A Good Book Helps Parents Bond With Newborns in NICU

Filed under: Babies

incubator picture

Experts say reading to babies in NICU can strengthen bonding. Credit: Getty Images

Once upon a time we learned about Mary and her little lamb, and how everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go. Well, parents intent on bonding with their babies can take a clue from the fairy tale heroine. Especially moms and dads whose newborns are whisked from their arms and admitted to the neonatal intensive care (NICU) units, where the separation between parent and child makes bonding more challenging.

It's been widely proven that holding, cuddling, nursing and whispering sweet nothings to baby facilitates and strengthens bonding, but experts say that adding a book to the diaper bag and reading to babies in NICU can breed the same intimacy, according Time's Healthland blog.

A study, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, says that a good fairy tale can make up for the abrupt halt that happens between new parents and babies when the baby is whisked away to intensive care. Reading the books also helps the parents develop the feelings of intimacy that are typically cultivated during the days and weeks after the birth, Healthland reports.

Researchers at The Montreal Children's Hospital studied 120 families and found that almost 70 percent of new parents indicated that reading helped them feel more attached to their babies. Reading them feels like "normal" parents and helped them feel more in control of the situation, says Time.

"Alyssia was in an incubator in the middle of the room, with tubes and all sorts of things going on around her," Mélissa Asselin, mother to the now 5-year-old who was born with pulmonary hypertension, tells Healthland. "Reading gave us a way to stay close. I couldn't talk to her or touch her, but she heard the sound of my voice. That simple activity helped me get through the situation, and I have beautiful memories of the experience."

The added bonding boost is that the reading carried over after the babies were healthy and home.

Parents who started reading to their hospitalized babies were three times more likely to continue at home, Jan Lariviere, the lead investigator and a NICU nurse at Montreal Children's tells Healthland. "Reading should become an essential tool in NICUs and follow-up clinics."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.