When your little one arrives earlier than expected and needs to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it can feel a bit scary. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here’s a simple guide to help you navigate this journey.
What is a Premature Birth?
Sometimes, babies decide to come out and see the world a bit early. This happens in about 11 to 13 percent of pregnancies. If your baby is born after twenty-eight weeks of pregnancy, and weighs more than 1 kg, they have almost a full chance of survival. Babies born before twenty-eight weeks need a bit more care and support in a NICU.
Your Little One’s First Look
Your tiny tot might weigh 2.5 kg or even less. They may have fine hair, called lanugo, on their back and shoulders. Because they’re so small and don’t have protective fat yet, your baby will get cold in normal room temperatures. That’s why they’ll be placed immediately after birth in a warm little bed called an incubator.
Visiting Your Baby
You can visit and spend time with your baby in the NICU. Other family members might be able to visit too, but only during set hours and only a few at a time. Remember, everyone must wash their hands before they enter.
All Those Beeping Machines
The NICU can look like a scene from a sci-fi movie with all its machines and equipment. But each one is there to help your baby get well. Here are some you might see:
- Infant warmers: Small beds with heaters over them to help babies stay warm while being monitored.
- Incubators: Small beds enclosed by clear, hard plastic. The temperature inside is controlled to keep your baby comfortable.
- Phototherapy: A special light that treats jaundice, which can make your baby’s skin and eyes look yellow.
- Monitors: These let nurses and doctors keep track of your baby’s vital signs from any place in the NICU.
Tips for You
Here are some tips for you during this journey:
- Jot it down: Write down everything you’re told by medical staff. It’s easy to forget when you’re overwhelmed.
- Ask away: Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your baby’s care.
- Patience is key: The length of stay depends on their health condition.
- Self-care matters: Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby.
- Be involved: Participate in your baby’s care as much as possible.
- Accept help: Don’t hesitate to accept help from others.
- Capture moments: Take lots of photos of these precious moments with your baby.
Remember, every baby is unique and so is every NICU journey. It’s important to stay positive and hopeful during this challenging time.