Special Care for Newborn Babies
Neonatology is a sub-specialty of pediatrics that focuses on delivering exclusive high-quality care to your newborn baby till one month of age, including caring for preterm and sick babies who need special care in the NICU.
Your neonatologist helps you establish good health in your newborn baby, by helping you develop a good feeding schedule for the baby and through regular health check-ups.
What does newborn care include?
Immediately after birth and in the first few days of your baby’s life, your neonatologist takes care of many aspects of your baby’s health. Some of which include:
➡️ Helping you breastfeed your baby.
➡️ Ensuring good hygiene and cord care.
➡️ Recognising early signs of danger and providing prompt treatment.
➡️ Monitoring neonatal jaundice.
➡️ Helping you recognise and monitor concerns such as diaper rash.
➡️ Performing initial tests to establish health in your baby, such as hearing tests, blood tests to detect metabolic disorders, etc.
➡️ Providing required vaccination at birth.
If healthy, the baby and mother are discharged after instructions and follow-up as guided. But at times, ill-health or special care needed for preterm babies can make them need special care in the neonatal intensive care units.
Care for Preterm babies
A full-term pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks. A premature (preterm) baby is born before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy. In general, the earlier the baby is born, the higher is the risk of complications. Since the development of the baby may not be complete in some or other aspects, they need special care once they are delivered, which helps them develop normally and prevents complications associated with such preterm birth.
Dr. Vijay has his expertise in treating preterm babies, he has successfully discharged many extreme preterm babies admitted under his care.
Challenges associated with preterm babies
Since many developmental aspects of a premature baby may be incomplete, the following may be some of the challenges associated with them:
➡️ Very little body fat
➡️ Trouble breathing due to immature lungs- respiratory distress syndrome
➡️ Challenge feeding
➡️ Anaemia of prematurity
➡️ Retinopathy of prematurity
➡️ Impaired cognitive skills or other neurological problems
➡️ Chronic health issues
Most of the problems and long-term complications associated with premature birth can be avoided if they receive timely care in the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) under the supervision of a neonatologist.
What is a neonatal intensive care unit?
The NICU is your new-borns protective environment for a limited time, till he/she matures on his own. This unit for intensive care of your preemie baby is equipped with advanced and sophisticated equipment to monitor various organ functions.
Some equipment in the NICU may include
➡️ Respiratory assistance equipment such as an endotracheal tube, ventilator, facility for CPAP, and oxygen administration.
➡️ Equipment to assist in feeding your baby, such as intravenous line, umbilical catheter, facility for oral and nasal feeding, and central line insertion.
➡️ Incubators and warmers to keep the baby warm
➡️ Phototherapy units to cure neonatal jaundice
➡️ Portable ultrasound units
What to expect when the baby is in the NICU?
The neonatologist performs a detailed examination of the baby. The following are some parameters that are monitored:
➡️ Breathing and heart rate: Your baby’s breathing and heart rate are monitored continuously. Blood pressure readings are also taken frequently.
➡️ Fluid input and output: The NICU team carefully tracks how much fluid your baby takes through feedings and intravenous fluids and how much fluid your baby loses through wet or soiled diapers.
➡️ Blood tests: Several critical substances, including calcium, glucose, and bilirubin levels in your baby’s blood are monitored. The level of red blood cells and infection may also be checked.
If your baby’s doctor anticipates that several blood samples will be needed, the NICU staff may insert a central umbilical intravenous (IV) line, to avoid multiple needle pricks in your child.
➡️ Echocardiogram: This test is an ultrasound of the heart to check for problems with your baby’s heart function.
➡️ Ultrasound of the cranium and abdomen: Ultrasound scans may be done to check the brain and other internal abdominal organs for any pathology.
➡️ Eye exam: Problems associated with the development of the retina may be examined in your child.
If your baby develops any complications, another specialized testing may also be needed.
After careful assessment of your preemie’s specific needs, therapy is given and his/her condition is monitored closely to establish good health. Supportive care may be given as required and includes placing the baby in the incubator, respiratory support, etc. Medications and at times specific surgery may be needed for preemies as well.
Once stable the baby is discharged and parents are instructed on home care.
When can I expect to take my baby home?
You can expect to take your baby who was born prematurely home when he/she is:
➡️ Able to breathe without support
➡️ Having a stable body temperature
➡️ Can take feeds orally
➡️ Is gaining steady weight
➡️ Is free of infection
How can I care for my preterm baby at home?
Breastfeeding your baby: Breast milk contains a certain amount of nutrients and vitamins that help your premature baby grow and develop faster and healthier. Breast milk is much easier to digest than formula milk as it is specially designed by your body for your baby. If your infant is too premature for breastfeeding, it is recommended that you start expressing your milk in order to keep your milk supply up.
Maintain skin-to-skin contact with your baby: Putting your baby on your chest to keep him/her tightly secured to your body can have many benefits. The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are many and include reducing any pain or stress your child is feeling. It also promotes healthy weight gain, helps establish breastfeeding, and makes it easier for your baby to adapt to its new environment. It also helps in the regulation of their heart rate and breathing.
Pay attention to your baby’s sleep requirements: Your preterm baby may sleep for very long hours and it’s alright as it’s good for his growth and development. Make sure a comfortable environment is set up and your baby gets the required sleep.
Accept help from others: Allow your friends and family to help you. It will help save energy for yourself and the baby.
Dr. Vijay has expertise in handling all simple and complex concerns of the newborn, including successfully treating preterm babies. He is practicing and is available for consultation at Ankura hospital for women and children, Vijaywada.