For years Children’s Hospital Central California’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has been educating parents to care for premature infants. Now this expert instruction is available in a comprehensive five-course program to prepare parents for life after discharge.
Started in January, these interactive, 90-minute classes teach basic infant care such as feeding, bathing and changing a diaper. They also cover health and safety issues, gentle playtime activities and speech development.
“All of our babies, whether they are born premature or with some respiratory or cardiac problem, are medically fragile when they go home,” said Sue Labbe, RNC-NIC, BSN, discharge education coordinator. “We want parents to have the skills to take care of the babies the way we would, to keep them healthy and progressing.”
Once parents complete the classes, they are encouraged to practice at the bedside while their child is still in the NICU. Children’s Hospital’s private NICU rooms provide the ideal environment for this kind of parent-child bonding.
“Everyone here is very supportive and I feel like I’m learning a lot more than maybe another first-time mother would have learned having a full-term baby,” said Andrée Salinas, whose son Kain was born at 29 weeks. “They are very caring and they tell you everything you need to know.”
Experienced neonatal nurses, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, lactation consultants and social workers teach the free education classes, which are provided in English and Spanish. Parents are welcome to bring others who help care for that child, such as grandparents or a nanny. Parents who are unable to attend the classes receive instruction at the bedside.
“Every parent who takes home a baby from the NICU needs education,” said Labbe. “We put our heart and soul into caring for these babies and we want to send them home with the best possible chance of survival.”