Johni Beth Teague, BSN, RN, NICU Nurse Manager
When you write your birth plan, it likely doesn’t include your baby going to the NICU. The NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, is a facility within Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock that contains equipment specifically designed for newborns that need a little extra attention, as well as medical staff trained specifically to work with them.
Why are babies admitted to the NICU?
- They’re born prematurely
- There are complications with the delivery
- The newborn shows signs of an illness within the first few hours or days after birth
Babies in the NICU are generally infants who have not gone home after birth. If your baby needs to go to the NICU, it can be a frightening process because of all the unknowns. It’s important to remember that your baby is going to the NICU to receive the extra attention they need to be able to come home healthy. Your baby will receive tailored care and will interact with highly qualified individuals: neonatologists, speech, occupational and physical therapists, primary nurses, neonatal nurse practitioners, dietitians (who work with newborns who receive IV nutrition) and many others.
As a Baby-Friendly Certified Hospital, our priority is to have mom and baby together. That means, as soon as you are healthy enough to go see your baby in the NICU, the nurses will help and encourage you to visit with your baby. The NICU at Baptist Health Medical Center -Little Rock is a Level 3B NICU, and allows you (as the parent) to visit 24/7.
We encourage our moms to provide breast milk to their NICU babies, and here are a few key ways we try to help with that:
- Promote pumping as soon as possible so the milk can be delivered to your baby in the NICU
- Promote pumping bedside – in the NICU next to your baby
- We have lactation consultants specifically for the NICU working with you and baby.
- We encourage Skin2Skin or Kangaroo Time for family members of the baby. This special bonding is great for both baby and mom. Helping baby regulate their temperature and helping mom bond and encourage milk production.
- Our NICU features a technology called Angel Eye – allowing parents to see their baby while they are separated from them.
- Most of our rooms are private and once the baby is stable, parents may stay in the room with them.
Equipment in the NICU
It may be daunting to see your baby surrounded by equipment, but remember that it is all designed to play a vital role in your baby’s path to wellness. Here are examples of the most common pieces of equipment in the NICU and their functions:
1. Mechanical Ventilators
Mechanical ventilators are very common in the NICU. These machines are also known as ‘breathing machines’ and are used to assist the newborn with breathing without damaging their lungs.
2. Heart Monitors (Cardiorespiratory Monitors)
Heart monitors in the NICU are used for all babies. The baby’s heart rate and breathing patterns are displayed on a monitor. The wires that connect to the monitors are attached to the newborn with small adhesive circles.
3. Blood Pressure Monitors
A small blood pressure band is placed around the baby’s upper arm or leg and is used to measure blood pressure at different times.
4. Temperature Probes
Temperature probes are placed on the baby’s skin using an adhesive patch and attached to a wire and an overhead warmer called an ‘isolette’. This machine is used to regulate the baby’s temperature and keep them warm.
5. Pulse Oximeter
The pulse oximeter tool is used to measure the level of oxygen in a baby’s blood. It is measured topically, through the skin. A small light is secured to the baby’s foot or hand, and a wire connects the light to a monitor that displays the amount of oxygen in the newborn’s red blood cells. Your baby will have this on at all times during their NICU stay.
There are plenty of other specialized pieces of equipment, medications and tests that the staff at Baptist Health will use to help prepare your baby to come home.