Providing special care for sick and premature babies
Advances in the care of sick and premature babies include new technology and medicine, as
well as treatments that focus on the special emotional and developmental needs of these
babies. Babies in the NICU face many tests, procedures, noises, and lights. This is
very different from the warm, dark, comfort of the mother's womb. Some babies are
too sick to be held or have difficulty comforting themselves when not being held.
Premature babies especially need special support to help them continue to mature and
develop as they would in their mother's womb.
What is developmental care?
The practice of developmental care is used in many NICUs to meet babies' special needs.
Developmental care involves many aspects: from meeting comfort needs and helping babies
feel secure and develop normal sleep patterns, to decreasing stimulation from noise,
lights, or procedures. Research into developmental care is finding many benefits for
babies, especially for premature babies, including shorter hospital stays, fewer complications,
improved weight gain, better feeding, and enhanced parent and infant bonding.
Developmental care includes:
Changing the baby's surroundings to provide normal day/night cycles and decrease noise
Providing cushions for supporting the baby's position and keeping the baby's arms
and legs in proper arrangement to help with development and comfort
Using signals from the baby to plan care at times when the baby is awake and least
stressed rather than interrupting sleep patterns or performing procedures when the
baby is at a high stress level
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care is a practice that started in Colombia in the late 1970s. It has been used
worldwide because it is especially helpful for premature babies. Kangaroo Care means
holding an NICU baby skin-to-skin (against the parent's chest) for varying lengths
of time. Premature and sick babies that "kangaroo" appear to relax and become content. Several
studies show that Kangaroo Care has many health benefits, including:
Kangaroo Care also helps parents feel close to their baby, and gives them confidence
in their ability to meet their baby's needs. Mothers who "kangaroo" also show improved
breast milk production.