A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Also known as an intensive care nursery (ICN), is an intensive care unit specialising in the care of ill or premature new-born infants. The term neonatal comes from neo, “new”, and natal, “pertaining to birth or origin”. Neonatal refers to the first 28 days of life
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, also known as the Special Care Baby Unit or SCBU, provides intensive care for babies who are born prematurely or become very unwell
The neonatal unit provides expert 24/7 hospital care for premature or sick babies.
Premature babies need extra help while their bodies catch up on the growth and development they missed in the womb. The neonatal unit provides this special care in several ways.
Its harder for premature babies to stay warm because they can’t regulate their own body temperature yet. A special cot (incubator) can help with this.
Some babies who are born early need help with breathing for a while, until their lungs development catches up. Babies who are weak or very ill may also need help with breathing.
If a baby is too small, too premature or too weak to feed they might receive fluids and a nutrition mixture through a drip. Or they may need a tube that carries milk into their stomach.
Premature babies also need extra monitoring, treatment and care because they can be more vulnerable to infection and other medical problems.
About half of babies in the neonatal unit were not born prematurely but need treatment or care because they are ill.
Having surgery, getting treatment for an infection or having light therapy for jaundice are some of the reasons why a baby may also be in the neonatal unit.
Photos courtesy of Clare Shapshott Photography