Equipment on the neonatal unit

Equipment on the unit can seem very scary and overwhelming, but everything on the unit has a need and is helping your baby. The first time on the unit, you will notice bleeping and noises, and machines everywhere: it can be upsetting to see all the machines and wires.

Each machine and wire performs a task, here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Monitors: monitors are attached to your baby via wires, so that they can keep an eye on your baby’s oxygen levels, heart rate and respiratory levels. An alarm will sound if they are breathing too fast or slow or the baby is taking too long in between breaths.
  • Blood pressure: Some babies may need their BP measured regularly so a catheter is inserted into a artery and gives a constant display of blood pressure. An alarm will sound if it becomes too high or low. Some units use a small cuff which is placed around the baby’s foot or arm which takes a measurement of the baby’s blood pressure at regular times. You may find it gets moved around a lot, so one day could be on a foot and another on an arm in order to make sure the readings are accurate.   This is also done to measure oxygen and blood gas levels.
  • Oxygen: Not all babies born prematurely will need oxygen, but some may do. Oxygen can be administered into the incubator directly, or can be given through Oxygen masks or through nasal cannulae. Babies can go home on nasal oxygen.
  • CPAP – (Continuous positive airways pressure): mainly used to treat babies with respiratory disease. This is delivered most commonly through nasal prongs or a face mask. It is used for babies who can breathe spontaneously, but have mild to moderate respiratory distress, babies who suffer from apnoeas and newborns or premature babies following extubation from full ventilation.
  • Ventilators: A mechanical ventilator delivering air and oxygen to your baby’s lungs, to help the baby’s own effort to breathe and where needed, take over the breathing function completely. Babies born before 28 weeks are likely to need some kind of respiratory support to help them survive.
  • Incubators: Used to help babies keep warm and regulate their temperatures, they also help protect them from infection and noise.
  • Phototherapy lights: Used to help babies who are suffering from jaundice, as the fluorescent lights help to break down the Biliruibin associated with Jaundice. This is often given for 3 to 7 days depending on the level of jaundice and if the levels are too high, the baby may need a blood transfusion to help. Lights are placed over the incubator/cot, and the baby is stripped down to a nappy. This is sometimes associated with sun bathing as the baby will lay under the lights to help.
  • Central lines: Inserted into a vein, usually the arm or leg to allow intravenous feeding and medication.
  • Infusion devices: Used to provide accurate amounts of fluids, blood, nutrition or transfusions.


by Michelle, mum to Joshua, Alexa and Nathan

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