Guest Post - Premature Babies Healthier When Cared For By Parents During Hospital Stay

This is a 'Guest Post' from our colleagues at CIHR's Institute of Human Development Child and Youth Health. Many of you may recall Dr. Shoo Lee's presentation at the 2011 CAPHC Annual Conference in Ottawa. The following article from Rhiannon Renaud is areport of some of the ongoing work that was discussed during his presentation.

Rhiannon Renaud is a Project Officer with CIHR's Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health. She is responsible for the Institute's communications, social media and event planning activities.

Study finds that when parents of preterm babies provide care of their newborn during the hospital stay - babies benefit greatly

In the modern neonatal intensive care unit, the infant is separated from its parents, which may interfere with the normal development of parent-infant interactions. This model of care is based on the idea that only health care professionals with special skills can care for the infant. In response to this, programs such kangaroo care and skin to skin care have been developed. However, researchers wanted to see if greater integration of parents in the care of their babies would be beneficial.

Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital therefore developed a new “Family Integrated Care” model in which parents, with nursing supervision, provide much of the care for their pre-term infants. Nurses become teachers and mentors for parents. Results from a pilot study showed that it is both workable and safe. Babies cared for in this program gained 24.5% more weight compared with babies who were not in the program, 82.1% of babies were being breastfed, compared to 45.5% of babies not enrolled. The study also found that parents had decreased stress levels and babies had a decreased risk of hospital acquired infections and treatment errors.

Jack Hourigan and her husband were the first participants in the program when their daughter Tess was born prematurely at 27 weeks.

“We were so happy when Tess was born but nothing could have prepared us for the shock of being thrust into such a clinical world. We felt more like terrified visitors than new parents. The Family Integrated Care Program allowed Andy & I to become an integral part of our daughter's medical team. We were taught how to care for her by the amazing nurses, supported by other parents in the program and educated by all the staff.  Our hands-on experience in the hospital created a safe environment for our family, which allowed us to become more confident and better prepared to bring Tess home. We went from passive observers to active participants.”


The research team, led by Dr. Shoo Lee, Paediatrician-in-Chief and Neonatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; and Dr Karel O'Brien, neonatologist at Mount Sinai, will now take the model to 16 centres across Canada, for a complete evaluation. Funding is provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. This trial has the potential to dramatically change the way care is delivered in neonatal intensive care units across Canada.

Read more about the study

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