While in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU), your baby may receive occupational therapy from a pediatric occupational therapist (OT).
Role of pediatric occupational therapist in the N/IICU
Pediatric OTs who work in the N/IICU have been specially trained to help your baby participate in his “occupations”, which are bonding with a caregiver, receiving his care (such as diaper changes), and exploring his environment and play. OTs will help you bond with your baby and help develop skills that will lay the groundwork for achieving future developmental milestones.
Pediatric OTs will let your child take the lead as they progress through his or her OT program. Their priority is to teach you as the parent so you can help your baby be comfortable and support his or her development.
An OT will work with your baby on an as-needed basis. This is different for each baby. OTs evaluate your baby, determine his current needs and create a plan to best meet those needs.
When you are not able to be at the hospital, your child's OT will update you about your child's progress. Communication may be by phone, email, a journal or through your child’s nurse.
If your child needs occupational therapy after he leaves the hospital, your child's OT will help to create a plan to continue these services.
OT goals in the N/IICU
- Help your baby bring his hands together so he can hold a bottle and toy, and later on, clap for his friends.
- Help your baby enjoy taking a bath which can be part of her bedtime routine when she is at home.
- Help your baby reach for his feet now, which will allow him to take off his socks later.
- Help your baby use her eyes to follow movement, your face or a mobile, which is an important skill in learning to read.
Helping you support your baby
Some of the things OTs can teach you how to do include:
- Positioning your baby so he or she is comfortable.
- Recognizing signs of stress and ways to move and interact with your baby that are not stressful for him or her.
- Teaching you infant massage to use with your baby. This will teach your baby positive touch and support bonding.
- Helping you to know when your baby is ready for touch, movement and visual stimulation.
- Helping you to know when your baby is ready for toys and positioning equipment.
- Strengthening your baby’s arms, legs and body to be able to move freely.