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NICU: Your Baby's Care

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides care for newborns with a wide range of medical problems and general surgical problems.

Upon arrival at the unit, your baby will be placed in a special open bed called a radiant warmer, which has overhead heaters that keep your baby warm. Several white pads will be placed on your baby’s skin, which instantly transmit vital information to monitors to watch over your baby’s heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing rate. To help monitor your baby’s oxygen needs, an oxygen saturation sensor may be placed on your baby. If your baby requires breathing assistance, a mechanical ventilator may be used. If your baby becomes jaundiced, as many special-care infants do, your baby will be placed under phototherapy lights to reduce the jaundice.

Although the sites and sounds in the unit may at first be strange and confusing, you will soon become comfortable with the surroundings. We encourage you to ask questions concerning your baby’s care and participate in providing some of this care. Working together, we can get you and your newborn home as soon as possible.

When first admitted to the unit, many babies cannot yet take fluids by mouth, so liquids are given through a small, clear catheter placed into an artery in the umbilicus (navel) or through a tiny catheter attached to a clear tube and inserted into a vein in the scalp, hand or foot. If your baby is too young to suck, nourishment will be given directly into the stomach by a tube inserted into the mouth or nose in a process called gavage.

As your baby’s condition improves, he or she may be moved to another section of the NICU.

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