Taking a baby home on oxygen is a little bit scary, but don’t worry, you’ll quickly get used to it and start feeling empowered caring for your baby. What makes having a baby home on oxygen scary is that it involves a lot of monitoring, handling foreign equipment, and stepping out of your comfort zone learning medical terminology and techniques. One relief is that you’ll be working weekly with your oxygen company, who can help you out on a personal basis when needed.
It’s important to make sure your baby has enough oxygen, so before you’re discharged from the hospital the NICU nurses spend their time training you to use a small portable oxygen tank and oximeter. This small setup is what you get to use until the oxygen company arrives with larger oxygen tanks for home use. If the nurses don’t send you home with cannula tubing and face tape, be sure to ask them for it. You’ll need extra. Keep in touch with your oxygen company (their numbers are typically found under the health care services or health care supplies section in the Yellow Pages) so that together you create a schedule that keeps your baby’s oxygen supply plentiful. Because oxygen is flammable, the oxygen company gives you ‘no open flame’ signs for your door and windows to remind you and others to be cautious.
At times it can be frustrating carrying around an oxygen tank and oximeter (even if it is portable) everywhere you take your baby, but it’s definitely doable and once you get the hang of it, it’s not a big burden. Remember that portable tanks last from 2-6 hours (depending on how much oxygen your baby needs), so carefully plan your outings so you’re not stuck without oxygen an hour from home.
Generally speaking, an infant’s nasal cannula oxygen flow ranges from ¼ liter per minute down to 1/64 liter per minute. The oximeter helps you monitor how much flow your baby needs and alerts you when the blood oxygen levels are too low (typically less than 90% saturation, though some doctors recommend no less than 94%).
Take some time to experiment where it’s easiest to keep the baby and their oxygen. Consider requesting longer nasal cannula tubing from your oxygen company to avoid lugging oxygen tanks all around the house.
Some babies quickly wean off oxygen while others may take a number of months or a year. Whatever your case is, you’ll quickly learn to fulfill baby’s extra needs and live a normal life.