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Do Families Know NOT to Use NICU Positioning Aids at Home? (And is there a better way to confirm it?)


I met with a NICU family one afternoon for education. I was working with the parents and the grandmother as well.

The grandmother, who I’ll call Ann, happened to mention that she’d been looking online to find positioning aids to use at home. She wasn’t having any luck and asked me where she could purchase them.

Now we know that families will model our behavior (despite what we say verbally) and that we must transition infants out of their hospital positioning aids and back to sleep (all principles) prior to discharge. However, this infant wasn’t yet in that transition phase. So this was a perfect time to educate about the changes that would transpire in the following weeks.

Ann seemed perplexed when both the nurse and I chimed in to explain why the positioning aids that we use for neurodevelopment in the NICU are not appropriate for home use.

For example:

  1. We must model and educate prior to discharge re: AAP guidelines for back to sleep which include of course, positioning and bedding.
  2. While these positioning aids are highly beneficial for neurodevelopment when used in an individualized manner in the NICU, they are necessary only for this particular stage of development.
  3. The products are indicated for hospital use.

Ann began to understand not only the answer to her question, but also the importance of the back to sleep and tummy time principles that were previously discussed. It opened a broader conversation.

Here’s the thing that nagged me about this experience: if she hadn’t asked the question about where to buy these products, would it have been completely apparent to her that they (or a homemade substitute) weren’t appropriate for home use? I wasn’t sure.

Is There a Better Way?

Even though you may provide education about this and even though you model the transition to all back to sleep principles, are you sure it’s being absorbed?

Do families understand not only THAT we shouldn’t use these methods during sleep at home, but WHY? Do they understand the risk?

There’s SO much for these families to learn.

NICUs document line upon line of education provided throughout a hospital stay. But do families receive a version of this checklist so THEY can check off what they’ve learned or ask clarifying questions?

It just might change the conversation.

(If your NICU has an education checklist that families complete and you have permission to share it, send it to!! If not, maybe NANT will create one for neonatal therapists. ☺)