Babywearing after the NICU, During a Pandemic, and Other Traumatic Experiences


Before March 2020, no one could have predicted that neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) all over the United States and the world would feel forced to prohibit or restrict visitation. The pandemic has harmed the majority of people, but preterm babies are among our most vulnerable patients; non-verbal, unable to control their bodies or protect themselves, and then with no family or caregivers to advocate for them. It’s a shocking way to enter the world. And it’s something that we know is harmful. But choosing between two bad choices is something healthcare professionals do frequently. And then after the storm is over, it’s time to clean up the mess.

So, we regroup. What is within the realm of our control? Hospitals have never been a place that people thrive. But it’s where people go to stay alive. For the people who make it to discharge, going home is not always the bliss that it would seem. There is fear, anxiety, and sometimes isolation and continued illness to manage. What help is there then?

Research shows that taking a baby home from the NICU, even during normal times, can be very stressful. The constant presence of hospital staff is gone. Now the only person assessing and watching over their baby is them. And they might not trust themselves much. After all, they’ve had to take direction from healthcare staff on how to be a parent from birth to discharge. It’s a heavy burden as well as an incredible blessing, to take a baby home from the NICU. If kangaroo care reduces stress, empowers caregivers, and reduces post-partum depression and anxiety, it’s the perfect solution for going home too. Except not everyone can rock the baby 24/7, no matter how badly you want to do that.

Babywearing could be an extension of kangaroo care after a hospital discharge.  But because we haven’t had a lot of research (we’re getting more every year!) it’s usually recommended only by healthcare professionals who already know what it is. This article is a qualitative research study on what kinds of benefits might deserve more attention in clinical research. It gives a voice to the caregivers, who are the only ones who can truly tell us, “What good is babywearing?” I’m looking forward to seeing more research, more changes, more actions taken by healthcare professionals to care and support the whole family.

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