As a new parent, you have a lot of questions, and you may be a bit apprehensive in trusting the answers you have received by either your friends or your own parents. To help calm those nerves and assure you have all your questions answered by a childcare professional, we put together a Q/A with a NICU nurse from Renown Regional Medical Center. Hannah has been working on the NICU floor at Renown even before she graduated from nursing school in 2017.
How old are the babies treated in the NICU?
So any baby under 35 weeks is automatically admitted to us for prematurity. That being said, we also see "term" newborns for various reasons that need to be in intensive care.
What are the most common illnesses found in newborn babies?
This one again varies based on age. A lot of our population is just premature, which includes a whole plethora of things. Our tiny babes we see a lot of respiratory distress due to the prematurity (we also sometimes see this in older babies who just need more time to transition). Thermoregulation (regulating their temperature) is something we see with premature babies, we put them in the isolettes to help maintain temperatures. We see babies that have hypoglycemia (low sugars) in some of our term kiddos. We care for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawing from drugs that mom took during pregnancy). We see cardiac defect kiddos (those usually get transported to other hospitals for surgery). We see gastroschisis as well, which is when a baby is born with their intensities outside their body and require surgical repair. We've seen a lot, and no baby is the same as the next, but that gives you at least some of the variety we care for!
What can parents do to avoid said illnesses?
This one is tough. There are a variety of things that can contribute to premature labor, but they do just happen. If mom has hypertension that gets out of control, they will c section her to resolve it, and that sometimes means a premature baby. That's called preeclampsia/ eclampsia. Drug use can cause premature labor. Sex can cause it. There really are a ton of things. A lot of that education comes from the OB end. Someone can have a perfectly healthy "normal" pregnancy, and their baby may still end up with us either premature, with cardiac defects, gastroschisis, etc.
What to look for or avoid while shopping for car seats?
We don't do a whole lot with car seats. We have a car seat educational video that they watch before discharge. And depending on age and different needs of the baby we do a 90 minute (or longer depending on where the family lives) car seat challenge. The baby gets buckled into the car seat for 90 minutes, and we watch them on the monitor to make sure they maintain their oxygen saturation's and heart rate and therefore tolerate the car seat. Some of our little babies being discharged are in the 4-pound range, so we look to make sure the car seat is rated for 4 pounds. Some are 5 pounds and up! It's up to the parents to have the base installed. Fire stations and police stations will check for proper installation and or help the parents install the base. And then obviously checking the baby is fastened in properly. The buckled should be relatively tight and only allow a finger width underneath.
Do you have any advice for new parents?
As far as NICU is concerned...a NICU stay is never really part of the plan (typically). There will be a lot of information provided, alarms, cords, medications, etc. throughout your babies stay. Always ask questions. We're happy to answer them and do our best to remember that all of this is way out of your comfort zone. Take it day by day. Try to not compare your babies NICU experience to a friends babies NICU experience. Each baby is unique, and therefore, your stay will be unique. Know that your babies nurses are there for you for support as well as your baby. When your baby goes home, make EVERYONE wash their hands. Be a germaphobe. Especially if your baby is premature, germs can be so harmful to your little one and could buy you another hospital stay!