Feature | June 11, 2007

Good Things Come to Those Who Weigh

A best practices list for neonatal weighing and measuring

Direct input was gathered from more than 300 nurses polled by Seca during the 2006 National Neonatal Nurse’s Meeting (NNNM) and the 2006 Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN) conference, to create the following Best Practices for weighing and measuring babies from the tiniest preemies in the NICU to full-term newborns.
Speed is of the essence
The faster the weighing takes place, the better. In order to be weighed, babies have to be detached from their oxygen supplies and other equipment, which places them at increased risk. So the speed by which the scale can read and record the weight is important.
Keep them warm
The loss of body heat is a major issue in preemies, as the longer they are away from that environment the more detrimental it is to their condition. Therefore, making sure that the weighing takes place quickly and in a heated area is vital.
Keep them safe
Using a scale with a shell-shaped weighing tray makes babies feel more safe and protected. The tiniest of babies can squirm and roll off some scales, so it's important that the scale is deep enough to ensure that they don't fall.
Make sure equipment is correctly calibrated
The most minute difference in measurement could spell disaster for a neonate. Even the altitude of the hospital location can affect the precise measurement reading, so accuracy is crucial.
Know the weighing priorities and protocols
There are three basic types of babies seen in the NICU and each is weighed differently:
Acute — These babies are the most fragile, and they often have a scale built into their incubators. They cannot be detached from their oxygen and other tubing for any length of time to be weighed on an external scale.
Critical — These babies can be unplugged from their tubing for a short period of time; however, reconnection should occur as soon as possible.
Stable — These babies are usually in NICU for medication or an otherwise routine operation, so while speed is still a factor, it is not as critical.

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