NICU nurses take care of the smallest and most delicate patients.

They rely on top-notch tools that can detect even the slightest changes in their patients’ condition.

One of the most important tools used by NICU nurses is a stethoscope, and here are two of the best ones available.

My top Picks

As someone who has years of experience as a nurse working with infants and children, I have had the opportunity to try out many stethoscopes.

Based on my experience and research, I highly recommend the 3M Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope as the best option for NICU nurses.

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3M 2157 Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope
  • Dual-sided chestpiece with small 2.7cm diaphragm is ideal for pediatric patients.
  • Versatile chestpiece design provides high acoustic sensitivity with both a floating diaphragm and…
  • Non-chill rim and diaphragm provide patient comfort.

Its dual-sided chestpiece, small diaphragm, and no-chill rim make it a reliable and comfortable choice for healthcare professionals.

The Littmann brand is known for producing high-quality stethoscopes that are trusted by medical professionals worldwide, and this model is no exception.

While the Infant Classic II may be pricier than other models, its durability and superior performance make it a worthwhile investment.

If you’re on a budget, the ADC Adscope 605 Infant Stethoscope is a decent alternative. For those seeking an electronic stethoscope, the Littmann electronic stethoscope is a popular choice.

However, it may be too big for regular NICU patients since it uses a Cardiology IV stethoscope.

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3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope
  • Connects to Eko software to visualize and share heart sound waveforms (smart device not…
  • Up to 40x amplification (at peak frequency, vs. analog mode)
  • Active noise cancellation reduces unwanted background sounds

In this case, the Eko Core Digital attachment is a great option that can transform any analog stethoscope into a digital one.

The attachment makes it suitable for those who are hard of hearing or used to using electronic stethoscopes.

Best Stethoscopes for NICU Nurses

Important

Please note that some facilities may provide a disposable stethoscope for each NICU patient.

While it’s not every facility it may be yours. So make sure to double-check before buying any stethoscope for a NICU nurse job.

1. 3M Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope

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3M Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope
TOP PICK Provides high sensitivity for listening to both low and high-frequency sounds.

The reliability of a Littmann combines with the sensitivity of a pediatric stethoscope for this 3M Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope.

The chest piece is dual-sided and allows you to rotate between the diaphragm, for high-frequency sounds, and the bell, for low-frequency sounds.

Patient comfort is the center feature of this stethoscope with the non-chill rim and diaphragm.

Nurse comfort is also at the forefront with the latex-free materials, angled headset which sits correctly inside of the ear canals, and flexible 28-inch tubing that fits nicely around the neck.

Pros:

  • Dual-sided chestpiece
  • Non-chill rim and diaphragm
  • Angled headset

Cons:

  • No replacement parts included
  • Only 1 color

Check the price of the 3M Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope on Amazon.

Related Article: 5 Best Littmann Stethoscopes For Nurses

2. ADC Adscope 605 Infant Clinician Stethoscope

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ADC Adscope 605 Infant Stethoscope
RUNNER-UP Durable stethoscope with an ultra-sensitive diaphragm.

Durable stainless steel and flexible PVC tubing make this ADC Adscope 605 Infant Clinician Stethoscope one that’s built-to-last.

The chest piece is dual-sided so you can switch from high-frequency to low-frequency sounds quickly.

There’s also a non-chill rim and diaphragm for patient comfort.

Each stethoscope comes with soft silicone eartips in two sizes- small and large.

Properly-fitting ear tips help seal out exterior noises so it doesn’t interfere with patient diagnosis.

There are several color options offered, including basic black and vibrant metallic Caribbean. A spare diaphragm and ID tag are included for added convenience.

Pros:

  • Two sizes of silicone eartips
  • 6 color options
  • Spare diaphragm included

Cons:

  • Eartips break easily but are replaceable
  • Only intended for infant patients
  • Diaphragm may dent

Check the price of the ADC Adscope 605 Infant Stethoscope on Amazon.com.

Stethoscope Buying Guide for Nurses

1. Non-Chill Rim and Diaphragm

A baby’s skin is sensitive and premature babies have skin that is even more sensitive.

A cold diaphragm against their skin might be shocking and can cause them distress, making an exam even more difficult.

A non-chill rim and diaphragm is meant to provide patient comfort, which is crucial in critical-care settings like the NICU.

While most chest pieces are made from stainless steel, which can be cold, a non-chill rim and diaphragm are made from a rubber-like material that stays at room temperature.

2. Latex-Free

A latex allergy is more likely to occur in young patients with health conditions that may cause them to spend time in the NICU.

Babies born with spina bifida are the most likely to have a latex allergy, with more than 3 out of every 5 children diagnosed with spina bifida also being diagnosed with a latex allergy (source).

Since many parts of a stethoscope may be made with rubber materials that could contain latex, it’s important to avoid those with latex-containing materials if you work in the NICU.

Other materials, like PVC tubing, are naturally latex-free and are more desirable for a critical-care setting.

3. Dual-Sided Chestpiece

Switching between high-frequency and low-frequency sounds with a stethoscope can occur in many ways, including by applying different levels of pressure or with a dual-sided chestpiece.

A dual-sided chest piece is more appropriate for patients in the NICU because:

  • Their skin is more sensitive and may not take well to pressure being applied
  • A deeper bell, which is often only found in dual-sided chest pieces, is usually needed to hear low-frequency sounds in young patients
  • Time is critical for sick babies and changing chest pieces, like with some stethoscopes, isn’t the best option

4. Eartips

The ear tips on a stethoscope are important for two reasons.

One, ear tips that don’t seal properly can allow exterior noises to interfere with diagnosing a patient.

Two, ear tips that don’t fit comfortably in the ear canal can be a distraction for healthcare workers.

Silicone ear tips that mold to the ear are the most comfortable option and also eliminate the exterior noise problem that can present with harder ear tips.

Eartips that are removable and come with the option of different sizes are even better.

Since ear tips tend to break easily, ones that are replaceable for free are the most economical option.

5. Tubing

Tubing that is too long can make sounds more muffled, while tubing that is too short may not sit comfortably around the neck.

Tubing that is flexible and made from latex-free materials is the best option for NICU nurses.

6. Cleaning Instructions

Stethoscopes can come into contact with dozens of patients throughout one shift, so it’s important to clean them in between each patient and thoroughly sanitize them after each shift.

To clean the stethoscope in between patients, wipe the chest piece and tubing down with an alcohol-based disinfectant wipe.

To thoroughly disinfect a stethoscope after a shift (source):

  • Lay the tubing out flat and wipe it down with an alcohol-based wipe or specialized stethoscope cleaner.
  • Remove the ear tips (if possible) and place them in a bowl of warm, soapy water to soak. Rinse them thoroughly and allow them to air dry before putting them back on.
  • If the diaphragm is removable, take it apart, wash it in warm, soapy water, and allow all parts to air dry. If it’s not removable, wipe it down with an alcohol-based wipe or specialized stethoscope cleaner.
Important!

If you have an electronic stethoscope or any other specialty stethoscope, please make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Final Thoughts

Having a stethoscope that works well and is specifically designed to be used on infants can make the job of a NICU nurse a little easier.

Both of these stethoscopes would work well in a critical-care setting like the NICU because they’re made for patient and nurse comfort and are reliable.

Related Articles on NICU Nurse Stethoscopes

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