“Parenting your Preemie”

Sylvia S. Rosenthal was a beloved founding member of Project: New Born. She remained an ever constant source for the organization until her untimely passing November of 2006. Sylvia was a dedicated educator for more than 30 years, established the Princeton Learning Center, and was named Miami-Dade County teacher of the Year. This teaching program “Parenting your Preemie” is named in memory of Sylvia, an outstanding teacher and devoted friend to the Project: New Born Preemies. The program is to establish by the generosity of Sylvia Rosenthal’s family and friends.

The birth of a premature infant is an extremely stressful event for families. Our own data and several other studies have shown that one of the most important stressor for parents while their infants are in the NICU is the loss or change of their parental role. There is evidence that interventions designed to facilitate mother-child interaction by decreasing anxiety and stress in the mothers and by improving the mother’s participation in the care of their infants will enhance long-term developmental outcome. The development and implementation of this program offers education and support to promote understanding and of the essential role that parents play in the care of their infants and to enhance their involvement in the infants’ care.

The objective of the program is to facilitate parenthood while premature infants are admitted to the NICU by decreasing stress in the parents and enhancing parent-infant bonding with the ultimate goal to improve the mother’s participation in the care of their child and optimize developmental outcomes after discharge. The program provides an educational-behavioral intervention and ongoing support to mothers to facilitate their involvements in the care of their infants.

A staff nurse from the Project Newborn NICU is devoted to the coordination and implementation of this program. The program is based in a direct personalized one to one approach, by the program “educational support nurse”.



Orientation to the NICU

When an infant is admitted to the NICU the “educational support nurse” welcomes the mothers by providing orientation and reassurance to the family. She also delivers to the families a greeting bag with a brochure, and a DVD containing orientation information. The brochure and DVD were designed specifically for the “Sylvia S. Rosenthal Parent Teaching Program”. The content includes general information about the NICU to facilitate adaptation, helping the parents become more familiar with personnel, equipment, and specifically rules and expectations in the NICU. It does include a section explaining how to interact with their baby while in the NICU.

Educational Intervention/ Teaching parental role in the NICU

After 1 Week of the infant being admitted to the NICU the “educational support nurse” introduces the parents to developmental care, teaching each of the mothers how parents can participate in their infant’s care, meet their needs, and facilitate their development (parent-role information). In order to reinforce the content of the information the parents are asked to watch a DVD “no matter how small” which is a parent’s guide to preterm infant development.

Activities that assist parents to enhance their parental role

As the infant become medically more stable and parents can increase their participation in the care of the infant, parents are introduced to the different activities in which they can take an active role. The most impacting activity is the practice of Kangaroo Mother Care. Kangaroo Mother Care is described as the holding of premature infants against the mother’s chest by akin to skin contact that has been shown to promote maternal-infant feelings of closeness, build maternal confidence, improve breastfeeding success, and reduce stress for both the mother and the infant.

Group Activities

Interactions with other parents going through the same experience is a way to provide emotional support and help parents deal with the stress of the NICU. With this purpose the following group activities were designed and are offered to the parents. Parent to parent buddy support. The “educational support nurse” coordinates individual parent to parent support done by a parent experienced with the NICU to a parent of a preterm infant newly admitted to the NICU. Buddies are parents whose premature infants have been discharged from the NICU and are willing to give voluntary support to the parents with babies newly admitted to the NICU. Presently there are 34 parents who volunteer to be a support system to our present NICU parents. There are more than 100 families that have been matched.

Monthly parent activities include, educational sessions “Preventing Infection In The NICU”, “Physical Therapy For Your Baby” and other activities such as scrap book groups which are organized and offered to the parents. Every month a calendar with the date and time for these activities is created by the “educational support nurse” and delivered to the parents of all infants admitted to Project: New Born.

In addition to these interventions the “educational support nurse” provides ongoing support by weekly contacts with the families to assess their progress and identify difficulties and by facilitating her beeper number where she can be reached if needed.

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