A Memoir of a Mother’s Determination and Her Micro Preemie’s Struggle to Beat the Odds
Last month I had the honor and pleasure of attending the 28th Annual NIDCAP Trainers Meeting at the Chateau Lacombe Hotel in Edmonton, Canada. This is a group of people who are dedicated to improving the care of newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
So, what does NIDCAP sand for?
NIDCAP stands for Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program.
What is NIDCAP about and how did it begin?
When infants are born early or ill, the world may be a shocking place. In the intensive care nursery, they are exposed to bright lights, cold temperatures, loud sounds, a tangle of tubes and experiences of discomfort and pain. For the tiny infant, not yet fully developed in the protective space of the womb, everyday conditions may be jarring. More importantly, intense stimuli may interfere with normal development, causing serious health issues later in life.
From years of observing infants in the NICU, Dr. Heidelise Als, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and her colleagues pioneered a way to read infant behavior so that we may hear their voice and understand them. This practice has taught us what the infant expects for comfort, wellbeing and a sense of security is so vital to healthy development. The NIDCAP training model came from research on infants who were cared for by reading their behavior cues. Several studies showed improved outcomes in the NICU. Babies cared for with the NIDCAP approach gained weight faster, moved from assisted breathing to breathing on their own faster, moved to breast and bottle feeding sooner and spent less days in the NICU overall.
You can watch a short video on the basics of NIDCAP by clicking HERE.
NIDCAP is overseen by the NFI (NIDCAP Federation International)
The goal of the Founders and Members of the NFI is to ensure that, one-day, all infants and families in intensive and special care nurseries will receive individualized and developmentally supportive family centered care. Serving as the authoritative leader for research, development, and dissemination of NIDCAP, the NFI was incorporated as a non-profit 501c3 membership organization in October of 2001 by Dr. Heidelise Als and colleagues. The NFI researches and is responsible for the certification of trainers, health care professionals and nurseries in the NIDCAP approach.
So… back to the NIDCAP Trainers Meeting.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the entire meeting, as it spanned over several days, but I believe I got to attend enough of the meetings and presentations to get a good feel for how NIDCAP works and why it’s important to educate the public on why every NICU should look into adopting their care model.
There were many presentations during the conference (many that I had to miss!), each of which gave the attendees great ideas and inspired us all to keep sharing NIDCAP and it’s successes with our connections and hospital staff.
Some of the presentations included Behavioral Phenotype of Prematurity (Paige Terrien Church); Adolescent Challenges Beyond the NICU (Andrew Thomson and Dawn Gordon); Accomplishments and Overview of Training Efforts (Jim Helm); Leadership is INFLUENCE: NIDCAP and the Science of Change (John Van Aerde); Nurturing the Trainer (Joy Browne; Infant Mental Health in the NICU (Brandene Lorrain); Mindfulness Practice for Stress Reduction in NICU Staff (Prascilla Koop); Coming of Age, 21 Years of NIDCAP in Edmonton (Juzer Tyebkhan); Neurodevelopmental Care Policies, Practices and Outcomes in France (Veronique Pierrat); Navigating the System After Discharge from the NICU (Shannon Haszard and Dan Coulton); Multidisciplinary Panel Presentation on NIDCAP and the Surgical NICU (Charlene Robertson, Krystal Johnson, Chloe Joynet, Brandie Thomas, Samantha Butler, Kayne Spence, Alison Loughran Fowlds, Leonora Hendson); Insights from the Beating Heart: Heart Rate Variability and Skin to Skin Care (Rohan Joshi); How to Read a Meta-Analysis (Manoj Kumar); Phenomenological Research (Michael can Manen); Interactive Activity on The Brain Structure (Brandene Lorrain and Andrea Nykipilo); NIDCAP Nursery Self- Assessment; The Key Tool for NIDCAP Trainers (Rodd Hedlund); and a presentation of the 29th Annual NIDCAP Trainers Meeting next year. There were also several short Abstract presentations.
Let’s not forget about the Dinner/Dance Party and the Gala! They were so much fun and a great way to mingle with the trainers.
I also need to mention my gracious NIDCAP guide Mandy Daly, of the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance. She is a lovely woman with a heart of gold, of which she has dedicated to helping the families of premature babies in Ireland after her own daughter’s premature birth eleven years ago. Mandy joined NIDCAP a few years ago so that she could expand her ability to help preemie families. She is a dedicated member was a great host.
I have to admit that it’s every parents dream to be able to read the behavioral cues of a baby and then be able to sooth that baby so that they are comfortable and happy. The NIDCAP model is not as simple as this, but I can’t see how it would be harmful to a baby to have their doctors, nurses and parents be trained on how to best help an individual baby based on signs the baby is showing- especially if that baby is then thriving because of it. Just as each adult is different from the next, as far as what comforts them, babies are no different. The NIDCAP certified staff learns to look for over 81 signs that a baby can show and each of those express something that the baby is feeling or lacking. In my opinion, the NIDCAP training model only adds to the wonderful life-saving work that the NICU doctors and nurses are already doing. Why can’t the NICU be a place that supports the mental health of both baby and parent, as well as be the place where premature infants get the physical care needed to survive?
I really enjoyed my time at the NIDCAP Trainers Meeting and I look forward to joining their organization to help share their mission of promoting the advancement of the philosophy and science of NIDCAP care.
There are NIDCAP Training Centers in The United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oklahoma), Canada (Edmonton), Europe (Belgium, Denmark, and France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom), South America (Argentina) and Australia (Westmead), but there should be more! Click HERE to see exactly where the Training Centers are.
To read more on what NIDCAP is about and why their approach to caring for newborns in the NICU is so important, please visit http://nidcap.org/en/
Next year’s Trainers Meeting is in Portugal!