1. Section Editor(s): Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN


Helping parents helps neonates.


Article Content

Almost half a million premature infants are born in the United States each year. Most require hospitalization in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and their parents often suffer from anxiety and depression. At two NICUs in the northeastern United States, a parent-education program called Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment (COPE) used written materials and audiotapes to teach parents about prematurity. The program included four phases:

Figure. Nurses aroun... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure.

* Phase I (two to four days after NICU admission) taught parents about typical behaviors of premature infants.


* Phase II (two to four days after Phase I) gave parents suggestions on participating in their infant's care and identifying behavioral cues.


* Phase III (shortly before discharge) presented information on parental roles, interaction with the infant, and decreasing the infant's stress to smooth the transition home.


* Phase IV (one week after discharge) instructed parents on promoting the infant's cognitive development.



Compared with parents in a control group, COPE parents had a better understanding of the behaviors to expect from their infant and displayed more positive parent-infant interactions. In the NICU, mothers had less anxiety, depression, and parenting stress, and fathers were more involved in their infant's care. Infants of COPE parents averaged 3.8 fewer days in the NICU-a savings of roughly $5,000 per infant. These findings indicate that focusing on the parents of premature infants can be worthwhile.


Melnyk BM, et al. Pediatrics 2006;118(5):e1414-27.