Did you know the COVID-19 pandemic has made neuroprotective, developmental, family-centered care even more vital?

               COVID-19 has had far reaching impacts on every human on the planet.  Many policies have been established to protect particular groups of people, and reduce exposure to health care workers, and patients.  Policies and guidelines changed and evolved as scientists learned more and more about this new disease.  But as hospitals worked to protect, health care workers raised concerns about patient anxiety, depression, isolation, and separation.  This is true for the neonatal patient and families as well.

The focus of neonatal care has long been on the physical care, but developmental, family-centered care has been growing strong in recent years.  But masks, limited visitation, and ever-changing policies, all impacted the baby and family as individuals and as a family unit.  As part of developmental and family-centered care, there has been an increasing focus on infant mental health.  Infant mental health is described in 6 domains by a Consensus Committee with the following standards: systems thinking, positioning and touch, sleep and arousal interventions, skin-to-skin contact, reducing and managing pain and stress, and management of feeding and nutrition.

Infant mental health can be protected and promoted by maintaining a family-centered care model, and incorporating the 6 domains.  Parent education should take place at the bedside, and parents should be involved in rounds as part of the health care team.  Parents should be taught about the importance of touch, sleep and skin-to-skin contact, as well as decreasing pain and stress, not only in the infant, but decreasing stress in their own lives.  As COVID restrictions are lifted or changed, neonatal caregivers can shift more focus to the developmental, family-centered, and neuroprotective care that is the true center of the NICU world.

McGlothen-Bell, K., Browne, J., Jaeger, C., Kenner, C. (2021). Promoting Infant Mental Health in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit: Considerations in the Time of COVID-19. Advances in Neonatal Care. 21, 3 (169-170).