NICU: A Place for Sick Babies
One of the biggest fears of all expectant parents is there baby being born and ending up having to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. It can be very hard for parents to deal with the fact that their newborn has ended up in the NICU, when they had been preparing to have the baby and bring him home with them, problem free.
So what is the NICU and why would your baby have to go there? The NICU is a specialized nursery with specialized nurses that is put in place to help babies who are born with problems. The most common reason for a baby to be placed in the NICU is because they are born premature, or too early to survive out of the womb on their own. It has special equipment designed to quickly stabilize your baby and help him get healthy enough for you to take home, as soon as possible.
Reasons your baby may go to the NICU vary, but can include:
- Being born prematurely
- Difficulties occur during birth
- Problems arise within the few days immediately following birth
Only the youngest of babies are treated in the NICU, normally babies who have not yet been sent home from the hospital. If you are sent home with a healthy baby and he later has to be hospitalized in intensive care, he will generally go to the pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU.
Babies who are sent to the NICU are normally given more hands on care by the nurses, and rarely is the nurse taking care of more than 2 babies at a time. However, not only does your baby have his nurse taking care of him, there is also the nurse in charge of the shift to help, as well as other additional doctors and nurses who specialize in different areas of neonatal care. These may include:
- Medical residents and students
- Respiratory specialists
- Physical Therapists
- Other specialists
- Hospital Chaplain
- Social Worker
Depending on the problems your baby is experiencing you may meet all or just a few of the above hospital staff during your baby’s stay in the hospital.
Be sure to write down all your questions if you are not at the hospital when you think of them to ask immediately. You will have many questions arise regarding the health and care of your baby including, “What is wrong with my baby? How long will my baby be here? Is my baby ok?” You will have new questions and concerns coming up daily that you will want to get answers too as soon as possible. Remember, besides taking care of your baby, the nurse is there to answer your questions and reassure you.
The NICU is likely to seem very much like another planet when you walk in. There may be several babies in the NICU at once. It will probably be very quiet in there as parents sit with their babies and talk to them, and the nurse’s move around quietly taking care of babies. At times it may be very bright in the room, although often it will be darker while the babies sleep. Even though there are parents with their babies and nurses moving around, it will seem silent as the many machines around you are beeping.
If your baby is going to be in the NICU for a while, it is important that you find ways early on to make it manageable for you. Explore the hospital, the cafeteria, the surrounding restaurants and hotels so that you know quickly and easily where you can stay if needed and where you can eat. Find a quiet place in the hospital where you can lay down to rest during the day if necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try to remain positive for your baby, and keep yourself rested so that you can properly care for your baby when you bring him home.
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