Developmentally Focused Care
Providing special care for sick and premature babies
Advances in the care of sick and premature babies include new technology and medicine.
There are also treatments that focus on the special emotional and developmental needs
of these babies. Babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (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 they may have trouble
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
What is developmental care?
The practice of developmental care is used in many NICUs to meet babies' special needs.
Developmental care involves many aspects such as:
Meeting babies’ comfort needs
Helping babies feel secure
Helping babies develop normal sleep patterns
Decreasing stimulation from noise, lights, or procedures
Research into developmental care is finding many benefits for babies, especially for
premature babies. These benefits include:
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 a NICU baby skin-to-skin, or against the parent's chest. Premature and sick
babies who 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. Many of these effects in parents and babies are because skin-to-skin
contact increases levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that naturally causes
milk release as well as feelings of relaxation and connection.