A Room Like a Womb

Despite last week’s news from the March of Dimes that premature births dropped to a 17-year low, the 450,000 babies – or one in nine – born prematurely (less than 37 weeks) in the United States is still one of the highest rates among most developed countries. Many of these fragile infants require special care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Private Advantages
While the length of time and level of medical care required in a NICU varies, one common factor shared among preterm babies with good outcomes is their type of hospital room, according to a recent research study published in the October 2014 issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Environment Spurs Healthy Development
“It’s a fact that a single NICU room is a tremendous benefit to baby and mom,” said neonatologist Jorge E. Perez, M.D., medical director of neonatal services at South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants. “The one-on-one bonding that can occur in a private room leads to better neurobehavioral and physical development.”

A private room increases maternal involvement, including breast feeding and skin-to-skin contact, stresses Dr. Perez. As a result, these babies grow faster, cry less, need fewer medical procedures and have less pain, he said.

“When babies are born prematurely, their final weeks of gestational development are cut short, so it’s important that their environment after birth mimics the womb,” said Dr. Perez. “With a private room, we’re able to provide a quiet, calm and comforting setting.”

Reducing Stress
A private room also reduces the stress levels of the parents and attending hospital staff.

According to Andrew B. Kairalla, M.D., medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Baptist Children’s Hospital, “Having a baby in the NICU can be extremely stressful for the family. If baby and mom and dad are less stressed, then hospital staff is generally more relaxed and best able to provide family-centered patient care.”

The benefits of private NICU rooms carry over to after the baby is taken home. “When a mother has established a strong bond with her baby during their hospital stay, she is more likely to continue practices at home, like breast feeding and kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact), that play a big role in healthy development of babies who begin their life in a NICU,” Dr. Kairalla said.

There are a total of 27 private NICU Level II and Level III rooms at South Miami Hospital and Baptist Hospital of Miami, and 13 more are slated to be constructed at South Miami Hospital. Last year, South Miami Hospital became the ninth hospital in the U.S. to earn The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for Prematurity.

Both hospitals recognize November as Prematurity Awareness Month, an effort spearheaded by the March of Dimes. Monday, November 17, marks World Prematurity Day, raising awareness of preterm birth.

We’ve reported on other issues related to babies born prematurely. Read more:
Cervical Cancer Warning, Preemie Births Decline and Other News
Big Advances for the Tiniest Patients
Watch Now: Miracle Baby Celebrates First Birthday
Cool Treatment Helps Babies Survive

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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