Visiting a Preterm Newborn


If you are visiting a preterm newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you will likely find the medical equipment more overwhelming than the small baby. In the NICU, you may observe:

  • Feeding Tubes: Moderately preterm babies are not strong enough to take in enough nourishment to gain weight, so a tube may be inserted from the baby's mouth (OG tube) or nose (NG tube) to the stomach. This tube will be used to provide any milk feedings that the baby cannot take by breast or bottle.
  • Incubators: Although moderately preterm babies have begun to fill out, most don't have enough body fat to keep themselves warm. As a result, a baby may be placed in an incubator or, for the first several hours of life, under a radiant warmer.
  • IV Lines: Moderately preterm babies have immature digestive systems, which means that milk feedings need to be slowly introduced and increased over a period of several days. Peripheral IVs are often used to give the baby nutrition while feeds are increased, although PICC lines and umbilical catheters may also be used.
  • Monitoring Equipment: Stickers on a moderately preterm baby's chest and feet or wrists will monitor the baby's heart rate, breathing rate, and oxygen saturation.
  • Respiratory Support: Moderately preterm babies may need respiratory support at birth. Nasal CPAP and nasal cannulas are most commonly used, although some moderately preterm babies need mechanical ventilation.
Petals Children Hospital