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Reading to newborns in intensive care a boon for parents

Parents who read to their newborns in the intensive care unit feel closer to their babies during this difficult time.

Reading to newborns in intensive care a boon for parents

Parents who read to their newborns in the intensive care unit feel closer to their babies during this difficult time.

The first few days of a newborn's life are an important time of parent bonding with their children. But critically ill babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are often separated from their parents and this can disrupt the early development of this relationship.

To determine whether reading helped strengthen the bond between parents and their babies, and whether this motivated parents to continue reading at home, researchers studied 120 families at The Montreal Children's Hospital in Canada. The researchers divided the parents into two groups - the intervention group (59), which consisted of parents of infants admitted to the NICU after the introduction of the parent reading programme and the control group (57), which consisted of parents of infants discharged from the NICU in the 3-month period before the introduction of the reading programme. Questionnaires were mailed to participants 3 months after their infant's discharge and completed verbally, over the telephone. Groups were compared on parenting activities and reading. In addition, a thematic analysis of qualitative descriptive data provided insight into the parents' experiences with reading to their infants.

Nearly 70 percent of the parents in the study said reading made them feel closer to their babies. Most of them said reading led to feelings of intimacy and normalcy and helped them feel they had more control of the situation as parents. It was also found that parents who read to their babies in the NICU were three times more likely to continue doing so at home.

The results support the use of a parent book-reading intervention in the NICU to enhance parent-infant interactions and suggest that this greatly lends normalcy and allows parents to feel closer to their babies during this difficult period.
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