From Labor to the NICU: The Journey of a Premature Baby and Her Parents Teresa L. Thompson and Catherine Gillotti
This case focuses on the potential impact of the interaction between a premature infant in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and his or her caregivers (both staff and parents) on the recovery and development of that child. In addition to some issues that are discussed related to the environment of the NICU, there are two other factors that lead to concern with this issue. The first is the research indicating the importance of interaction between infants and adults for the development of all children. Research has concluded that, from the neonatal period on, both the physical status and the level of social responsiveness of a child are affected by the quality of adult communication with the child (Anderson, 1977). Additionally, the health and development of the child are influenced by adult-child interaction (Osofsky & Danzger, 1974). Most of the research on infant-adult interaction has focused on mothers and, to a lesser degree, fathers. A child in an NICU, however, is likely to experience much less contact with parents in the first few weeks or months of life than does a fullterm infant, and much more contact with health-care providers. The impact of interaction with the care provider is, thus, likely to be of more salience than it would be for a full-term infant. Additionally, the recovery and development of premature infants is much more problematic than it is for other infants.