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 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 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:
Shorter hospital stays
Improved weight gain
Enhanced parent and infant bonding
Developmental care includes:
Changing the baby's surroundings to provide normal day/night cycles and decrease noise and stress
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:
Higher blood oxygen levels
Improved weight gain
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.