Be attentive when your new born baby is in NICU

Be attentive when your new born baby is in NICU
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Highlights

As wonderful and joyous as a baby's arrival is, the birth-giving process can be just as complex.

As wonderful and joyous as a baby's arrival is, the birth-giving process can be just as complex. Both the mother and baby go through a slew of physical and emotional changes. It can be especially challenging for the newborn to adapt to life outside the mother's womb since the baby can no longer rely on the mother's body to perform critical functions. A difficult or preterm birth or congenital disabilities can make this transition even more challenging.

Newborn babies requiring intensive care are entrusted to a special area of the hospital called the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU has advanced technologies and expert healthcare professionals to give 24-hour care. It can be an overwhelming experience for parents whose babies are in the NICU. In the blink of an eye, their excitement can turn to fear and stress. A safety guide can help balance these feelings and take away some of the fear.

Forming a habit of handwashing

One of the best ways parents can help protect their baby from infections is by washing their hands and urging visitors to do the same. The immune system in babies is not as robust as in older children and adults. As a result, babies, especially premature and sick babies, struggle to fight off infections and can get gravely ill from infections. Parents and visitors should habitually scrub their hands for 2 minutes every time they enter the NICU and touch the baby. They can also use a sanitizer when entering and leaving the NICU.

Prevent visits from unwell visitors

To protect the health of their baby and all the other babies in the NICU, parents must prevent visits from all unwell visitors. Anyone feeling ill or feverish or coming down with a cold should be asked not to visit the baby. Parents should be cautious in adhering to these guidelines during the rainy and winter seasons. Most cold viruses are spread in these seasons and can cause serious illness in babies. If the mother or the father is feeling sick, they should also avoid coming into the nursery and wait until they are better.

Keep mobile phones & devices away

Our mobile phones and electronic devices may look clean but are covered in germs that can make babies sick. Although smartphones and cameras are a great way to capture the baby's very first moments, they can threaten the baby's wellbeing. Keeping these gadgets in the pocket or outside the NICU is best. Additionally, parents and visitors should avoid touching the devices when holding the baby. Furthermore, phones can be distracting to parents and babies, so it is recommended to keep them silent and limit their use.

Touch and hold your baby

Often babies in the NICU are connected to a plethora of medical equipment, which can be alarming to parents. Seeing their baby tethered to tubes and confined to an incubator can be overwhelming, due to which many parents hesitate to touch and hold their baby. However, with the guidance and support of the NICU staff, parents can and must touch and hold their baby. Establishing a physical intimacy with the baby can stabilise their temperature, breathing and heart rate. Gradually, parents may be allowed to practice skin-to-skin or kangaroo care with their baby.

Limit external stimuli around the baby

All the technology in the world cannot substitute a parent's love. At such a vulnerable time, parents should try to avoid overstimulation and germs by keeping away gadgets, toys, watches and bracelets from their baby. Overstimulation can sap the baby's precious energy to breathe, digest and grow. Instead, the time spent in the NICU should be devoted to bonding with the baby. Parents should talk or sing gently to their baby and familiarise them with their voice. They should also notice how their baby responds to touch and verbal stimuli and adjust it accordingly.

Closing Thoughts

The time spent in the NICU can be challenging for both the parents and the baby. But parents must remember that this time apart from their baby will allow the baby to heal and grow. Parents must be mindful of these guidelines and continue to practice them once they go home.

(The author is a Neonatology & Pediatrics consulatant at Apollo Cradle & Children's Hospital in Moti Nagar, New Delhi)

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