Glossary

When your baby goes into the NICU, you will encounter many unfamiliar words. Here are the names of the most commonly used equipment and procedures:

  • 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.
  • Feeding tubes: NICU babies are often unable to get as many calories as they need through regular bottle-feeding, so nurses will use a small feeding tube to deliver your breast milk or formula.
  • Incubators: These are small beds enclosed by clear, durable plastic. The temperature inside 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 remain in an incubator until they can regulate their body temperature on their own.
  • Infant warmers: These are beds with radiant heaters above them. You can touch your baby easily in these beds.
  • I.V.: (Intravenous Catheter) is a thin, flexible tube inserted into the vein with a small needle. Once in the vein, the needle is removed, leaving only the soft plastic tubing. Almost all babies have an I.V. to receive fluids and medications at some time during their stay in the Level III NICU. Instead of giving your baby injections every few hours, I.V.s allow medications to be given continuously.
  • Monitors: Infants in the NICU are attached to monitors, so the staff can closely watch their vital signs.
  • Phototherapy: Jaundice is common in premature infants and babies with certain conditions. 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 his or her bed or incubator.
  • Respiratory therapist: These therapists provide highly specialized breathing services for babies in the NICU.
  • Skin-to-skin care: Also called Kangaroo Care. Research shows that babies benefit greatly from skin-to-skin contact, so we encourage new parents to cuddle their baby directly against their skin.
  • Ventilators: A ventilator machine is used when babies in the NICU need additional help breathing.
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