After a grueling stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, also known as the NICU, your baby is finally coming home. It’s an exciting time that should be celebrated! It can also be a bit scary. Many babies come home from the NICU with a special machine called an apnea monitor. Most hospitals will require that you learn basic infant CPR if your baby will be coming home with an apnea monitor.
The apnea monitor will measure your baby’s heart rate and respiration’s. Some baby’s will only need the monitor while sleeping while other baby’s will need to be monitored at all times. Your Doctor will advise you on what is right for your baby.
The monitor will keep a computer record of your baby’s heart rate and respiration’s on an internal hard drive that will be downloaded about once a month by a technician and evaluated by a neonatologist. The results will determine if your baby may discontinue use or need to remain on the monitor.
Once baby is home, hearing an apnea monitor alarm can be terrifying. As difficult as it will be, try not to panic. First, LOOK at your baby. If it is a true alarm, the tip of your baby’s nose will begin to look bluish in color. If the baby’s color is very pale or bluish, place your hand on baby’s chest and give him a very gentle jiggle. (Never shake a baby with force). Most times, that is all that is required to remind baby to take a breath. If that doesn’t work, you may be more aggressive. Pinch his heel or even pick him up. In rare cases, you may need to start CPR, call 911, and contact your baby’s Dr. about the episode.
If the alarm is sounding but you can see that the baby’s color is good and her chest is rising and falling, it may just be a loose or dirty electrode. Remove the rubber electrodes from the baby’s chest, disconnect the wires and wash them with warm soapy water, rinse well and then wipe with alcohol. When reconnecting, be sure that the wires at both ends are plugged in snugly. When properly inserted, none of the metal on the end of the plug should be visible.
A low battery will also cause an apnea monitor to alarm. If this is the case, the low battery light will be lit. Simply plug the monitor into any wall outlet to charge. Be sure that your baby’s monitor is fully charged before going on a long outing.
Occasionally, the rubber electrodes can irritate your baby’s skin as was the case with my daughter. It is okay to vary placement slightly to avoid skin breakdown as long as the leads are within the correct parameters.
Although it can be scary bringing your baby home on an apnea monitor, remember that it is for the safety of your baby. Once you have become familiar with the workings of your baby’s monitor, you will find much comfort in knowing that your baby is safe at home with you.