Me with my daughter in the NICU when she was 5 days old. She was hooked up to 5 wires, an oxygen tube, and a feeding tube. Getting her out of the incubator to hold her was a hassle haha. But totally worth it.
A Neonatal (Newborn) Intensive Care Unit. They specialize in the care of ill or premature newborns.
They were developed in the 1950s and 1960s by pediatricians to provide:
-Temperature support
-Isolation from infection risk
-Specialized feeding
-Access to specialized equipment and resources
The babies are cared for in incubators (giraffes) or open warmers. They can provide respritory support from extra oxygen to CPAP, to ventilation, depending on your child’s needs.
Public access is limited, and a lot of precautions are used to reduce transmission of infection. When my daughter was in the NICU, my DH and I had to give them our driver’s licenses, and we made a list of people that could come if we weren’t there. No one under the age of 14 could come in without special permission. When you walked in the door, you had to wash your hands, and then sanitize them. Only three people were allowed in the room at a time, so you had to coordinate who could come in to see the baby.
They are directed by neonatologists and staffed by nurses, nurse practitioners, nursery nurses, physician assistants, resident physicians, and respritory therapists.
Besides prematurity and low birth weight, diseases care for there include:
-Perinatal asphyxia
-Extreme eclampsia/pre-eclampsia
-Major birth defects
-Neonatal jaundice
-Respritory distress syndrome (lund immaturity – what my daughter had).
If your baby is early, it is the policy to keep your baby until their due date. Most times, babies are released in days or weeks of entering. My daughter was out in a week, even though she was 3-4 weeks early.
The NICU is the greatest thing for your premature baby. It may be really hard, but it is the one way for them to prepare to go home and get the care they need.
Our NICU felt VERY strongly about bonding. We did a lot of skin to skin contact with our daughter so she would know who we are. And even though she had a feeding tube, they had her latch on to learn that it was the way she was to get full. They would leave us alone with her, and go out of their way to have us do things.
I would change her diaper and take her temperature every 3 hours. They let me stay there if they needed to change her IV, while they were doing rounds, they kept me completely informed on her care and what was happening. If they were going to make a big decision, they asked us first.
There was one nurse I remember distinctly. His name was Matt, was in training, and lived in Cedar and drove down to the NICU because he wanted to join their staff. One day, a couple days before Glade was discharged, he asked me how I felt about everything. I was able to talk to him about the care we had received and how grateful I was to have such support from people. He asked how my DH was taking it. He was able to convey his emotions when his daughter was in a NICU. Having him to talk to while I was nursing, and having him help me learn how to care for my daughter, especially while she was on oxygen and other tubes, was so invaluable. I will never forget what he did for us while we were there.
While your child is in the NICU, especially if they are on high levels of oxygen, you will have to pump. But, once your baby is able to nurse, the nurses and lactation consultants are there to help. The longer you go without nursing, the harder it is to learn. The lactation consultant that helped me wasn’t very gentle, and we didn’t come away with very much knowledge. The day after, I turned down her offer for help. One of the female nurses, who trained in lactation, came in and asked if I needed help. I was crying because it just didn’t seem to be working. She showed me how to position the baby without grabbing at me, and even if Glade didn’t eat but just sat on the breast, she reassured me that just the act of her latching on, she is learning what to do. The tube was giving her food, so it was the first step to successful breastfeeding. She built up my confidence, and was there if I was having trouble with anything. She was amazing.
The one word of advice I would give to anyone whose baby is in a NICU is to not get discouraged. Take one day at a time. It may seem really hard to see your baby hooked up to tubes and wires, but it is the best thing for her. Eventually, the oxygen tubes come off, the feeding tube comes out, and you are signing discharge papers.
And just know that you are not alone there. Babies are always in the NICU, and if you need help, other parents there are in the same boat. You are not alone.
Even though it may sound crazy, it was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I learned a lot about what I could handle when my daughter was there. I will never forget how the staff helped me learn. How absolutely amazing they were. If I could do one thing in my life it would be to help them the way they helped me.

The staff are an amazing group of people. They see babies come through that are tiny and need so much help. The love they show these little babies that aren’t even theirs is amazing. Glade’s nurses showed so much care in what they did that I was astounded. It isn’t just a job to them, this is what they love to do.

If you ever find yourself in a NICU, and I hope you don’t, please thank the nursing staff. They are so underappreciated, but they do so much. I’m convinced that my daughter was able to go home when she did because of the love they showed her and us. What an amazing group of people.


One Response

  1. I am so glad I got to be in the list to get to see her! It was a scary thought having her there but I am so glad that everything was OK and that she didn’t have to stay long.

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