Māori Translations

Waitaha: Canterbury 
Takiwhā​: Community 
Aotearoa: New Zealand
Ōtautahi​: Christchurch
P​ēpi​: Baby 
W​​hānau​: Family
Whenua: Placenta 
Nga Matua: Parents 
Kainga: Home

Terms commonly used within the neonatal service

The body's ability to take in, or incorporate back into the body, fluids or food.

Drugs used for bringing on the loss of sensation (and hence pain) in many medical and surgical procedures. General anaesthetic (GA) produces unconsciousness and is administered by a specially trained doctor called an Anaesthetist.

​​​Drugs used to fight off bacterial infection. E.g. Vancomycin, Gentamicin, and Amoxil.


The reduction below normal levels of the number of red blood cells (haemoglobin).


A numerical scoring system given at 1, 5, and 10 minutes after birth to evaluate the condition of the baby at delivery by checking the heart rate, respiratory rate, colour, irritability and muscle tone. Ten is the maximum.


The temporary stopping of breathing by a baby.

Apnoea Monitor

A monitor that is connected to the baby with a sensor that specifically alarms when a baby stops breathing or pauses for more than 20 seconds.

Aspiration 1

The breathing of material into the windpipe (trachea) or lung; or 2. Removal of material from the lungs (secretions) or stomach by suctioning.


Suffocation due to lack of oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels in the blood.


A colloquial word to describe the procedure of applying oxygen via a mask connected to an oxygen bag. The baby's nose and mouth are covered by the mask and the bag gently squeezed to ventilating the lungs


A breakdown product of red blood cells; excess amounts cause jaundice (a yellowing of the skin).

Blood Gas

A test performed on a sample of blood - arterial (from an artery) or a cap gas (from a capillary i.e. a heal prick) - to measure the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.

Blood Count

A test of a sample of blood to tell the numbers of red and white cells at a given time. Also known as Full Blood Count.

Blood Pressure (BP)

The pressure of force that the blood exerts against the walls of the arteries during circulation. It is described by numbers: systolic (the top or high number) and diastolic (the low or bottom number).

Blood Top-up

Blood given to replenish a deficit caused by taking blood samples for tests.


Establishing a close relationship between a parent and a child.


An abnormally slow heart rate (beats per minute) i.e. less than 100 for a preterm baby. A newborn's heart rate is usually 120 to 160.

Brainz Monitor

A machine to monitor the brain waves of a baby. Used when suspected injury has occurred, usually following a traumatic birth or prolonged resuscitation

Breast Pump

A device, either hand or electrically driven, to extract breast milk.

Bubble CPAP

A breathing circuit that bubbles air or oxygen through water giving continuous positive airway pressure. See CPAP.


A medicine given to babies to stimulate their breathing.


A tube to either put fluid into the baby's body or to drain fluid out of it.


Applying to the structure and the functions of the brain.


Each human body cell has 46 chromosomes; 23 pairs. They are the genetic blueprint containing all the information that makes each human unique.

Chronic Lung Disease

Chronic disease/damage to lungs that requires long term support with ventilation/CPAP/oxygen therapy.


The first breast milk produced after the birth of a baby. It appears thick and yellowish in colour and is rich in protein and antibodies.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

A method whereby baby does his/her own breathing while having some continuous lung expansion by way of a machine delivering air with or without added oxygen.

Corrected Age

Describes the age your baby would have been if he was born at term. E.g. for a baby born at 30 weeks (10 weeks early), when your baby is 6 months old from birth, his corrected age is 3 ½ months.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

A machine to help keep an infant's lung expanded while he does his own breathing.


A biological term for a specially prepared substance to grow microbes (germs) on to identify which organism to treat for an illness.


Being low in fluids due to vomiting, diarrhoea, overheating and/or evaporation through the skin.


A sterile sugar solution given into a vein to maintain or raise the level of sugar in the blood.


Commonly used name for an intravenous infusion (IV). A system where a measured sterile fluid is given via a small needle and tubing by an electric pump.


Expressed breast milk.

Echo (Echocardiograph)

Use of ultrasound to examine the structure of the heart. The ultrasound waves are directed at the heart through the chest wall and seen on a screen.


Refers to the minerals in the blood. E.g. Sodium, Potassium, and Calcium.

Endotracheal Tube (ET tube)

A plastic tube used to pass through the baby's mouth or nose into the windpipe (trachea) and is connected to the ventilator.


When the breastmilk is coming in. Sometimes the breasts become enlarged and uncomfortable. Helped by frequent breast-feeding or expressing.

Exchange Transfusion

Blood given as an exchange for severe jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

Extended Posture

Position in which a baby lies with straight arms and legs.


Removal of the tube from the windpipe/trachea.


Two soft spots on a baby's head – a large spot on the top, and a smaller one near the back of it. The spots close within 12 to 18 months.


Milk mixtures suitable for infant's consumption.

Gestational age

The time in weeks from the last menstrual period, indicating the length of the pregnancy. Full term is 40 weeks, but can range from 37 – 42 weeks.


Sex organs - penis or vagina.


A natural sugar which is a main source of energy for the body.

Head circumference

Baby's head size measured at the largest point.

High frequency ventilation (Hi-Fi)

Special type of ventilation where the ventilator delivers frequent rapid breathes that can be in excess of 150 breaths per minute

Hind milk

Breast milk of higher fat content that follows after the let-down reflex once the baby has been sucking for some time. This may be 2-3 minutes or 4-5 strong sucks.


Characteristics transmitted from one generation to another through genes on the chromosomes.

Haemoglobin (HB)

A protein present in the red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body to the tissues.


Bleeding either inside or outside the body.


A small prick in the baby's heel to do blood tests (usually for blood gases or blood sugar levels).


A bulge of tissue where the bowel protrudes outside the abdomen. An inguinal hernia is in the groin. It is more frequent in premature boys, and is often repaired by surgery.

Hyaline Membrane Disease (HMD)

Sometimes referred to as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). A lung condition mostly occurring in babies less than 32 weeks gestation due to a lack of surfactant that is present naturally in larger amounts in babies not born so prematurely.


Low blood sugar.


Specially enclosed bed with the ability to control temperature.


The rapid invasion of the body (in or on) by harmful organisms (bugs). Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics; very few viruses are treatable.


Direct access into the vein by needle or plastic tube for giving fluids or drugs.


The act of inserting the endotracheal tube; usually through the mouth, but also can be through the nose.


An area set aside to keep anyone suspected of a contagious infection away from others. It is usual to nurse such babies on their own and staff to wear gown and gloves.


The yellow colour of a baby's skin caused by too much bilirubin in the layer below the skin. It is usually treated by phototherapy.


The body's process of making breastmilk.


The soft downy hair some babies are born with, especially if premature. It falls out over time.


Fat contained in a white fluid and given as part of intravenous therapy in babies who are unable to feed by mouth.


Amniotic fluids surrounding the baby (in the womb) until the membranes rupture.


An IV sited in the elbow or foot which sits well inside the body in a large vein.

Lumbar Puncture

A needle inserted between the vertebra near the bottom of the spine to collect cerebrospinal fluid. It is sent to the laboratory to help in the diagnosis of infection.


Greenish-black mucus like substance present in the intestines of newborns. The first meconium is usually passed in the first 24 hours.


A machine used to help observe functions such as respiratory rate and heart rate. It is connected to the baby by electrodes and sensors.


Fluid found in the nose and windpipe.


A heart sound heard through a stethoscope. There are many causes. An echo is usually done to determine the reason in your baby.

Neonatal Newborn

Refers to the first 28 days after birth (however, many babies are in neonatal units for longer than this).

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)

Inflammation or infection of the bowel wall of some infants.


The art of creating a safe position with boundaries for premature babies in incubators.

Neonatologist A doctor with special training and interest in premature and sick newborns.

Nasogastric Tube (NG tube)

A tube placed in the stomach - via the nose - to feed a baby too small or tired to manage breast or bottle for all feeds.


A doctor specialising in the treatment and diagnosis of eye defects, injuries and diseases.


Open bed with a warmer to control the baby's temperature. It is used on admission and while a lot of intervention is still needed.


A gas that makes up 21% of the air we breathe. When more oxygen is required it can be given up to 100% as a medical gas.


Treatment for jaundice that involves the use of white or blue light directed at the uncovered skin of the baby in an incubator for a variable period of time.


Leakage of air from the lung into the chest cavity. It may cause breathing problems necessitating the draining of this through a chest tube.


The rhythmic expansion of an artery caused by a heartbeat which may be felt with a finger.


Monitor that gives an oxygen saturation reading in the baby's blood. It is usually attached to the hand or foot and has a red light.


The fluid component of blood in which the red cells are suspended.


The position of lying the baby on his or her stomach.

Quiet Time

Specified period during the day when babies and parents can rest undisturbed.


The backs of the eye where blood vessels supplying the light sensitive cells are found.


Mothers may move in to stay when their baby is establishing breast feeding. This is especially so when baby is starting to demand feeds. Regardless of whether you breast or bottle feed there will come a time for you to live in prior to discharge. You should have your baby in your room and provide total care for your baby.

Respiritory Distress Syndrome

See Hyaline Membrane Disease


A drug given to settle a baby. Often ventilated babies require sedation.


An infection in the bloodstream that affects the whole body.

Small for Gestational Age (SGA)

Babies born weighing much less than is considered optimum for their gestation.


Free from contamination by living organism (bugs).

Stimulation 1

Developmental encouragement given to the baby by either singing, talking, reading, or having things to look at; or 2. Physical encouragement to continue breathing when an apneoa occurs, by gently running your finger over the baby's chest.


Sugar dispensed by pharmacy in suspension used to relieve pain during minor painful procedures e.g. heelpricks


Aspiration of fluid and mucus from the lungs; usually by mechanical means.


Surgical stitches.


Compounds that line the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs of premature babies who have not had a chance to develop it naturally. It reduces the surface tension and therefore prevents lung collapse during expiration (breathing out).


Used to either inject fluid or medication or to withdraw fluid from the body.


Heart rate above 160 beats per minute.


Breathing rate above 60 breaths per minute.

Total Parental Nutrition (TPN)

Fluid given intravenously to promote your baby's growth.

Umbilical Arterial Catheter (UAC)

A small tube in the umbilicus (cord) used for taking off blood samples and for measuring blood pressure.

Umbilical Venous Catheter (UVC)

Same as UAC but used for giving IV fluids like TPN and blood top-ups.


Breaths done by the ventilator machine when baby has an endotracheal tube (ETT) through the mouth or a naso/pharangeal tube through the nose into the trachea(windpipe) direct to the lungs.

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Page last reviewed: 25 February 2014