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Learning About Total Parenteral Nutrition in Newborns

What is total parenteral nutrition (TPN)?

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is a way to give nutrients to your baby through a tube (catheter). This tube is inserted into a vein. The tube sends liquid nutrients directly into the blood. The blood carries the nutrients to your baby's tissues and organs. The nutrients don't have to go through the digestive system.

TPN is used if your baby can't get enough nutrition by mouth or through a feeding tube. Your baby can get TPN as long as needed.

Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. The hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How is TPN done?

A doctor or specially trained nurse carefully places one end of a thin, flexible tube into one of your baby's major veins. This may be done through the belly button. The outside end of the tube is called the port. That's where the TPN goes in.

TPN comes in a pouch. This is attached to a pump. The pump sends the nutrients through the tube up to 24 hours a day.

What can you expect?

  • Your baby won't feel any pain from the tube.
  • The hospital staff will keep the tube and port clean. This helps prevent infections.
  • It can be scary to see tubes and wires attached to your baby. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. Some tubes supply air, fluid, or medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

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