Your Premature Baby in Hospital

Source :      Pubdate : 2013/1/8 10:21:00      Author :

 It is a shock to give birth to your baby prematurely, particularly if she is many weeks early. But you can be confident that she will be getting the best care possible in hospital.

What is NICU?

Most premature babies need to spend time in NICU. The NICU will give them the specialist care they need and the best chance of survival with as few problems as possible. The majority of hospitals have their own NICUs, although some babies may need to be transferred.

Your baby will be placed in an incubator for warmth and observation and she may need artificial ventilation to assist her breathing and be artificially fed.

Most units are divided into three sections: a section for babies needing high-level intensive care and life-support; a high-dependency section, where a degree of monitoring, and maybe back-up oxygen, is needed; and a special care room where minimal monitoring is needed and where babies are prepared for home.

Depending on her condition, your baby may need to spend days, weeks or even months in the NICU.

What your baby will look like

You are probably feeling stunned at going into labour early and you may be quite shocked by your premature baby's appearance. As well as being tiny - possibly less than 1kg - she is likely to have a large head, almost transparent skin with the veins clearly showing through, no fat under her skin, and a covering of downy hair, called lanugo.

The internal organs of premature babies are often immature, particularly the lungs and liver, so she may have tubes inserted to help her with her breathing and feeding. If she is on life-support, she will also be covered in wires (which are mostly stuck onto the skin rather than inserted into it) and surrounded by high-tech equipment to monitor her progress.

She may be a yellow colour if she has jaundice and may be given drugs to help fight off infection as her immune system will not be fully developed.

If your baby is under 32 weeks and therefore cannot suck, swallow or digest, she will be fed directly into her blood via a fine tube or needle placed into her arm, leg or even scalp. Once milk can be digested, it may be given through a tube passed up her nose, which runs down the throat and into her stomach.

What you can do to help your baby in hospital

This is going to be a stressful time for you, but hopefully you will be able to spend as much time as possible with your baby - getting to know her and helping in her care.

Many parents are at first worried about helping to care for a tiny baby and may not want to touch them because they seem so fragile or because they are afraid of becoming emotionally attached in case their baby dies.

But parents are encouraged to be with their babies as much as they want and to take part in their care and there is much you can do to be physically and emotionally close to your little one:

* You may not be able to cuddle your baby straightaway if she is on life-support, but you will be shown how to soothe and stimulate her by touching her head or through gentle massage.

* You can change her nappy and 'top and tail' (wash) her.

* You can make a tape of your voice which can be played to her when you are not there.

* You may be able to give 'kangaroo care' if she is well enough - holding her naked, except for her nappy, inside your clothes, against your bare chest. The warmth and closeness prompts babies to relax and breathe more easily and enables her to smell, feel and watch you.

* Express your breastmilk, if possible, as it is particularly beneficial for premature babies as it helps to protect against infection. At around 34-36 weeks, your baby may be able to feed from your breast

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