Caring for Your Premature Infant

Oral and nasal feeding -- This method involves a narrow flexible tube threaded through their nose (naso-gastric tube) or mouth (oro-gastric tube). This method is provided for preemies who are ready to digest breast milk or formula but still not able to suck, swallow and breathe in a coordinated manner.

Central line (sometimes referred to as a PICC line) -- This is an intravenous line that is inserted into a vein, often in the arm which allows use for a larger vein. This is normally used to deliver nutrients and medicines that would otherwise irritate smaller veins.

Other equipment:

Incubator -- A clear plastic crib that keeps babies warm and help protect them from germs and noise.

Bililghts -- This is a bright blue fluorescent light that is located over your baby's incubator. This light is used to treat jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes).

The Staff
The staff is incorporated of respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, lactation consultants, pharmacists, social workers, hospital chaplains and a neonatologist. A neonatologist is a pediatrician with additional training in the care of sick and premature babies. Get to know the staff. They are very informative and encourage parental involvement.

Knowing that your newborn is receiving the best care can provide comfort and reassurance.

What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo care consists of placing a diaper clad premature baby in an upright position on a mother's bare chest allowing tummy to tummy to touch and placing the premature baby in between the mother's breasts. The baby's head is turned so that the ear is above the parent's heart. Many studies have shown significant benefits. According to Krisanne Larimer, author of "Kangarooing Our Little Miracles," Kangaroo care has been shown to help premature newborns with:

  • Body temperature -- Studies have shown that mothers have thermal synchrony with their baby. The study also concluded that when the baby was cold, the mother's body temperature would increase to warm the baby up and vise versa.
  • Breastfeeding -- Kangaroo care allows easy access to the breast and skin-to-skin contact increases milk let-down.
  • Increase weight gain -- Kangaroo care allows the baby to fall into a deep sleep which allows the baby to conserve energy for more important things. Increase in weight gain means shorter hospital stay.
  • Increased intimacy and attachment

Breastfeeding
We have all heard how breastfeeding strengthens a baby's immune defenses and provides emotional connections between a mother and her baby. However, when a newborn is born prematurely a mother may not be allowed to breastfeed her baby. Most premature newborns, between 25-29 weeks gestational age, are feed intravenous or through a tube. If you are planning to breastfeed you should tell your doctor and nurses immediately after labor. Then you can begin expressing and storing your breast milk for when your baby is ready for it. Your baby's digestive system and control of electrolytes will determine when he will be able to handle breast milk through a tube. This is when you can use the milk you have stored. Once your baby's respiratory system is stabilized he can begin breastfeeding. Most babies born 35-37 weeks usually can go straight to breastfeeding.

How YOU can participate in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

There are other ways besides breastfeeding and Kangaroo Care that a mother or father can help care for their baby in NICU. Both the mother and father are encouraged by the NICU staff to interact with their baby. As a mother or father you may not see how it is possible to interact with your baby with all the wires, machines and incubator in the way. Surprisingly, there are quite a few ways you can accomplish this: