Helping Your NICU Baby Progress
Premature babies lose weeks or months of growth in the womb. Sick newborns start life not feeling well. Medical and nursing staff in the Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center NICU help your baby develop and progress by:
- Keeping light and noise levels low
- Handling your baby slowly and gently
- Grouping activities together to give your baby maximum rest time
- Tucking blankets snugly around your baby to make the environment feel womb-like.
An occupational or physical therapist will spend time in the NICU, observing babies born before 36 weeks. What they see will help the medical and nursing staff provide the right balance of rest, stimulation and interaction.
The smallest discomfort can be stressful for NICU babies. Be assured that we do everything possible to keep your baby comfortable and with as little pain as possible. Procedures we take extra special care with are heel sticks and IVs, operations and ventilators. And although we continually assess for pain, it can be difficult, especially for premature babies, to let us know what is wrong. If you suspect your baby is experiencing pain, please tell a nurse or doctor. Behaviors we watch for:
- Unexplained high heart rate or blood pressure
- Frowning, grimace or worried look
- Tight fisted hands or feet
- Tense or rigid body
We can treat some pain with medications. And there are many other things that comfort NICU babies, such as quiet, dim light, rocking, soothing talk, massage, pacifiers and snug bedding. However, some babies seem to prefer to be left alone. In these cases, they may be experiencing too much stimulation. You and your baby's nurses should discuss your baby's behaviors and decide what seems to calm and comfort your baby.
Pain and Medication
If your baby has been on pain medication(s) for more than five to seven days, we will probably decrease the amounts slowly so as to not jar your baby's system. Sometimes we administer pain medications through an IV. Sometimes we administer pain medications through umbilical lines. (An umbilical line is a tiny catheter that can be threaded through a vein or artery in the umbilical cord, which has no nerve endings and therefore is not painful.) In addition to pain medication, an umbilical line may carry nutritional fluids. Umbilical lines also help nurses measure blood pressure and assist them in taking blood samples without disturbing your baby.
Nutrition and Breastfeeding
All too often, NICU babies aren't able to be breastfed. We encourage breastmilk for infants, as it can boost your baby's immune system and give your baby strength. We will help you use a breast pump and feed it to your baby through an umbilical line. Using a breast pump eight times every 24 hours can enable you to establish and maintain a milk supply. Be assured that as soon as we can get your baby to breastfeed, we will assist you. Breastfeeding is an important decision you may have made before your baby was born. The benefits of breastfeeding are many and include:
- Breast milk is easier for your baby to digest than formula
- Breast milk helps build your baby's immune system
- Breast milk can decrease childhood allergies and asthma
- Breastfeeding time is a comfort bond with you for your baby
A lactation consultant is available in addition to nurses and physicians. We are here to take care of both you and your baby.