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Premature Infant - Getting to Know the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

If your premature infant (preemie) is admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth, you will find out about new technologies, new medical words, and new rules and procedures.

You will depend on the NICU staff members, including neonatologists and nurses, to know how to care for your infant and to be your teachers. With their help, you can quickly learn about your infant's needs and what you can do for your infant. Throughout your infant's stay in the NICU, you will want to keep open communication with the staff.

NICU technology

First you'll learn to scrub up before visiting your infant's bedside. When you're there, you may be surprised by the number of machines and instruments surrounding your child. Remember that because of these machines your premature infant has a much greater chance of doing well than ever before.

At a minimum, your infant will be warmed and watched over with equipment that includes:

If your infant has additional medical needs, other tests and equipment also may be used, including:

Your role in your infant's care

At first sight, you may question whether and even how to touch your tiny infant. Unless your newborn is very sick or immature, you will be allowed to touch and possibly hold him or her. But your infant's nurse or doctor will first need to show you how to work around the technology and to alert you to your infant's special needs. When visiting with your premature newborn, remember that:

  • A premature infant has limited energy for recovering and growing. Try not to wake your infant from sleep.
  • A premature newborn's brain isn't quite ready for the world. Be alert to signs that your infant is being overstimulated, such as a change in heart rate or a need to turn away from you. This can be triggered by your gaze, voice, or touch, or by sound and light in the room.
  • A stable, more mature preemie will thrive on periods of cuddling (kangaroo care), infant massage, and calming music.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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