This is a special blog post as part of a Bloggers Unite event called Fight for Preemies. Today, more than 300 bloggers from around the world are dedicating their blog posts to different aspects surrounding premature birth.
Every year, 20 million babies are born too soon — half a million of them in the United States. Those numbers reflect a 31% increase since 1981, and in many cases we don’t know why the babies are born prematurely.
This fight is for answers, which will hopefully lead us to ways we can prevent premature births. You can learn more about premature birth at http://www.marchofdimes.com/fightforpreemies.
The following is from FMH NICU Nurse Pam Bell on her experience caring for preemies.
Taking care of premature babies is one of the most challenging roles of a nurse. Preemies grow, feed and develop in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) surroundings. It is up to the nurses to make NICU surroundings as nurturing as possible for these fragile newborns. We pay close attention to noise and light to avoid overstimulation, and we use special positioning techniques to create a womb-like environment. Along with the family, we feel the joy, the pain, the ups and the downs of the baby’s stay in the NICU.
Preemies come in all sizes, but many of them are much smaller than the healthy seven or 8-pound newborn for whom parents hope. The NICU nurses at FMH take care of newborns at or above 28 weeks gestation. Because the lungs are underdeveloped at this age, many preemies face their first challenge literally in drawing their first breath. They often need the help of specialized breathing equipment. Preemies also need help with temperature control, often in the controlled warmth of an incubator, as they are no longer warm and snug in mother’s womb.
Along with creating a nurturing environment, our primary job as NICU nurses is to help parents learn to care for their tiny newborns. Just like any newborn, preemies recognize and respond to their parents. Nurses make sure that parents get updates on their baby’s progress when they cannot be at the bedside. Babies in the NICU often stay for weeks developing, feeding and growing. Our mission is to create a partnership with parents, and then send their baby safely home.
Nurses who work in the NICU understand that, for the family, the experience of having a baby in the NICU lasts a lifetime. NICU nurses have the honor of being a part of each family’s life at a time when a new life enters the world. We do not treat the honor lightly.