PARENTS

I: What Is An Incubator?

19/02/2010 10:37 | Updated 22 May 2015

An incubator is special plastic cot designed for premature babies. They are used in special care baby units and many, but not all, premature babies will be placed inside an incubator as part of their treatment, care and development.

A key function of the incubator is to keep the premature baby comfortable and warm. This is important as premature babies do not have much body fat, and will lose heat easily as a result. If the premature baby becomes cold, it will not feed and this will cause a drop in the blood-sugar level.

To counteract this, all incubators have a thermostat to ensure that the baby is kept at a constant and suitably warm temperature. This is an extremely important factor in nurturing the premature baby as it will encourage feeding and, as a result, growth and development.

The incubator also has a lid and a port hole. Parents are encouraged to touch, stroke and feel their baby through the port hole. The baby will recognise the voice of the parents, in particular the mother, and for that reason parents are encouraged to sing or talk to the baby as well.

As well as keeping the baby at a constant temperature, other care will be given inside the incubator if appropriate. This includes helping the baby to breathe with a mechanical ventilator, and feeding the premature baby through a tube until the baby is big enough to feed independently.

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