Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

for ba­bies in in­ten­sive care units.

“We know if the baby is be­ing held more and taken care of by the mom and family, the baby’s vi­tal signs sta­bi­lize,” said Dr. Cyn­thia Roldan, Car­roll Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter’s di­rec­tor of pe­di­atric hos­pi­tal­ists.“They re­cover more quickly and are able to be dis­charged ear­lier.”

Car­roll Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter is bas­ing the new ap­proach on a pro­gram de­vel­oped by Karolin­ska Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal in Swe­den. The hos­pi­tal found that the bond­ing and nur­tur­ing be­tween mom and baby helps with re­cov­ery. Car­roll hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials are es­pe­cially hop­ing it helps the grow­ing num­ber of ba­bies born ad­dicted to opi­oids.

Catholic Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Manch­ester, N.H., adopted the same pro­gram seven years ago and is see­ing sav­ings in med­i­cal costs be­cause ba­bies are stay­ing in neona­tal in­ten­sive care units, or NICUs, two to four weeks less than they once did.

More of the ba­bies are also breast­feed­ing when they go home, said Glo­ria Yen­naco, the hos­pi­tal’s clin­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist. Be­fore the pro­gram was started, moth­ers couldn’t fo­cus on breast­feed­ing be­cause they weren’t with the baby for ex­tended pe­ri­ods.

Cou­plet care doesn’t cost more be­cause the baby is the pa­tient, not the par­ent, Yen­naco said. And moms don’t have to stay the en­tire time their ba­bies are hos­pi­tal­ized. Some moth­ers may have to re­turn to work, or may have to care for other chil­dren at home. There also can be other lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems.

“Some moth­ers can’t stay 24/7 be­cause they have other chal­lenges, but we en­cour­age them to stay as much as they can,” Yen­naco said.

The con­cept may not work in all NICUs. Ba­bies with the most se­vere med­i­cal prob­lems may need to be in rooms where they can get spe­cial­ized care.

The 50-bed Drs. Rouben and Vi­o­let Jiji Neona­tal In­ten­sive Care Unit at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal is one of only two Level IV NICUs in the state. The hos­pi­tal cares for the most crit­i­cally ill ba­bies in Mary­land, in­clud­ing ex­tremely low-birth-weight in­fants and those with sur­gi­cal, ge­netic and car­diac con­di­tions. Many ba­bies are sent there from other hos­pi­tals around the state.

“If a baby is born a lit­tle pre­ma­ture but is sta­ble enough to re­ceive care on the mother-baby unit and nurs­ery ver­sus the NICU, we do pro­vide and en­cour­age cou­plet care,” said Monika Bau­man, di­rec­tor of pa­tient care ser­vices for women’s and chil­dren’s health at Univer­sity of Mary­land Med­i­cal Cen­ter. “But typ­i­cally, ba­bies who re­quire Level IV neona­tal in­ten­sive care have nurses who are spe­cially trained to take care of ba­bies re­quir­ing in­ten­sive care.”

“The hos­pi­tal en­cour­ages moms to be with baby in the NICU as much as pos­si­ble,” Bau­man said.

Car­roll Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter is a Level II NICU, which means it sees less se­vere cases, such as pre­ma­ture ba­bies born at 32 weeks or later, but with­out se­vere health prob­lems.

“It is the per­fect model for us be­cause most of our ba­bies are not crit­i­cally ill,” said Linda Gro­gan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of women’s, chil­dren’s and sur­gi­cal ser­vices at the hos­pi­tal.

The hos­pi­tal’s foundation re­ceived a $2 mil­lion do­na­tion from Greg and Robert Kahlert of the Kahlert Foundation to start the cou­plet care pro­gram. The new pro­gram will be part of a $13.5 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion to its family birthing cen­ter and will in­clude a 9,000-square-foot ad­di­tion. New NICU rooms will in­clude a bed and family lounge area.

“Moms didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the sep­a­ra­tion or the open NICU ward with no pri­vacy,” said Les­lie Sim­mons, Car­roll Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter’s CEO and pres­i­dent.

Deanna Do­bry wishes the pro­gram had ex­isted when she de­liv­ered her sec­ond son, Ja­monte Rouse, at Car­roll in Novem­ber. He was born seven weeks early and spent 13 days in the NICU.

Do­bry, 29, lives five min­utes from the hos­pi­tal and went there as much as she could, in­clud­ing ev­ery three hours for his feed­ings. But she didn’t like that she couldn’t be there with him more, es­pe­cially overnight. She had a panic at­tack the first time she was home af­ter be­ing re­leased from the hos­pi­tal be­cause she wor­ried about her son all night.

“You don’t ex­pect to leave your baby at the hos­pi­tal,” she said. “You an­tic­i­pate this per­fect sce­nario where they come home. It was very emo­tional for me.”

Dr. Su­san Dulk­e­rian, di­rec­tor of nurs­eries and in­terim chair of the de­part­ment of pe­di­atrics at Mercy Med­i­cal Cen­ter, said al­low­ing moth­ers to stay with their ba­bies re­lieves a lot of anx­i­ety.

“Moms are not wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night won­der­ing if their baby is OK or if some­thing has gone wrong,” she said. “And if some­thing does go wrong, they are there to see the med­i­cal staff help the baby get bet­ter.”


Kim­berly Male­horn of Hanover, Pa., holds her daugh­ter, Lu­cille, in the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit at Car­roll Hos­pi­tal Cen­ter in West­min­ster. The hos­pi­tal is cre­at­ing a “cou­plet care” pro­gram through which moth­ers like Male­horn will be able to stay with their ba­bies.

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