Did you know purposeful language exposure in the NICU matters?

Sick and premature infants in the NICU are often exposed to a myriad of mechanical and medical sounds, but may experience a deficit of purposeful language exposure.  Authors set out to explore the role of nurses and other health care providers in promoting language exposure and the development of neural pathways for language development and processing in the NICU.

Newnam and Munoz examined 4 databases to determine what is known about health care directed communication with infants in the NICU.  Eight studies were chosen for review.  Results showed that communication is often directed towards sicker infants, procedurally related, and occasionally included touch.  Parent and health care provider perceptions were reported.

Nurses and other bedside health care providers can act as role models and mentors for families related to purposeful communication towards the infants in the NICU.  Nurses in particular have more time at the bedside with each infant and can be crucial in providing purposeful speech to the infant in an effort to improve neurodevelopmental outcomes.  More research is needed in this area, and more language exposure in the NICU is needed to improve outcomes for infants and their families.

Newnam, K., Munoz, L. (2021). Purposeful Language Expression by Neonatal Nurses and Caregivers in the NICU. Adv Neonatal Care. 21 (5) 407-417.