It’s hard to believe that April has arrived. Although Spring is here, if you have a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU, you may still be feeling the winter blues (this years record low temperatures don’t help). Just know that even though the NICU seems like a cold circus of lights, labs, sounds and monitors, with some good perspective, and some guidance from emerging new studies, there are opportunities to bond with your precious child amidst the chaos, while spreading spring love through the air.
“Positive biological effects of a mother’s voice and heartbeat on the premature infant’s brain.”
There are two new and exciting therapies being pioneered in the NICU not only to empower parents, but ultimately to help heal babies and deepen early parental relationships. One such therapy is sound therapy. A recent journal articlenoted that there is preliminary evidence to support the positive biological effects of a mother’s voice and heartbeat on the premature infant’s brain. In the study, 40 preemies were continuously exposed to the sound of their mother’s voice while reading “Good Night Moon” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” through a semi womblike environment. The babies were read to for 3 hours a day, for 30 days, while other infants received standard care for the same duration of time.
Preliminary evidence showed that those infants exposed to their mother’s voice and heart beat had larger auditory regions of the brain than those who did not. This study is particularly important because preterm infants are more likely to have problems with hearing and problems with delayed speech. The takeaway here? Let April showers bring April story time in the NICU: it will bring joy to parents, and healing to patients.
Another practice that is becoming more common in NICU’s is the practice of infant massage.Infant massage is a wonderful way to bond with your baby during the many waiting periods that NICU parents know all too well. Basic infant massage generally flows from the head to the toes, beginning with the head, forehead, crown, around the eyes, nose and mouth, to the jaws, chest, stomach, arms, and legs and fingers. Unsure or not confident where to start? Many neonatal intensive care units have occupational therapist trained in infant massage and are happy to teach parents some of the basic techniques.
When massaging, the overall touch should be soft and gentle. Many parents also use this time to speak or sing softly to the baby as well as recite their favorite prayers or verses. Massages can continue well beyond the NICU: as your baby gets older you can use basic massage techniques during routine care of your infant, including bathing, dressing or changing a diaper.
Are you an overachiever? Try massaging the baby while simultaneously reading them a bedtime story 🙂
I pray that each NICU parent reading this article may share in the joy of communicating love to your previous infant with gift of voice and touch.
Dr. Terri L. Major-Kincade is a board-certified Pediatrician and Neonatologist currently in private practice with Onsite Neonatal Partners. She is a nationally and internationally prominent speaker for her expertise in the field of Neonatal Palliative Care, Perinatal Hospice, and Health Disparities as they relate to poor birth outcomes. She and three-time best-selling author (Chicken Soup for the Soul Power Moms, Thinking About Quitting Medicine, and Early Arrival, a Doctor’s Guide for Parents of Preemies).
She has been happily married for 23 years and is the proud mother of a 20-year-old daughter, now a college junior and a 17 year old son, now a high school junior.