When Your Baby is in the NICU | UnityPoint Health - Dubuque
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When Your Baby is in the NICU

Welcome to our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital. We know that it can be frightening to find out that your baby needs to be in the NICU. We are here to explain many of the things you may see during your baby's stay in our NICU. This will help reduce your fears, understand each care decision and allow you to better help your baby. 

Visiting Policy

Babies who need to go to the NICU are often admitted during the first 24 hours after birth. They stay in the NICU until their providers say they can be moved to the normal nursery. You are encouraged to visit your newborn often. Parents and grandparents are asked to do the following:

All Visitors Must:

  • Wash hands before going into the NICU
  • Be healthy
  • Grandparents must have a parent with them
  • Grandparents should only visit for 5 to 10 minutes

Visiting Tips:

  • The sound of your voice will comfort your baby
  • Your baby will give you signs to tell you when he or she wants to be touched and talked to
  • Your baby will give you signs when he or she needs to rest
  • The nurses will help you learn to watch for your baby's signs

Monitoring your Baby's Health

Your baby's care team is highly trained to care for your baby's needs. As part of your care team, we have Neonatal Nurse Practitioners on staff to work directly with babies in the NICU. The NICU can feel like an unfamiliar place at first. Your baby may have several wires and lines on him or her. Each one of them is important to monitoring your baby's health during his or her stay.

Monitoring your Baby's Heart and Breathing Rates

NICU babies sometimes can't breathe on their own or can't breathe well enough for their body's oxygen needs. Your baby's providers and nurses will monitor his or her heart and breathing rates 24-hours a day.  

Monitoring your Baby's Temperature

Your baby will wear a heart-shaped patch on his or her stomach to keep body temperature "just right."

Monitoring your Baby's Oxygen Levels

A red light (pulse oximeter) on your baby's foot or hand shows how much oxygen is in his or her blood. Your provider will decide what level is best for your baby. You will be able to see this recording on the same screen as the heart and breathing rates. 

Helping your Baby Breathe

  • Some babies need help to breathe until their lungs mature or heal
  • Some babies only need oxygen for a few hours
  • Some babies will need oxygen for several days to several weeks
  • The provider will decide your baby's oxygen needs
  • If your baby needs oxygen, the provider will decide when your baby will be weaned off of it

Four Ways to Give your Baby Oxygen

Nasal cannula: A small piece of soft plastic tubing in the baby's nose. Oxygen flows through the tubing to the baby. This makes it easier to hold your baby. 

Oxyhood: A "plastic hood" is placed over a baby's head. Oxygen flows through a tube into the hood. An "oxygen analyzer" show how much oxygen your baby is getting.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): Used for babies who need help to breath. This machine provides gentle pressure of oxygen flow to keep the baby's lungs open. This makes it easier for your baby to breathe. 

Ventilator: Used for babies who are very sick or who were born too early. These babies are not able to breathe on their own; or cannot breathe well enough to give their body the oxygen it needs. The ventilator breathes for these babies until they can breathe on their own. 

Intravenous (IVs)

Most NICU babies will have an IV during their stay. IVs help to give the baby fluids and calories, as well as important medications. Your baby's nurse will decide where to put the IV by the size of the vein and how well they can see the vein. 

Always remember your NICU staff is here to make your baby's stay in the nursery as comfortable as possible. We are here to explain what all of the equipment is, to include you in decisions regarding your child's care and encourage your involvement each step of the way.