NICU

The stress that most often accompanies a NICU hospitalization is likely to be amplified during this pandemic. Families may be struggling with job and/or income loss, having other children at home, homeschooling, worrying about family and friends who may be at risk or ill, as well as myriad other uncertainties facing all of us. These factors, along with the inability of their support networks to spend time with them in the NICU, makes the support of the healthcare team even more important. The following are some ways that NICU staff can help families:

  1. Encourage continued involvement among the allowed “visitors.”
  2. For times when parents cannot be present, updates can be provided via FaceTime or Zoom to increase parents’ engagement.
  3. Ensure that all families have contact with a social worker.
  4. Offer to connect parents with peer support groups. If your hospital doesn’t have one, parents can be referred to a national organization, such as Hand to Hold, which is now offering free virtual online support groups in both English and Spanish. Interested parents can register through the Hand to Hold website.
  5. Suggest parents use one of several apps available for smart phones that will help them track their baby’s progress. These include the My Preemie and My NICU Baby apps.
  6. Encourage parents to take advantage of online learning about their premature or sick baby via a program such as The Wellness Network’s Your NICU Baby, available to hospitals by subscription.
  7. Have parents exchange scent cloths with their babies.
  8. Recommend these other activities to parents: make a recording of themselves talking, singing, or reading to baby, which the nurses can play in their absence; do scrapbooking or journaling.

In summary, there is much more to learn about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will impact all of our lives, including those of babies in the NICU. Going forward, we need to design policies and procedures that are data-driven, responding to changes in data as we continue learning.


References

  1. CDC. 2020. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 11, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/inpatient-obstetric-healthcare-guidance.html.
    “Clinical Management of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection When COVID-19 Is Suspected.” n.d. Accessed May 9, 2020. https://www.who.int/publications-detail/clinical-management-of-severe-acute-respiratory-infection-when-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)-infection-is-suspected.
  2. “National Perinatal Association – NPA + NANN Joint Statement: Mothers with COVID-29 and Their Newborn Infants, Positin Statement #3069.” n.d. National Perinatal Association. Accessed May 9, 2020. http://nationalperinatal.org/NPAandNANN.
  3. Puopolo, KM, ML Hudak, DW Kimberlin, and J Cummings. 2020. “Initial Guidance of Infants Born to Mothers with COVID-19.” American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, Section on Neonatal Perinatal Medicine, and Committee on Infectious Diseases. https://downloads.aap.org/AAP/PDF/COVID%2019%20Initial%20Newborn%20Guidance.pdf.
  4. Stuebe, A. 2020. “Should Infants Be Separated from Mothers with COVID-19? First, Do No Harm.” Breastfeeding Medicine, April, bfm.2020.29153.ams. https://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2020.29153.ams.