Having a strong family support system is vital to the survival of newborns, especially when they are born too soon.
Having a strong family support system is vital to the survival of newborns, especially when they are born too soon. At USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital, our care teams encourage and nurture family bonding time through a variety of research-based programs and activities designed to provide optimal growth and resilience for parents, siblings and infants.
Three registered nurses who serve as parent and staff educators in the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital recently presented information about the family-bonding programs to delegates from 21 countries at the 2019 Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN) conference in New Zealand.
The international nursing conference offered an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the contributions of families and health care workers in the care of preterm and sick babies in newborn units globally, in a range of cultural contexts.
USA Health nurses Courtney Thomson RNC-NIC, BSN, Amy Campbell RN, BSN, IBCLC, and Bridget Moore RNC-NIC, DNP, discussed the support programs available to families of infants who are admitted to the NICU at Children’s & Women’s, part of USA Health in Mobile, Alabama. About 1,000 infants are cared for each year in the unit.
Babies born prematurely require specialized care. Research suggests teaching parents how to best support their infant’s development is vital to ensuring the most successful outcomes. With that in mind, the parent educators provide an array of programs including:
- The Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Program, which supports mothers and babies who experience opiate withdrawal. Through the program, mothers learn non-pharmacological ways to decrease withdrawal symptoms and decrease time spent in the hospital.
- A biomedical librarian teaches health literacy education weekly to parents.
- Kangaroo Care is skin-to-skin holding with many benefits for mom, dad and baby. In addition to continual family support through the year, an annual Kangaroo Care Awareness Day is celebrated with a parent party and education.
- Breastfeeding Support and Mother’s Milk Club provide support to breastfeeding mothers. In the mother’s milk club, which meets weekly, the mothers create crafts and share stories. A lactation consultant participates to address questions and concerns. One mother called this gathering “the motivation room.”
- Beads of Courage combines arts and medicine. Through the creation of a necklace, an infant’s stay can be documented in a tangible way. Infants receive different beads for activities and milestones met while in the NICU. For example, if an infant has an X-ray, they receive a bead. This program also has allowed fathers to get involved in assuring beads are added and designing the keepsake. To create the necklaces, the parents can attend a monthly meeting at a “Bead Catch Up” party. They create beautiful mementos and bond with other parents.
- The Bridge Program offers support for a mother and family expecting an infant with fetal anomalies or a high risk diagnosis. Registered nurses in the program attend physician prenatal office visits with expectant mothers, attend deliveries and remain in contact with families after a baby’s birth. In the case of fetal demise, the bridge team tries to help the families navigate end-of-life care, funeral arrangements, and arranging supportive counseling. More than 170 families have been served.
Additional parent education and sibling classes are offered during the hospital stay: Car Seat safety, infant CPR, ready for discharge, and NICU Journey.