Allow Skin to Skin in NICU'S and longer Visiting hours for mothers
"Touch comes before sight , before speech. It is the first language and the last to go "
How COVID-19 is impacting the premature population of South Africa .
While hospital groups, Departments of Health, doctors, nurses and therapists mean well restricting visiting hours for the parents of premature infants only harms both parent and baby. Allowing a 15 minute a day visit certainly doesnt prevent transmission however in many instances it is causing harm to not only the attachment of parent and baby but it reduces especially the mother's incredible ability to medically contribute to her baby's health and progress in NICU.
The care within a NICU is not just physical but includes a huge psychological component. As a premature baby, the baby only really knows its mother. The baby identifies mum by her voice, her smell and her touch. Breastmilk, amniotic fluid and mums skin all smell and taste the same.
A premature infant doesnt see very well but he negotiates his world by smell, voice and touch. Touch in an NICU has been shown to be toxic as about 80% of touch in the NICU is painful. This means that the brain is flooded with cortisol which permanently changes the brain pathways. A mother can counteract this by stimulating the release of Oxytocin in the baby during a skin to skin session. A 15 minute visiting hour does not allow this to happen. The other way of supplying the baby with a constant amount of oxytocin is via breastmilk. Oxytocin stimulates eye contact between mum and baby and allows for healthy attachment .
Attachment allows for maximal parental empathy and responsiveness by providing the infant with positive touch and ongoing closeness( skin to skin) . The eye contact in attachment therefore allows right brain to communicate with right brain. Research has shown that EARLY positive attachment allows for longterm positive outcomes such as good scholastic outcomes and a gentle temprament.
Although we understand the need to limit visitors in a NICU it must be remembered that the most important people there are the baby and at least one parent. We really do need to consider the parent as an integral part of the baby' s treatment, healing and growth.
Screening remains paramount but perhaps many of the other visitors to the unit should be reduced dramatically .
Skin to skin done as early( within 48 hours of birth) as possible ( and both parents would have been screened and possibly tested) will provide the preemie with early healthy colonisation but the other benefits are so much more important such as the regulation of heart rate, respirations, blood pressure and saturations allowing baby internal control.
This in turn will reduce energy use therefore allowing weight gain reducing the hospital stay. Skin to skin also plays an important role in sleep regulation and allows baby to relax and process.
As parents of preemies in NICU the contribution you bring to hospital such as breastmilk, your voice and touch is just as healing as the best medical care in the world.
As health professionals we do need to rethink our position on visiting hours and how we can creatively continue to give the patient( preemie) the best care.
Parents do understand one parent per bed or even per day but preemies need time and parental touch. Please consider that while you are wanting to reduce visiting hours and exposure for the premature infant , the parent isnt the issue.
Staff and doctors are just as likely to infect a baby. COVID 19 doesn't have a clock which waits 15 minutes before transfer.... but a preemie needs to be kept safe, feel safe and their most fundimental right is having their parent fight for them .
Please can i ask that we help the parents currently in NICU by signing this petition and like and share to create awareness
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