NICU Glossary

NICU Glossary

When your baby goes into Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, you will find yourself faced with many unfamiliar words. Here are some names of the most commonly used equipment and procedures needed to care for your baby in NICU.

Feeding tubes: NICU babies often are unable to get as many calories as they need through regular bottle-feeding, so the nurses will use a small feeding tube to deliver your breast milk-formula. The tube is either placed into your baby’s mouth or nose.

Infant warmers: These are beds with radiant heaters over them. You can touch your baby easily in these beds.

Incubators: These are small beds enclosed by clear, hard plastic. The temperature is controlled and closely monitored because premature infants often have trouble controlling their body temperature. Holes in the incubators allow you to touch your baby and nurses and doctors can examine your baby. Babies stay in an incubator until they can regulate their body temperature on their own.

I.V.s and lines: An intravenous catheter (or I.V.) is a thin, flexible tube inserted into the vein with a small needle. Once in the vein, the needle is removed, leaving just the soft plastic tubing. Almost all babies have an I.V. for fluids and medications at some point during their stay in the Level 3 NICU. Instead of giving your baby injections every few hours, I.V.s allow medications to be given continuously.

Arterial lines: Similar to I.V.s, these lines are placed in arteries, not veins, and are used to monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood. Some babies may have a blood pressure cuff instead.

Monitors: Infants in the NICU are attached to monitors so our staff can closely watch their vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate).

Neonatologist: A pediatrician who specializes in the treatment of premature infants and newborns with birth defects and other health issues.

O.T.: Occupational therapy. These specialists help your baby learn to bottle-feed.

Phototherapy: Jaundice is common in premature infants and babies with certain infections. Jaundice causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow. Phototherapy helps rid the bilirubin that causes jaundice. Your baby may lie on a special light therapy blanket and have lights attached to their bed or incubator. Phototherapy usually lasts for a few days.

RT: Respiratory therapy. These therapists provide the highly specialized breathing services for babies in the NICU.

Skin-to-skin care: Also called kangaroo care. Research shows that babies greatly benefit from skin-to-skin contact, so we encourage new parents to cuddle their baby directly on their skin.

Ventilators: Babies in the NICU sometimes need extra help to breathe and that is when a ventilator machine is used.