Raleigh, N.C. — All hospital intensive care units depend heavily on the best medical technology available when treating premature babies, but more and more, hospitals are aware that the loving care of parents can be just as important.
At WakeMed's Neonatal Intensive Care unit, the staff uses the Newborn Invidiualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program to make sure premature infants get the most from their doctors and parents during what often turns out to be extended stays in the hospital after birth.
WakeMed is the fourth hospital worldwide to earn NIDCAP certification, and it is a training center that teaches other hospitals how to implement specialized care principles into a neonatal intensive care environment.
"We use the NIDCAP principles of individualizing the care of the baby, toward the baby state, with the goal of better long-term outcomes," WakeMed neonatologist Dr. James Perciaccante said.
For Brittany and Brian Wilder, who welcomed their second child, Ethan, three months early in September, the specialized care was the perfect method to ease their fears about Ethan's health.
"More than anything, in the beginning, he was just fighting for survival," Brian Wilder said.
Stressing the important of hands-on care, specifically "Kangaroo Care," WakeMed's staff has helped the Wilders learn to better care for Ethan.
"Kangaroo Care is when a mother or father holds a baby against their body, skin-to-skin," WakeMed pediatric developmental specialist Dr. James Helm said.
Skin-to-skin care can improve a baby's heart rate, blood oxygen level, weight gain and even the mother's breast-milk production.
"They are also more relaxed, they're sleeping the best," Helms said. "There's the feeling of safety and comfort."
Brittany Wilder has used the method since Ethan was born at 2 pounds, 5 ounces.
"He's supposed to be in the womb," she said. "If he's not in the womb, you know, you need to be around him. He needs to hear your voice."
The Wilders said they are looking forward to the day that all of Ethan's signs of improvement lead to them taking him home.
The results of the Kangaroo Care method are hard to argue with, according to WakeMed staff.
"The MRIs of the babies show better brain volume and the electroencephalography shows better function of the brain," Perciaccante said.
To help provide more family-centered care, WakeMed is preparing to expand its neonatal care into larger, private rooms where a parent or both parents can stay overnight.