NICU - pediatric

Most terms of pregnancy last about 40 weeks. By definition, a premature
birth takes place more than three weeks before the actual due date.
Premature births can occur between 8-10% of all pregnancies in the United
States. The risks of these births vary, depending on how soon an infant is
born. However, the survival rate is possible for infants born as early as 23-26
With premature infants being born too early, they may have health problems...
***Some of health problems can include:
Difficulty breathing
Episodes of stopped breathing (apnea)
Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage)
Fluid accumulation in the brain (hydrocephalus)
Cerebral palsy and other neurological problems
Vision problems
Intestinal problems
Developmental delays
Learning disabilities
Hearing problems
***Less serious complications may include:
* Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
* Decreased number of red blood cells (anemia)
* Low blood pressure
Why the need for OT?
Occupational therapy helps infants in the NICU to become independent
and maximize their performance abilities to participate in their everyday
“occupations” such as:
*Interaction with parents and caregivers
*Use of eye and hand coordination
*Positioning for muscle stimulation and development
*Education of parents for home going
The NICU population includes infants who are acutely ill or premature, and who are often
unstable, fragile and easily compromised by environmental conditions. Their primary
"occupations" include sleeping, feeding, interacting with their parents and caregivers and
use of their eyes and hands to explore their environment.
OT in the NICU helps protect these fragile babies from excessive or inappropriate sensory
aspects of the environment, and assists the family in fostering optimal development for
their baby. That includes the development of age-appropriate occupations (i.e., feeding),
sensorimotor processes, caregiver-child bonding, and neurobehavioral organization.
To help foster an infant's neuromotor development (how the brain and muscles work
together) occupational therapists assist with optimal positioning of the infant in the isolette
and/or crib as well as educating caregivers in supportive ways to hold the infant, including
"Kangaroo Care." Occupational therapists might also fabricate special supports in the form
of splints to help manage muscle tone or range of motion.
OT plays a very important role with the premature infant's sensory system and their ability
to organize and regulate the stimuli in the world around them. Often these babies have a
difficult time adjusting to being outside the womb. Occupational therapists assist these
infants with regulating touch, sound, and light.
Occupational therapy and Speech therapy work together as a feeding team in Duke's NICU.
Feeding is not just about the infant being able to eat enough food to get the nutrients they
need to grow. Occupational therapy focuses on the quality of the feeding skills, which
includes suckswallow-breathe coordination and the ability for an infant to maintain a calm
organized state during a feed.
Helpful sites:
For newborns
Hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are designed to provide round-the-clock care for
premature babies and full-term babies who develop problems after birth.