There seems to be a big “thing” about the birth experience: The reduced light, the quiet room, snake oil, touchy feely, blah, blah, blah. I was on the “high risk delivery team.” I had a saying: “After this baby isn’t dead then I’ll concern myself with the experience. The baby staying alive is job number one.”
The kids that got a ticket into the NICU stayed with us for months on some kind of support till they were “fully cooked.” As time went on, developmental positioning, along with concern for the invasive sights and sounds that a preemie might experience, came into better focus. A prematurely stimulated brain does not progress in its development as intended. Does the ADHD rate have a correlation to seeing and hearing and feeling too early and not finishing the brain development in an orderly fashion?
A few years ago, a physician lectured in Portland, Oregon at an OHSU conference. He cited studies that supported the long term effects of premature stimulation:
The visual cortex, short story: babies don’t have to look at anything until at least 34 weeks, so just leave the bili mask on.
The auditory system, short story: Keep it quiet... Not necessarily silent, but quiet.
The oral mechanics, short story: Trying to get a preemie to suck too early affects their development process; gavage feed until they are old enough to learn to suck, don’t rush it. This isn’t a contest, it’s a process.
Stimulation of the skin, short story: a premature baby can’t tell touch from pain until the brain gets organized at about 34-36 weeks. A loving stroke may not be received as pleasant; it all depends on how developed the baby’s brain is.
When an infant delivers before its time, our management strategies should suit the premature patient, which is a much different patient than a full term baby. There is a time and a season for each thing to happen as a fetus matures. There are important steps in development that cannot be overlooked. If a developmental step is overlooked, or ignored, the brain won’t develop in order. We need to be mindful not to prematurely stimulate babies in the NICU and help to keep our babies on the narrow road to recovery.