The first thing you’ll see is a scrub area with an antibacterial hand wash dispenser followed by the entrance to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). You need to wash your hands with sterilising soap before you go in. Babies in NICUs can very easily catch infections, and proper hand-cleaning cuts the risk of this happening.
The NICU might have quiet periods when the lights are dimmed and it’s quiet. Often, babies in the NICU can be overwhelmed by too much noise and light.
The babies are either in a radiant warmer or in a bassinet. These keep their bodies at the right temperature. Depending on what medical support the babies need, there might be:
- Ventilators to help with breathing
- Machines to give measured amounts of fluids and medicines to the babies through tubes going into their veins
- Monitors attached to the babies with cords to measure heart rate, breathing and the amount of oxygen in their blood
All of this technology and machinery keeps the babies comfortable, with as little extra handling as possible. It monitors them and lets medical staff know when the babies need extra care. Other equipment is brought into the NICU when needed. These might include:
- Portable X-ray machines
- Ultrasound equipment
- Phototherapy units for treatment under lights, for jaundice
The NICU is usually a calm place, with nurses and doctors quietly looking after the babies and other specialists coming in and out. Monitors alert the staff if a baby’s breathing or heart rate is out of the normal range.