Dr. Melnyk discusses when a mother should begin to interact with her premature baby.
The best time to interact with their premature baby is when he or she is in the quiet alert state. That’s when they are more receptive to processing the talking to, reading to. In our study, I’d like to just tell you that we conducted a randomized controlled trial with 260 premature babies and their parents where one group of parents of preemies received our COPE program and the other group received a Placebo Attention Control program.
What we found were the parents receiving our COPE program, they not only had less stress, depression and anxiety while their baby was hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit, but they had continued declines in depression and anxiety for months after hospitalization.
I’ll never forget the story of one particular mom who read, who actually received our COPE program. She said, “I never knew how important reading was, to read to a tiny little premature baby and what I found out was how important it really was but not only just to read to them but to read to them at the time that they would best receive that stimulation and information,” which was in the quiet alert state.
We also found that the preemies of parents who received COPE went home four to eight days sooner than parents who received our Attention Placebo Control program. That has a lot of implications. That means one, you get your baby home sooner. Two, there are less costs. If every single parent of a premature baby who was born in the United States received our COPE program we could save the United States Healthcare system over $2.2 billion every single year.
Our program is very different than most other programs out there for parents of preemies because it begins within two to four days after birth of that premature baby. Most programs for parents of premature babies usually don’t start with the program until the baby is getting ready to be discharged. That’s a problem because what happens in the first 28 days of that baby’s life is so very important, how that parent looks at that baby.
A lot of parents of premature babies look at their babies as very weak, very fragile, that they are going to have problems for many, many years down the road, but we teach parents in COPE how to look at their babies as really special babies, how to look at the unique features of their babies, and again, how to help their babies grow and develop.
About Dr. Melnyk, Ph.D., R.N.:
Dr. Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, Ph.D., R.N., is Dean and Distinguished Foundation Professor in Nursing at the Arizona State University College of Nursing & Health Innovation. She is noted for her dedication to improving the health of children and teens, educational and research innovation, interdisciplinary healthcare, and evidence-based practice to deliver quality patient outcomes.
Dr. Melnyk earned a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree from the West Virginia University School of Nursing, a Master’s of Science in nursing with a specialization in nursing care of children as a pediatric nurse practitioner from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in clinical nursing research from the University of Rochester (New York). She also has completed her post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.