Health Matters: NICU nurses set up bookshelf to promote bonding

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.– Baptist Health is strengthening bonds between parents and babies through books.

For the last 17 weeks, Heather Hiatt and her husband have been by their daughter’s side in the NICU.

“It’s been hard, but then watching her develop and grow has been pretty amazing,” says Heather Hiatt.

Vera is their miracle baby who is just over 40 weeks old. Born at 23 weeks, Vera weighed 1 pound 4 ounces and was 11 inches long. Since then, Heather and her family have been taking turns reading to Vera while getting care.

“It’s especially important with her just because of the separation and having the time to read to her, it really helps I think,” says Heather.

Opening up a book has been key to the special bond Heather has with her daughter.

“I have definitely noticed coming in and saying something and she’ll turn her head.”

Baptist Health Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Margaret Johnson has been working to bring books to the NICU. There’s a bookshelf in the hallway and parents are utilizing it.

“The last 4 to 6 weeks of development is the brain experiencing a period of rapid growth. So we have a baby that can hear mom and a brain that’s growing. So it’s the perfect time for moms to talk to their babies,” says Margaret Johnson, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

Margaret says this translates to bonding after birth.

“A lot of times they just want to communicate with their babies,” she says.

And if one parent can’t be there, FaceTime comes in so mom or dad can still read to their child.

“I think it helps her keep her bond with all of us,” says Heather.

Hospital nurses encourage expectant mothers to start early because around 32 to 35 weeks gestation, babies can actually recognize and understand some language.

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