Medical Department to ensure they meet electrical safety standards for use in the hospital.

© Children's Hospital & Medical Center | In Affiliation with University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine