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Study finds premature babies healthier when cared for by parents during hospital stay

January 31, 2013

A new model of caring for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, developed by Dr. Shoo Lee, Paediatrician-in-Chief at Mount Sinai Hospital and Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), has shown to have a significant positive impact on the baby’s wellbeing in a new study published today in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Mount Sinai Hospital’s Family Integrated Care Program, the first program of its kind in North America, gives parents purpose and empowerment, promotes bonding with their babies, increases their skills and ensures a smoother transition to home because they are much more confident about looking after their babies after discharge from hospital. In this model, parents provide most of the daily care for their babies in the hospital while nurses provide education, support and guidance to the parents.

“This study is important because it represents a major shift in care for infants in neonatal intensive care units to include more involvement from parents and families, said “Dr. Shoo Lee, Paediatrician-in-Chief at Mount Sinai Hospital and Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health. “I am pleased that the results of the study show the significant improvements in neonatal outcomes that result from fundamentally changing the roles of parents, families and care providers in the care process.”

In this study, lead researchers Dr. Shoo Lee and Dr. Karel O’Brien, Staff Neonatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital found that babies receiving this type of care through the research program gained more weight (24.5%) compared with babies who were not in the program and 82.1% of babies were being breastfed at discharge, compared to 45.5% of babies not enrolled. The study also found that parents had decreased stress levels and babies had a decreased risk of infection and critical incidents.

“We were so happy when Tess was born but nothing could have prepared us for the shock of being thrust into such a clinical world,” said Jack Hourigan, mother of Tess, who was born at 27 weeks and was the first participant in the Family Integrated Care Program. “We felt more like terrified visitors than new parents. The Family Integrated Care Program allowed Andy & I to become an integral part of our daughter's medical team. We were taught how to care for her by the amazing nurses, supported by other parents in the program and educated by all the staff. Our hands-on experience in the hospital created a safe environment for our family, which allowed us to become more confident and better prepared to bring Tess home. We went from passive observers to active participants.”

The study was partly funded by the Preterm Birth and Healthy Outcomes Team and an Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions grant. This new model of care is now being evaluated in other neonatal intensive care units across Canada with funding from CIHR and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Quick Facts
• Each year at Mount Sinai Hospital, we care for almost 7,000 deliveries and 1,600 high-risk pregnancies
• To learn more about research conducted by Dr. Lee’s team to improve neonatal care, visit:


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