Learning About the NICU Environment
What is it like in the NICU?
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is the part of the hospital where premature or sick newborns get care.
There's a lot going on in the NICU. It can be a scary and confusing place for parents. Doctors, nurses, and other staff members are caring for their small patients. The unit is filled with unfamiliar equipment, with displays, blinking lights, and noise. But all of it helps the doctor and the NICU staff take good care of your baby.
The staff knows that you have lots of questions about what they do and the equipment they use. Feel free to ask any questions you have about anything you see in the NICU.
In the middle of all this activity, your baby is cared for in a carefully controlled environment. Your baby's surroundings help with growth and healing.
- The temperature inside your baby's incubator or isolette is kept at just the right temperature. Small sensors on your baby's skin track the temperature and send the data to the crib's heater. The heater then adjusts itself automatically.
- Babies spend most of their time in the NICU sleeping. Sleep helps the brain grow. While the NICU can be noisy, the staff tries to keep the area close to your baby as quiet as possible. Most incubators are covered to help block noise from the outside.
- Too much light can overstimulate your baby and make it hard to sleep. The NICU staff may dim the lights near the incubator or cover it with a blanket.
- The NICU must be as clean as possible to help prevent infections. You will be expected to wash your hands each time you enter the NICU. Depending on your baby's condition, you may also have to wear a disposable gown.
What can you expect?
- You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and 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's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about his or her 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.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur MD MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Merchant MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine