When a baby born early is in the NICU, it’s usually because he needs to be closely monitored in a safe, protected environment so he can continue to develop like he would if he were still inside Mom. This high level of care can’t happen in the cute nursery you have set up at home. That has to wait until later.
Since premature babies cannot regulate their body temperature well, they often are placed in a radiant warmer for a couple of days. This odd-looking open bed may not look like it will do much, but a special sensor taped to the baby’s skin keeps track of his body temperature and adjusts the heat around him as needed. The openness of the bed allows easy access for medical attention during constant monitoring.
Once stabilized, babies usually are transferred to an isolette. This plexiglass box is an incubator that protects the baby from temperature fluctuations in the room. It has portholes on the sides for medical staff to reach through in order to provide different treatments, diaper changes, etc. One wall of the isolette can be unhinged to provide complete access to the baby. As in the radiant warmer, the temperature within the isolette is regulated in accordance with the baby’s temperature needs. Some isolettes also provide moist, humidified air to prevent the baby’s environment from becoming too dry.
Many parents of a baby in the NICU want to decorate their baby’s isolette, make it personal. In time, that will be a great idea, but in the beginning babies often can’t handle any extra stimulation. Very tiny babies may not even be able to handle being touched for the first week or so. It’s hard for parents to see their baby in such a sterile environment. Items such as a special isolette cover, a stuffed animal or family photo can provide a touch of home. By talking with the NICU staff caring for their baby, parents will learn when and how much of a personal touch will be best for their little one.
If you had a baby in the NICU, how long was it before you were able to personalize your baby’s bed?