Monitor the health, growth, and eating habits of prematurely born children.
What does a Neonatal Dietitian do?
Infants are the world’s most helpless creatures. Even the strongest, healthiest newborn requires constant care. But, when a baby has special dietary needs, the proper care can make the difference between life and death. So Doctors, Nurses, and Neonatal Dietitians make sure the infant gets the food he needs to grow.
Feeding babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is very different from giving a full-term baby a bottle. These premature or low-birth-weight babies require special equipment, techniques, and products to thrive. Your job as a Neonatal Dietitian is to evaluate the health, maturity, and progress of the infant. To evaluate each baby, you scour medical records, talk with the NICU Nurses, and examine the baby’s intake, output, and electrolyte levels.
When you have a clear picture of what medications the baby is taking and what his deficiencies are, you create a feeding plan. As a Neonatal Dietitian, you work in conjunction with other medical staff to evaluate the best treatment for each newborn. That might include feeding tubes that deliver breast milk or formula directly to the infant’s stomach. If the baby’s digestive system is too underdeveloped to handle that, you might use parenteral solutions, which is a way of feeding through the veins.
During the days or months that you monitor the baby’s progress, you continually educate the parents about what’s going on and what they can expect once the baby is released into their care.