Aside from back to school time for families and important holidays for many, September also marks NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Awareness Month, established to acknowledge and educate the public around the unique challenges childbearing families face while navigating their baby’s time in and provide them with the support and resources they need. It also honors the professionals who work in these critical and demanding spaces.
The reason for admission and length of stay in a NICU varies widely, sometimes due medical complications after labor and delivery, recovery from surgery, or a need for monitoring concerns around pediatric digestive conditions or respiratory issues. Some birthing people have just experienced a traumatic birth when their babies are admitted to the NICU, adding yet another layer of vulnerability and stress to the typical challenges around establishing a milk supply for breastfeeding or creating a feeding routine with a newborn. Fear for the little one’s well-being, extreme helplessness around limited access to them, confusion around what one is “supposed” to be doing, anger toward the medical system, dashed hopes around having a “perfect” birth, and anxiety around what the future brings are common here, as well as deep concerns around bonding with the baby.
Some medical settings, such as the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, employ creative arts therapists to help ease this massive transition for both infants and families. NICU music therapy, for example, focuses on providing safe and effective evidence-based music interventions to promote neurodevelopmental stimulation, increase infant rest and regulation, and provide opportunities for caregiver bonding. Research has shown that creating and singing lullabies also promote overall family well-being by supporting maternal health, early child development, and the attachment between parent and child. #nicuawareness #perinatalmentalhealth #creativeartstherapy
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
Original photograph by Gabriel Tovar via Unsplash