Neonatal Care Equipment: What’s Used in NICU and What to Bring With You


The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a specialised hospital unit that provides care for newborns who are born prematurely or with medical conditions. The medical equipment used in the NICU is designed to provide a supportive environment for your newborn, monitor vital signs and provide them with the support and care they need. Read on to discover some of the equipment that’s commonly used in the neonatal intensive care unit and what it does.

Equipment Used in NICU

The Neonatal intensive care unit can be an overwhelming environment for many parents, especially with all that equipment. But remember, the equipment has a special purpose and is designed to help preemies like yours. Here’s a list of the common NICU equipment you may encounter and what it may be used for:

  • Incubators. One of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in the NICU is the incubator. Incubators provide a controlled environment for newborns in NICU, including temperature and humidity, and also provide a barrier from external environmental factors. They are designed to mimic the womb and provide a safe and comfortable place for premature or unwell newborns to grow and develop. An incubator is one type of bed (cot) used in the NICU, but other types include a traditional cot/ bassinet or a babytherm (for larger babies).

  • Ventilators. These machines are also commonly used in the NICU to assist with infant’s breathing. They provide a steady flow of oxygen and pressure to newborns who are not yet able to breathe on their own. There are two common types of ventilators used for infants in the NICU:

    • Positive pressure ventilators deliver air or oxygen through a tube into your baby’s lungs and the flow can be adjusted depending on your baby’s needs.

    • High-frequency oscillating ventilators deliver small amounts of air or oxygen to your baby’s lungs at a faster rate than other ventilators.

  • Monitors. Neonatal monitoring devices are used to track vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. These machines provide real-time data that can alert the NICU staff to any changes in your newborn's condition, allowing them to take action quickly. Some monitors you may see in the NICU include:

    • Vital signs monitors pick up heart rate signals and changes in breathing- using small pads attached to your baby’s chest.

    • Oxygen saturation monitors check the level of oxygen in your baby’s blood using sensors strapped to your baby’s foot or hand.

    • Apnoea monitors detect your baby’s breathing using a small pad placed under their body.

  • Phototherapy equipment. If your baby has jaundice, a common condition in newborns that occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the blood, a phototherapy lamp or light blanket may be used as a form of treatment. Phototherapy exposes a newborn's skin to a special blue or green light, which helps to break down the bilirubin.

  • Intravenous drips (IV). An IV is a thin tube inserted into a blood vessel and used to deliver fluids or medications to your baby.

  • Feeding tubes. These feeding tubes are used in the NICU to deliver food through the nose or mouth into your baby’s stomach.

  • Infusion pumps. These devices are used to provide nutrition, fluid or blood products and medications to newborns. They allow neonatal care staff to control the flow of fluids and medications with precision, helping to ensure that your newborn receives the right amount of nutrients and medications at the right time.

  • Umbilical catheters. Mostly used in the first few days after birth, umbilical catheters are tubes that are put into blood vessels in your baby’s belly button. One type is used to measure blood pressure and check levels of certain gases in the blood, whilst the other delivers medicine or nutrition to your baby.

  • In addition to these, incubator beds and radiant warmers are used to keep newborns warm in the NICU, other monitoring equipment may be used depending on your baby’s needs and Portable X-ray machines are used to take X-rays of newborns.

It’s important to note that the equipment used in NICU may vary depending on the specific unit and your preemie’s needs. The neonatal care staff working in the NICU are trained to use this equipment and provide the best care possible for your baby.

Your NICU Bag Checklist

The neonatal unit may be packed full of equipment, but what about your hospital bag?? Is it full of the things you may need during your stay in the NICU? Here’s a simple checklist to help make your time in the neonatal unit a little easier:

  • Notebook. Using a notebook to write down NICU information, questions, or to act as a journal may help your mind from becoming overloaded with information. Journalling is also a great way to help you cope with the arrival of your preemie and all the emotions that come with it.

  • Baby blanket. The neonatal unit will provide blankets, but perhaps you’d like to bring your own for skin-to-skin contact. If you’re not staying with your baby in the hospital, leaving a soft blanket or Miniboo with your scent on (not perfume) may provide your baby with a sense of security.

  • Unscented toiletries. Having all the essential toiletries you need may make life a little more luxurious in the NICU. And hand cream and lip balm may be essential for the dry hospital environment. Just make sure it’s free from perfumes and harsh chemicals because your baby’s skin and sense of smell may be very sensitive.

  • Comfy clothes and slippers. If you’re spending a lot of time in the hospital, you want to feel comfortable and cosy. Remember to bring some clothing or nightwear that can make skin-to-skin or breastfeeding easily accessible.

  • Entertainment. This could come in the form of a laptop, tablet or smartphone to watch movies, listen to music or play games. Books can also keep you occupied during those long hours while your preemie snoozes. You could even read to your baby – they love the sound of your voice!

  • Nursing bras. Whether you’re breastfeeding, expressing or you just want a comfortable bra that’s also convenient for skin-to-skin contact, a couple of nursing bras may come in handy.

  • Snacks. No matter how long you need to spend in the NICU, healthy snacks can help provide you with much-needed energy and nutrition. You may also enjoy a little bit of comfort food during this difficult period.

  • Nappies – For babies born prematurely you can now order Pampers Preemie Protection Nappies online for free home delivery via

The neonatal care staff may inform you on what you may or may not need to bring with you to the NICU. It’s always good to check with them on specifics. Aside from our handy NICU bag checklist, you can check out our Hospital Bag Checklist Tool for even more tips on what to bring for before and after delivery, as well as essentials for your birthing partner and baby.


The needs of NICU babies will be assessed by the neonatal care unit nurses and doctors. They are specially trained to care for premature and sick babies and provide them with the necessary medical interventions. Parents of NICU babies will also be involved in the planning and daily care of their babies.

The Bottom Line

The equipment used in the NICU is designed to provide a safe environment for newborns, monitor vital signs and provide life-saving support. The use of state-of-the-art equipment helps to ensure that premature and newborn babies receive the best possible care. Remember, the neonatal care staff are there to support you and answer any questions you may have about your baby’s care or the equipment used.

About Claire Campbell

Claire is a dedicated nurse with 37 years of experience in neonatal care. Passionate about supporting families, she has been honored with the Patient Champion of the Year and Neonatal Nurse of the Year Awards in the UK. She has also developed a widel...

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