Mentoring Caregivers. Changing Hospitals. Improving the Future for Newborns and their Families
When infants are born prematurely or ill, the world is a shocking place. In the hospital intensive care nursery they are exposed to bright lights, cold temperatures, loud sounds, a tangle of tubes and caregiving, that while life sustaining, may cause discomfort, pain and exhaustion. For the tiny infant, not yet fully developed in the protective space of the womb, everyday conditions may be jarring. For their parents, the expected, joyful experience of the birth of a child can become a medical crisis. Of significant concern, the research shows that intense stimuli of the intensive care setting can interfere with normal child development, causing serious health issues and cognitive and social/emotional difficulties later in life. And the parents of these children are seven times more likely to battle depression.
The incidence of preterm birth, worldwide, is rapidly increasing. In the US, it stands at 13% with a reported incidence approaching 18% in socio-economically disadvantaged groups. The challenge is even greater in developing countries.
These infants present significant immediate and lifelong challenges to their parents and to their caregivers. More than 50% will go on to develop learning disabilities, attention deficits, behavioral and emotional problems requiring special education and mental health services. Preterm and medically high risk birth requiring a hospital stay is an increasing global infant health challenge.
Making a Difference
From years of observing newborns in the intensive care units, Dr. Heidelise Als, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and her colleagues pioneered a way to read infant behavior so that we may hear their voice and understand them. This practice has taught us what the newborn expects for comfort, wellbeing and a sense of security so vital to healthy development. The Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP) is both a philosophy and practice that informs our unique form of care.
NIDCAP offers an individualized and nurturing approach to the care of infants in newborn intensive care (NICU) and special care nurseries (SCN). It is relationship-based and family-centered promoting the idea that infants and their families are collaborators in the care of their hospitalized infant. As professionals trained in the NIDCAP approach, we strive to create a supportive, gentle, brain protective environment for the most fragile and medically at risk infants.
Most importantly, scientific research supports the effectiveness of this approach. Infants receiving NIDCAP care, even those of extremely low birth weight and high medical risk, showed improved lung function, reduction in brain hemorrhage, better feeding and growth, and decreased lengths of hospital stays when compared with those receiving hospital industry approved standard care. Furthermore, neurobehavioral outcome, motor performance and brain structural integrity and function were improved into school age and beyond as shown by cognitive assessments, and brain imaging such as EEG and MRI. Moreover, parental stress was decreased and parental competence enhanced for families whose infants experienced NIDCAP care.
The program is now supported by the NIDCAP Federation International (NFI) which assures the quality of teaching, training, and implementation of the approach in hospitals. Founded in 2001, the NFI is a private, non-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to improve the lives of infants and families in intensive care. It encourages the use of the NIDCAP approach nationally and internationally and is the certifying agency for all NIDCAP Professionals.
Your support will bring NIDCAP care and the quality of NIDCAP education, training and certification to professionals and hospital systems. Your contributions will help us reach more hospitals and nursery professionals by providing introductory materials and training sessions. Your support will also help Newborn Intensive Care Nurseries realize consistent, high quality NIDCAP care for newborns and their families now and for generations to come. The NFI envisions a global society in which all hospitalized newborns and their families receive care in the evidence-based NIDCAP model. Please join us to improve the future for hospitalized newborns and their families and give all newborns “a voice”.