Infants born less than 37 weeks into the mother’s pregnancy are considered premature babies. Premature newborns require special care to ensure that they develop and grow without complication. A neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, provides premature infants with the medical attention they need to thrive. The NICU at Sunrise Children’s Hospital is one such atmosphere in which thousands of premature babies have received the high-quality and comprehensive care for a long and healthy life.
Premature newborns do not have the body fat with which full-term babies are born; therefore, they cannot maintain a high body temperature. Swaddling is not enough to stabilize a premature baby’s temperature, so NICU hospitals use incubators or radiant warmers to retain premature infant body heat. In addition to keeping preemies warm, which helps them grow faster, incubators and radiant warmers also decrease the chance for infection and water loss.
Premature babies also have special nutritional needs because they grow faster than full-term babies, yet lack a mature digestive system. Typically, the best nutrition comes from breast milk. However, infants born at less than 37 weeks cannot feed directly from their mothers. Instead, the breast milk is pumped and administered through a feeding tube from the nose or mouth directly into the stomach. Many times, the breast milk will be fortified with additional amounts of calcium and phosphorus for desired growth and development.
Premature infants are often at high risk for a number of physiological complications, including sleep apnea, anemia, low blood pressure, respiratory distress syndrome, and infection. Though their immature immune system and organs are susceptible to these disorders, NICU hospitals employ various preventive and treatment measures to minimize their long-term effects. By administering these techniques and following up with frequent healthcare checkups once a preemie has left the NICU hospital, many premature infants go on to enjoy healthy and robust childhoods.
Sunrise Children’s Hospital offers comprehensive NICU services for parents in the greater Las Vegas area. If you require our neonatal care options, or any of our other specialties, including pediatric cardiology, oncology, and occupational therapy services, please contact our children’s hospital today at (702) 731-5437.