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Arriving in the NICU

The NICU is a completely new world, but will be your baby’s home for the next few weeks or possibly even months.  Preterm infants are admitted to the NICU since it is the best place outside the womb where they can receive all the support they need.  The staff in the NICU are exactly the people you want to care for your premmie right now, since they each have a specialised job to do, and they work together as a team to provide complete care for your baby.  The NICU is a whole new world with strange sounds and lots of equipment.  The following is a few of the things you will most often see in the NICU and soon it will be as part of your life as an early morning cup of coffee.



For the safety of your own baby and all the others in the NICU, you should always wash your hands on entering the NICU, and spray with the disinfectant hand spray.  This should be done whether you are planning on touching your baby or not, since many infections can be spread unknowingly in various ways.  It is in the best interest of your baby's health that you keep to these "rules" and thereby minimise the risk for unnecessary infections.
Disinfectant hand spray


Open incubator / Overhead

During the first few days, your baby will probably be on an open overhead crib, a warmed bed that has enough space for all the pipes and wires and provides easy access to the baby.  Once your baby is stable enough she will be transferred into a closed incubator until she is able to maintain her own temperature at 36,5 – 37,5 OC.  Some babies are in closed incubators from birth, depending on the NICU policy.
Closed Incubator



Your preterm baby should be positioned in a way, which is similar to the womb environment.  She is provided with boundaries to support flexion and allow her to put her hands to her mouth/face, which help her to self-regulate.   This method of positioning is known as "nesting".

Basic Care Equipment

Baby with Socks

Baby with Woollen Cap
You will require a few basic care items for any new baby after birth. It may include nappies, cotton wool swabs, alcohol (to clean the umbilical cord) and nappy cream.  

Body heat is easily lost through your baby's head and a woollen or cotton hat or beanie should be worn to help her maintain her temperature.  Some babies may wear socks, however after birth, all babies have cold hands and feet, since they send blood (which carry oxygen and glucose) to the important organs such as the heart, brain and lungs resulting in cold hands and feet.

Cardiac Monitor

Temperature Probe
& Cardiac Stickers

A cardiac monitor is used to monitor the baby's heart rate, breathing, saturation and blood pressure.

A saturation probe is attached to one of the limbs to monitor the oxygen levels in the blood.  This is usually maintained at 88% to 92% when the baby is receiving supplemental oxygen and more than 96% in room air.  It may also vary according to height above sea level.

A temperature probe is attached to the baby's tummy or back to regulate the temperature provided by the incubator.

An apnoea mattress / monitor is used to notify you if the baby stops breathing once she is in a closed incubator or open crib.

Saturation Probe

Apnoea Mattres


Drip (intravenous


Infusion Pump

Drips can be put on any limb or on the head.  Some doctors prefer Broviac catheters. This is a drip placed into a central vein.  Splints are used to keep the drip from occluding and infusion pumps are used to regulate the flow of medicine and drips.

for phototherapy
Babies with jaundice receive phototherapy and their eyes are covered to protect them from the possible damaging light.
Phototherapy in
closed incubator

Oxygen - Nasal Cannula

Premature babies usually need some help with breathing and depending on their condition they will receive oxygen via nasal cannula or a headbox or they can be placed on CPAP - a machine that helps to keep the lungs open.  A ventilator or oscillator is a machine that breaths for the baby.
Baby on CPAP


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