Read to your baby in the NICU
Our Director of NICU Family Support shares a story about the power of reading to your baby, even if he is in a neonatal intensive care unit.
While working in the NICU, I had the privilege of knowing one particular family whose baby was born at twenty-eight weeks gestation. This little boy was going through a particularly vulnerable and fragile time and staff had requested that handling be kept to a minimum. Until he stabilized, his anxious parents were asked not to hold him. Despite this distressing limitation, the baby’s father, an intense and intellectual man, found his own way to get close to his beloved son. Early each morning before his job, this father would come in and tuck himself behind his growing son’s incubator. And in deep, hushed tones, staff and families would hear this dad reading “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin” to his baby boy through the incubator’s porthole window.
As staff, we began to depend on this father’s soothing voice of care in the early mornings. Families approached me and asked me if I had books for them to read to their children. I had an idea. Inspired by this very father, I created the Bedside Reading Program, a rolling cart of children’s books in various languages, so that every family could read to their babies at the bedside. It would be a way to bond, to parent and to get close despite all the barriers of the NICU. The NICU became a library, where every parent was reading to his or her baby.
Recently I was able to get together with the family who inspired this program. And today that little boy is eight years old and is reading to his father.
Now, through a generous in-kind sponsorship by Scholastic, Inc., we have a March of Dimes Bedside Reading Program in sixty-one of our March of Dimes NICU Family Support sites nationwide, at least one per state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. In addition, enough books have been donated to provide Sibling Lending Libraries in the NICU and a book gift to every family at the end of their baby’s hospitalization.
If you would like to donate to the Bedside Reading Program or get involved with NICU Family Support in your state, please contact your local chapter of the March of Dimes. No matter how old your baby is, read to him often to help him develop. Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your child.