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Developmental Care in the NICU - Developmental care of premature in the neonatal intensive care unit

Developmental Care in the NICU

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Intensive care units for premature babies are stressful environments – for the parents of the small patients, the doctors, the nursing staff and for the babies themselves. Noise, bright light, medical examinations and early physical separation from mothers make life stressful for premature babies. Stress is exhausting and robs the baby of energy that should be used for neural development and growth. So it becomes crucially important to introduce a pro-developmental care NICU environment and reduce stress factors to the absolute minimum.

Developmental Care

What is pro-developmental care?

External stimuli strongly influence the development of the brain and emotional maturation of premature babies. A holistic pro-developmental care concept should enable babies in the NICU to complete their interrupted intrauterine development with as little harm as possible by minimizing external stress while promoting physiological stimuli. Specifically, it includes the following aspects:

  • Reducing noise levels (high frequencies in particular) 
  • Adjusting lighting conditions to assist the developing sleep-wake rhythm
  • Avoiding, or at least reducing, pain
  • Tailoring every aspect of care to infants' physiological and emotional needs
  • Involving parents in the entire daily routine
  • Taking the emotional needs of parents into account
Nurse considers appropriate setttings for device in the NICU

Why is pro-developmental care in neonates important?

One major problem is that the brain is still not fully developed when a baby is born early. Normally this development happens in the last trimester of pregnancy – but in many premature babies, brain structure and therefore behavior have to develop to maturity under the influence of external stimuli in the NICU. 

Often, the consequences of disturbances in this early phase of life do not become apparent until later. One reason for this is that the frontal lobe, which is responsible for the ability to learn and concentrate, matures later. 

Studies have shown that motor impairments can also result from the disruption of normal intrauterine brain development. Pro-developmental care reduces stress, helping to promote neural and physiological development and to reduce long-term issues.

Benefits of Neonatal Care

Extending the care concept: family-centered care

Family-centered care (FCC) is an approach in which the parents are not "in the way" but, instead, important and equal partners when it comes to creating the best possible conditions for the baby. This extension of the pro-developmental care concept focuses on the parents of premature babies, with two goals. 

First, the parents should be encouraged in their role as the baby's primary caregivers. They should be helped with and integrated into the care process, because “parental tasks” such as changing diapers and bathing the baby are not as easy as with healthy, full-term infants. 

And second, the family should be given the best possible emotional and psychological support so that they can better cope with the stressful, daunting and often traumatic situation.

Caregiver’s hand rests on baby’s head in the NICU

Little patients. Big success stories

Alongside advancements in research and technology, the concept of pro-developmental care has gained traction around the world, leading to an increase in the survival rates and long-term success of premature babies. 

Take a look at some success stories of premature babies who are now flourishing children and amazing young adults.

NICU incubators - The perfect environment to grow and thrive

Our neonatal incubators are designed to support developmental care. As your specialist in critical care, you can trust in us to provide a safe and calming environment to protect developing lungs, brains, eyes and ears. Our hospital incubators help create an individualized microclimate where thermoregulation and the right light and sound levels work together to care for the newborn in a safe, stable and nurturing way.

Dräger Babyroo® TN300

Dräger Babyroo® TN300

​The Babyroo® TN300 is a configurable open care warmer with state-of-the-art thermoregulation capabilities as well as advanced integrated technologies to support emergency resuscitation and family-centred care. From delivery room to the neonatal intensive care unit to the final discharge, the Babyroo® TN300 is ...

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Dräger Babyleo® TN500

Dräger Babyleo® TN500

​The Babyleo® TN500 is Dräger’s first IncuWarmer that provides optimal thermoregulation for neonates in open care, closed care and transition. With the combination of three heat sources, this device protects your little patients so they can grow while making your workflow easier with quick and comfortable access to the baby.

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Isolette® 8000 plus

Isolette® 8000 plus

​Dräger sets the standard for thermoregulation with a host of performance features designed to provide a stable, cocoon-like environment for the baby. To ensure that the Thermo-Neutral Zone is maintained, the Isolette® 8000 plus enables you to continuously monitor both the central and peripheral body temperature.

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Take a look at our resources and tools for preemie parents and clinical professionals

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Get in Touch With Dräger

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Draeger Medical Canada Inc.

2425 Skymark Ave, Unit 1
Mississauga, ON L4W 4Y6

+1 866-343-2273

Call us from 8 am - 5 pm, Monday - Friday