What is a Newborn Ward?At the neonatal ward, there is the best possible medical care for every baby around the clock. There you are prepared to treat babies with health problems or premature babies according to their needs.
There are usually different levels of treatment options. Depending on how your baby is doing, there are: (Bliss 2011)
- The neonatal intensive care unit for critically ill babies.
- A special area equipped with incubators for premature babies.
- The normal neonatal ward. Here are both healthy babies and those who have minor health problems or adjustment difficulties, treated.
At the normal neonatal ward, you can look after your baby yourself, but have the experts close by. And if you or your baby need help, you can get it too.
Each hospital with a maternity ward also has a neonatal unit, but it is not always attached to a neonatal intensive care unit. So, if your baby needs special help, it may be necessary to take her to another hospital, possibly far from your home. This could also happen if there is no bed in the neonatal intensive care unit at your hospital.
What could be the reasons my baby needs ICU?Preterm babies need extra support to help them grow well and develop to catch up with what they could not do in the womb. For example, preemies do not manage to regulate their body temperature, which is why they need to be kept warm (Ramachandrappa 2009). There are incubators for that.
If your baby is very small, weak or too immature to be fed, it may need to be artificially nourished. Or it gets milk directly into his little stomach. (Bliss 2010b).
Premature babies must also be carefully monitored, need special treatment and care. They are very vulnerable and can have many serious health problems. Some of the problems that premature babies may have are (NLM 2010):
- Respiratory Problems
- Cerebral Hemorrhages
- Heart Problems
- Eye Problems
In the ICU, caregivers and doctors pay close attention to whether your child is showing the symptoms of any of these problems. They intervene immediately when your baby needs help.
Who will take care of my baby there?An experienced team of different professionals works in the infant intensive care unit. You could find them there (Bliss 2011):
- Pediatric nurses who are specially trained to care for babies with special needs.
- The ward nurse
- Paediatricians and neonatologists specially trained to treat premature babies
- other medical specialists, such as surgeons
- Ophthalmologists and ENT doctors
- Physiotherapists supporting your baby in its development
- Radiologists and radiographers
Social workers who can also help you when you're home with your baby
Last but not least, of course you're there, the parents. You know your child best and you are the most important people to give your child security and love. Doctors and nurses know this and will treat you as part of the team. They will encourage you to take an active role in caring for your baby as much as possible.
These experts will also try to assist you as parents and the older siblings.
Most hospitals are accessible 24 hours a day and you can visit your child 24 hours a day. But there are also hospitals where this is possible only at certain times of the day.
If you are not in the hospital, you can call there anytime to check on your baby. Of course you can always ask if you are worried about something.
Why are all these machines and hoses needed?It is certainly not easy for you to see your child in this incubator surrounded by tubes and connected to machines. Maybe you feel that you can not get close to your baby. But be sure your baby, the more it develops, the fewer machines it will need, and then you can keep and care for it.
Some of these machines emit signals, which can be disturbing. Ask the nurse what these sounds mean and if you need to worry.
Here are some pieces of equipment in this section: (Bliss 2011, March of Dimes 2011)
An incubator is a special baby bed that keeps your baby warm and sometimes humidity to measure around your baby. All incubators have lids, some are also equipped with heat lamps.
There are several monitors that help the team care for their baby.
Monitors that monitor your baby's vital signs, including heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, and temperature. Self-adhesive pads are applied to your baby's chest, where the cables are attached. This information collected there will be forwarded to the monitor, which can then alert you to abnormalities.You may hear these alarm signals from the monitor more often.
Blood Saturation Monitors measure how much oxygen is in your baby's blood. It may be that pads are attached to the hands or feet of your baby to convey the information.
A ventilator or respirator can help your baby's lungs breathe. Your baby may need this help if it is born very early or is very weak. The doctor will carefully push a tube into the trachea of your child. Through this tube, your child gets a mixture of oxygen and air that goes in and out of the lungs - thus simulating normal breathing.
A CPAP device (the letters stand for continuous positive airway pressure) is also an apparatus that can help your child breathe. The CPAP gently inflates your baby's lungs, helping to keep them open. Air is blown through a mask or a nasal cannula into the nose of your baby, so it has no tube in the trachea.
If your baby only needs oxygen, it can get it through an access at the head of the incubator or it gets oxygen through a mask or nasal cannula.
It's possible that the ICU team will put a Braunule on your baby's body, meaning a permanent access to his vein to provide him with all the necessary infusions, medicines and food. It may also be necessary to place a Braunüle in an artery to regularly measure blood pressure, oxygen content and carbon dioxide level.
An infusion pump is a machine that monitors whether your baby is getting the right amount of medication and infusions at the right time.
A nasogastric tube ensures that your baby gets its milk straight into the stomach when it's still unable to drink from your chest or out of a bottle. Your child gets a soft, flexible tube through the mouth or nose directly into his stomach.
Light Therapy helps your baby recover from jaundice. Jaundice is very common in newborns. Your skin then appears yellowish, because in your blood too much of the substance called bilirubin (bile pigment) is included.
Light therapy helps your baby metabolize bilirubin faster. It then lies under these lamps and wears a mask to protect the eyes.
Can I visit my baby in the ICU?Usually, parents are allowed to be with their babies day and night. The siblings may also visit the family access. Other relatives and friends may come, but not too many at once.
But of course, it's not a good idea for someone with a cold or other infection to visit the baby.It is best to ask the staff for the visit rules.
How can I support my baby while in ICU?A premature baby needs the same loving support from his parents as all the other babies too. Your touch, your voice and your presence are important. There's a lot you can do to help your child - here are some of them:
Once your baby is strong enough, the kangaroo posture is a great help in its development. Keep your baby directly on your bare skin under your clothes. This has a calming effect and is good for your health and development.
Studies have shown kangaroo stance reduces infection, facilitates breastfeeding and promotes the bonding process (Conde-Agudelo 2011, Lawn 2010). The staff on the ward can show you how to do it when your baby is ready.
Feeding Your Baby
When your baby is feeling better, you can feed or breastfeed. If you want to breastfeed, ask the sisters for help - they will do anything to make it work.
They also help pump out milk if your child is not strong enough to drink at the beginning. The pumped milk is stored and fed to your baby as needed (Bliss 2010b).
Breastmilk helps your baby's brain development and strengthens its defenses (Quigley 2011, Vohr 2007, Boyd 2007, Renfrew 2009). Breastfed babies are also more likely to be discharged from hospital than other babies (Altman 2009).
It can be challenging to breastfeed a premature baby for a variety of reasons. You may also feel stressed and worried about your baby. So get any help and support you can get!
It may take some time, but as your baby grows stronger, you can soon do things that are natural for parents, such as wrapping and bathing. In addition to body contact, it is also very important that you talk to your child and sing to him.
Speak for Your Child
Like all parents, you will work for your child. If you feel that something is wrong with your child, or a treatment is not good for your child, trust your instincts and talk to the nursing staff. Do not be afraid to ask questions and talk about your worries.
One of the most important things you and your partner can do is not to lose sight of your well-being. Try to get some sleep, eat regularly and well, and occasionally take a break.
It's tedious to have a baby in the ICU, especially if you already have older children and / or need to recover from a difficult birth.It is normal for you to think of your child first of all. But if you're done with your powers, that's not good for your child either.
When can I get my child home?
That's hard to say because all babies are different. It depends on how well your child is developing. The smaller a baby after birth and the sooner it is born, the sooner it will have problems and stay longer in the intensive care unit. Otherwise, the rule is that a well-developing premature baby can go home at the latest when it reaches its actual delivery date. If your baby is developing rapidly, maybe sooner. If the parents are coping well, babies weighing between 2100 and 2500 g can be discharged.
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Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition . 94: F414-F418 Bliss. 2010a. The chance of a lifetime? Bliss baby report 2010.
Bliss. 2010b. Breastfeeding your premature baby.
Bliss. 2011a. Bliss family handbook.
Boyd CA, Quigley MA, Brocklehurst P. 2007. Donor breastmilk versus infant formula for preterm infants: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition . 92: F169-F175 Conde-Agudelo A, Belizan JM, Diaz-Rossello J. 2011. Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low birthweight infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3): CD002771.
Lawn JE, Mwansa-Kambafwile J, Horta BL et al. 2010. 'Kangaroo mother care' to prevent neonatal deaths due to preterm birth complications. International Journal of Epidemiology. 39 (1): i144-i154
March of Dimes. 2009. In the NICU.
National Library of Medicine (NLM). 2010. MedLine Plus: Premature baby.
Quigley MA, Hockley C, Carson C et al. 2011. Breastfeeding is associated with improved child cognitive development: A population-based cohort study.
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Pediatric Clinics of North America . 56: 575-577 Renfrew MJ, Craig D, Dyson L et al. 2009. Breastfeeding promotion for infants in neonatal units: a systematic review and economic analysis.
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Pediatrics . 124 (4): e953-e959 Show Sources Hide Sources