New Preemie Care
Updated: 05/29/2004 06:25 AM
If premature babies could talk, they’d tell you how stressful it is to come into the world before their time. To help preemies learn to cope better, hospitals are increasingly adding developmental care programs. The movement is transforming the medically-focused intensive care unit into a quieter, more soothing place.
Kamilah Hamilton’s son Khamani was born about two months premature. The first-time mom was shocked when she saw him in the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU.
“He was very small, very skinny, very tiny,” Kamilah said. He had IV's on him. It looked scary to me.”
She quickly learned premature babies don't behave like full term ones. Their system isn’t mature enough to cope with all the outside stimulation.
“They’re supposed to be in the womb in this nice, warm secluded dark place and they’re out in this world where they have no boundaries,” said Developmental Specialist Suzanne Zemaitis, M.S. “It’s light. It’s very bright. It’s very loud."
Developmental care programs try to reduce stimulation by simulating conditions inside the mother's womb.
The preemies are nested in their cribs and fed on their own schedules. Light and noise levels are kept low. The staff avoids unnecessary handling to promote undisturbed sleep and helps parents understand their baby’s cues.
“Initially, we keep reinforcing to watch the baby, look at the color, look at the breathing,” said Neonatal Nurse Sherryl Hazzard, R.N.
Research shows developmental care offers many benefits and has no adverse effects.
“Decreasing the amount of stress for premature babies helped them to develop better, become more organized, feed better and eventually they leave the hospital sooner,” Zemaitis said.
After seven weeks, Khamani is days away from going home and ready to face the world.
The developmental care movement got a boost in the mid 90's when a Harvard study endorsed it. Today hospitals all over the country take steps to eliminate the stress of overstimulation for premature babies.
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