Parents' care can help premature babies in hospital, says study

From BBC - February 7, 2018

Letting parents get directly involved with the care of their premature babies in intensive care can help the health and wellbeing of both, a study says.

A trial in Australia, New Zealand and Canada showed babies whose parents took part put on more weight and continued to be breastfed more often than those cared for only by hospital staff.

Parents who participated in the trial also had less stress and anxiety.

The trial was published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.

The study took place across 26 neonatal intensive care units, with 14 providing the Family Integrated Care (FICare) programme, covering 895 babies born at 33 weeks or before, and the other 12 giving standard care to 891.

Clinical decisions

Parents were involved in:

They were encouraged to take part in clinical decisions and ward rounds and to chart their baby's growth and progress.

And they were kept informed about tasks they could not do, such as adjusting oxygen levels.

Participating parents also had to commit to being at their infant's bedside for at least six hours a day, five days a week and to attend education sessions for at least three weeks.

After 21 days, infants in the FICare group had put on more weight and showed higher average daily weight gain than those receiving normal care.

Their parents also had lower levels of stress and mothers were more likely to breastfeed regularly - six or more feeds a day - than those in the non-parental care group.

Dr Karel O'Brien, from Toronto's Sinai Health System, who was one of the study's authors, said: "How care is provided to the family, not just the infant, has a positive effect on the wellbeing of both infant and family.

"Parents are too often perceived as visitors to the intensive care unit.

"Our findings challenge this approach and show the benefits to both infants and their families of incorporating parents as key members of the infant's health care team, and helping parents to assume the role of primary caregiver as soon as possible."

The report's authors did note that the time commitment required of the parents may have biased the selection of participants.

And Dr Chris Gale, of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said the beneficial effects highlighted by the trial were "important" but "need to be interpreted cautiously in light of the risk of bias inherent in the trial".

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