NATIONAL NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE AWARENESS MONTH
National Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month seeks to increase awareness of the challenges faced in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The day also offers a way help expand resources to NICUs across the country.
When a baby is born prematurely or is sick upon delivery, they most likely need to spend time in the NICU. In the NICU, trained nurses provide around-the-clock care to premature or sick babies. Doctors who work with these babies are called neonatologists. Up to 15 percent of all babies born in the United States will require care in the NICU. Their average length of stay is just over 13 days. Babies born very prematurely, some weighing only ounces upon birth, can expect to stay in the NICU for several weeks.
The first NICUs in the United States came into existence in 1922. However, it wasn’t until many years later the care for these tiny and sickly babies greatly improved. Beginning in the 1950s, doctors began to realize that heat, humidity, and a steady supply of oxygen could improve a premature baby’s survival rates.
The survival rates continued to improve further when studies showed the importance of parent involvement. NICU nurses began encouraging parents to take a more active role in caring for their babies in the NICU.
This included having the parents change their baby’s diaper, feed them, and bathe them. Another way parents take an active role is through skin-to-skin contact with their baby. Skin-to-skin contact is called Kangaroo Care and is known to stabilize a baby’s heart rate, improve their oxygen saturation levels, and improve sleep.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalNICAMonth
If you know parents who have a baby in the NICU, offer them a word of encouragement. Show your support in other ways, too. Get involved in a fundraiser for your local NICU or take a NICU nurse out for lunch. This is also a great month to donate blankets, preemie clothes, and booties to a NICU. If your baby was premature, share your experiences. Use #NationalNeonatalIntensiveAwarenessMonth to share on social media.
NATIONAL NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE AWARENESS MONTH HISTORY
Project Sweet Peas established National Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month in 2014. Volunteers with personal experience with the NICU comprise Project Sweet Peas and provide support for families of premature and sick babies.