Posts Tagged ‘neonatal intensive care unit’

A father’s role in the NICU

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

NICU dadYour beautiful baby has arrived. But he or she was born prematurely or is sick, and needs special care. Your joy over your baby’s birth may be mixed with worry and heartache. This is not how you expected fatherhood to begin.

The birth of a premature or sick baby is stressful and difficult for all family members. But it can be especially rough on you. You may worry about your baby and your partner, as well as other children at home, demands from your job and financial concerns. While each father develops his own way of coping with the birth of a premature or sick infant, this information may help make this difficult time a bit easier.

You may feel many conflicting emotions after your baby is born. These emotions, from anxiety and fear to anger and resentment, love and pride, helplessness and hope, can be very intense. All of the feelings are normal and most men experience some of them. As your baby gets stronger, your negative feelings may lessen. Expect this to be an emotional roller coaster ride for a while.

Keep in mind that the birth of a sick child can put stress on the relationship between you and your partner, as well as your relationships with other family members. It’s important to share your feelings with your partner through your baby’s illness, so that you can support each other and come through this experience a stronger team.

Read more about keeping your relationship strong, ways to help your partner and your baby, how to let others help you and how to take care of yourself in our article for dads. Being a NICU dad can be difficult, especially if your baby is very sick. You should take pride in all the things you do to help your baby and your partner, and realize that you are making a difference.

Levels of hospital care

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Have you ever wondered what a Level I, II, or III hospital is? How will you know which is right for you when the time comes to deliver? Dr. Siobhan Dolan explains how hospital nurseries are classified in the new March of Dimes book Healthy Mom Healthy Baby.

“Every hospital with a maternity department must have a nursery, a unit devoted to newborn care. Some provide more extensive care than others. Hospital nurseries are classified by the kind of care they offer:

Level I – Well-newborn nurseries that provide a basic level of medical care to low-risk and healthy newborns.

Level II – Special-care nurseries that can care for infants who are moderately ill or born a few weeks early with health problems that are expected to improve rapidly.

Level III – Neonatal Intensive care units (NICUs) with highly trained providers and advanced equipment to provide complex care, surgery, and life support for infants who are critically ill, very small, or very premature.

“If you are having a healthy low-risk pregnancy, it is not necessary to make special arrangements to give birth in a hospital with a level II or III nursery. However, if you are having pregnancy complications, or your baby has a known or suspected health problem, talk with your provider about whether choosing a hospital with a higher level of newborn care is a good idea.”

You can read more about Dr. Dolan’s book, and even order a copy, at this link.

Meet Nina – our 2013 National Ambassador

Monday, January 7th, 2013

nina-centofanti1Chris and Vince Centofanti thought they knew all about preterm birth. She was a neonatal nurse-practitioner caring for critically ill babies, and he worked for GE Healthcare’s Maternal-Infant Care division, providing specialized medical equipment to hospitals. But then their own baby, Nina, was born nine weeks early, weighing less than three pounds.  She suffered from respiratory distress and spent her first five weeks fighting for life in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU).

“I can’t tell you how difficult it was, seeing our own little girl lying in the NICU, fighting for life. All our hopes and dreams for her hung in the balance,” says Chris Centofanti.  “As a nurse-practitioner I’ve seen many other parents in this situation, and now I know exactly how they feel.” “I never expected that my own daughter would have to be cared for in a NICU with the equipment I had provided to the hospital,” says Vince Centofanti.

While pregnant with Nina, Chris felt unwell at 31 weeks and went to the hospital. She was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a form of high blood pressure with elevated liver enzymes and a low blood platelet count. It is a rare, but potentially life-threatening illness that typically occurs late in pregnancy. The only treatment is to deliver the baby as soon as possible. For the next 48 hours, Chris was treated with steroids to help develop baby Nina’s lungs before birth. At birth, Nina was immediately transferred to the NICU, where she spent the next five weeks.

In addition to Nina, the Centofantis have an older son Nick, and a second daughter, Mia, who was born at 35 weeks of pregnancy, thanks in part to weekly progesterone treatments which reduced the risk of Chris going into premature labor. “Even though things didn’t go as planned, we’ve been blessed with three healthy children, thanks in large part to the work of the March of Dimes.  Just a few years ago, the outcome might be been very different,” says Chris.  She adds, “Thanks to the care that Nina received, and the support of the March of Dimes for research and treatment, now we also know the relief and joy parents feel when their child survives and becomes healthy enough to leave the NICU and go home.”

Today Nina Centofanti has grown into an active 7-year-old who loves to dance, climb trees and turn handsprings. She has been named the March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador. As ambassador, Nina and her family will travel the United States visiting public officials and corporate sponsors, and encouraging people to participate in the March of Dimes’ largest fundraiser, March for Babies. The money raised supports community programs that help moms have healthy, full term pregnancies, and funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten babies’ lives.

“Serving as the National Ambassador family is a way for us to show our appreciation for our children’s good health, and serve as advocates for lifesaving March of Dimes programs,” says Vince.  “The March of Dimes has provided 75 years of support for research, treatments, educational and prenatal care programs that has saved lives, reduced the suffering, and improved the quality of life for countless children and the parents who love them. My daughter Nina is one of their success stories; a perfect example of what March of Dimes efforts have accomplished.”

Chat on micropreemies

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

mom-and-preemiePlease join us Friday, November 9th, at 2 PM ET for a #preemiechat about micropreemies, babies born at less than 28 weeks and weighing less than 800 grams. Our guest will be Amanda Knickerbocker, @micropreemie, whose daughter spent over 200 days in the NICU.

Meet us on Twitter and share your experiences and challenges. Ask questions. Help other parents currently surviving the NICU rollercoaster with tips on things that really helped you survive those long days, weeks, months. We hope to see you then.

Holding your baby in the NICU

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

kangaroo careSome newborn intensive care units (NICUs) will encourage you to hold your baby from birth onward. Other NICUs will want you to wait until your baby’s health is stable. Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care.

Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your diapered baby on your bare chest (if you’re the father) or between your breasts (if you’re the mother), with a blanket draped over your baby’s back. This skin-to-skin contact benefits both you and your baby.

You may be a little nervous about trying kangaroo care. If your baby is very small or sick, you may be afraid you’ll hurt him. But you won’t. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he will enjoy feeling that closeness with you. Kangaroo care can help your baby:
• Maintain his body warmth
• Regulate his heart and breathing rates
• Gain weight
• Spend more time in deep sleep
• Spend more time being quiet and alert and less time crying
• Have a better chance of successful breastfeeding (kangaroo care can improve the mother’s breastmilk production)

Kangaroo care has emotional benefits for you, too. It builds your confidence as you provide intimate care that can improve your baby’s health and well being. You are giving something special to your baby that only you can give. By holding your baby skin-to-skin, you will feel the experience of new parenthood and closeness to your baby. Kangaroo care is healing in many ways, for both you and your baby.

Kangaroo care is safe and beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines. Whatever your situation, kangaroo care is a precious way to be close to your baby. You will cherish this time.

2012 National Ambassador, Kieran Wittstruck

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Born at 31 weeks, weighing just 3lbs 1 oz, Kieran Wittstruck spent the first month of his life in a newborn intensive care unit. Now 5 years old, Kieran still flips expectations on their head. Outside his home near Seattle, he likes to ride his bike and swim. He also is a budding mechanical engineer and is always working on his next great invention. And if that wasn’t enough, he even runs his own cat spy agency: MEOWS!

Jane Clayson’s little boy

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

TV Journalist and March of Dimes Volunteer Jane Clayson tells her story about the premature birth of her son William. William was born weighing only 2 pounds, thirteen ounces and spent three months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Thanks to his family’s support, advanced medical care and research the March of Dimes helped fund, young William, today, is a vibrant little boy.

Baby’s bed in the NICU

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

isolette2When a baby is born early and 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 can’t happen in the cute nursery waiting at home.

Since premature babies cannot regulate their body temperature well, they often are placed in a radiant warmer for a couple of days. This special open bed may not look like it will do much, but a special sensor taped to the baby’s skin keeps track of his 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 just 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?

Read to your baby in the NICU

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

preemieOur Director of NICU Family Support shares a story about the power of reading to your baby, even if he is in a neonatal intensive care unit.

While working in the NICU, I had the privilege of knowing one particular family whose baby was born at twenty-eight weeks gestation.  This little boy was going through a particularly vulnerable and fragile time and staff had requested that handling be kept to a minimum.  Until he stabilized, his anxious parents were asked not to hold him.  Despite this distressing limitation, the baby’s father, an intense and intellectual man, found his own way to get close to his beloved son.  Early each morning before his job, this father would come in and tuck himself behind his growing son’s incubator.  And in deep, hushed tones, staff and families would hear this dad reading “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin” to his baby boy through the incubator’s porthole window.

As staff, we began to depend on this father’s soothing voice of care in the early mornings.  Families approached me and asked me if I had books for them to read to their children.  I had an idea.  Inspired by this very father, I created the Bedside Reading Program, a rolling cart of children’s books in various languages, so that every family could read to their babies at the bedside.  It would be a way to bond, to parent and to get close despite all the barriers of the NICU.  The NICU became a library, where every parent was reading to his or her baby.

Recently I was able to get together with the family who inspired this program.  And today that little boy is eight years old and is reading to his father.

Now, through a generous in-kind sponsorship by Scholastic, Inc., we have a March of Dimes Bedside Reading Program in sixty-one of our March of Dimes NICU Family Support sites nationwide, at least one per state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.  In addition, enough books have been donated to provide Sibling Lending Libraries in the NICU and a book gift to every family at the end of their baby’s hospitalization.

If you would like to donate to the Bedside Reading Program or get involved with NICU Family Support in your state, please contact your local chapter of the March of Dimes. No matter how old your baby is, read to him often to help him develop. Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your child.

Not all NICU babies are preemies

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

isoletteThe wonderful DiscoveryHealth NICU series (Thursdays at 10 PM ET/PT) has brought to light the intensity and reality of the struggles premature babies and their families face.  But babies born full term can be in the NICU, too, especially if they are sick or have a birth defect and need specialized treatment.

Some babies are born with an abdominal wall defect such as gastroschisis or omphalocele. These often require surgery or staged repair over time.  Some babies have heart defects that also require monitoring or surgery.  Other babies may qualify as full term (over 37 completed weeks) but have failed to thrive and have a low birthweight.   Other conditions that might require a stay in the NICU  include: anemia (low number of red blood cells in the blood), apnea (breathing irregularity), bradycardia (abnormal slowing of the heart rate), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (a form of chronic lung disease), hydrocephalus (water on the brain), sepsis (infection that spreads throughout the body).

All of us with preemies are acutely aware of these intensive care services, but we need to realize that the wonderful staff of the NICU need to be prepared for any baby, any size, any gestational age, any complication.  Thank goodness they are there for all of us.