How to involve parents

There are different approaches to integrate parents and family members in child care.

The introduction of couplet care in the NICU allows mothers to stay with their baby the entire hospital stay, even if the mothers still need medical care and treatment, e.g. after caesarean section. In a specialise unit the medical team takes care of mother and child at the same time. Couplet care can be one of the first steps towards family-centred care.

While family-centred care concepts differ between facilities, some aspects are similar. This approach helps to recognise the family as the important constant in a child’s life.

Family-centred care places the baby firmly in the context of the family, acknowledging that the family is the most important and constant influence on the infant’s development. At the same time, family-centred care concepts accept that the whole family is affected by what happens to the child.

While family-centred care concepts differ between facilities, some aspects are similar.

This approach helps to recognise the family as the important constant in a child’s life.

Family-centred care places the baby firmly in the context of the family, acknowledging that the family is the most important and constant influence on the infant’s development. At the same time, family-centred care concepts accept that the whole family is affected by what happens to the child.

The team in the NICU works together with the family to achieve the best for the baby. Many services are provided to the family as a whole instead of only focusing on the baby. This includes for example that parents can stay with their child 24 hours a day and are involved and instructed in the care of their child. Additionally, it can include social services, psychological support, or regular consultation hours for parents.

Another important aspect of family-centred care includes and informed or shared decision making. This means that the parents are informed about important steps in the care and treatment of their child and decide about them together with the healthcare professionals in a respectful partnership. Every decision is taken by respecting the family as an entity.

Family-centred care includes:

  • Responding to the family’s emotional and social needs
  • Making sure that parents and other family members receive clear information and understand their baby’s treatment
  • Asking for the parents’ consent before a treatment
  • Explaining parents how to care for their baby, and encourage them to become the main caregiver
  • Supporting the parents to develop a strong bond with their baby
  • Respecting and considering the religious and cultural background of the family

 

Some NICUs have the policy to involve other family members as well. In agreement with the parents, siblings, grandparents, and other close relatives may also be allowed to feed the baby or to provide skin-to-skin care. Especially for siblings, early involvement can be useful in this new situation.

Experts support the introduction family-centred approaches because many benefits for the infant and the family have already been demonstrated in several studies.

Supplementary tools

Welcoming parents and the family 24 hours a day and 7 days a week (24/7) in the NICU is the optimal way to encourage the family’s relationship with their newborn. However, it may not always be possible for all family members to stay with or visit the baby. In these cases, new technologies can be a good complement. Some hospitals, for example, provide video cameras, which can be placed above the bed of the baby. Parents or other family members can see their baby by using any internet connected device such as a mobile phone or laptop. They may benefit in different ways from this technology. It can be especially comforting to parents, grandparents, and siblings to see the baby, when they are not able to be in the NICU all the time.