Friday, 06 January 2012 13:44

Parent Talk: Important for Preemies

An article recently published in the journal of Pediatrics reported that preterm babies who are exposed to their parents’ voices while in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU for short) have better vocalizations at 32 and 36 weeks gestational age.

A number of studies have reported that speech and language development can be delayed in preterm babies. The environment that a preterm baby is exposed to in the NICU is vastly different than that of a fetus of the same gestational age. The NICU exposes preterm babies to high levels of noise, yet while they are in the isolette little language is audible unless it is directed into the hole of the isolette. In contrast, while a fetus is in utero, mother’s voice is a major stimulus and this occurs during the development of the auditory system.

Numerous studies have reported on the importance of early language experience for normal development of speech and language processing; the more a parent talks to their children, the faster their vocabularies grow and the higher the child’s IQ. Since early language experience and exposure is important for language development and IQ, it is important to understand the experience of very preterm babies in the NICU because their sensory experience is so different to babies born full term.

Researchers from the Department of Pediatrics, Women and Infants Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island conducted a study to determine whether preterm babies exposed to more adult language would make more vocalizations. Vocalizations include any utterances, sounds made by the baby.

The study included 36 preterm babies with birth weights of 1250 grams or less and 16-hour recordings of the preterm baby’s environment in the NICU at 32 and 36 weeks’ gestational age were carried out. The researchers found that infant vocalizations were detected as early as 32 weeks and this increased significantly up to 36 weeks, this means that preterm babies start making vocalizations at least 8 weeks earlier than the typical starting date for a newborn baby. They also found that the number of conversational turns per hour were much higher when a parent was present.

The researchers conclude that for preterm babies, exposure to parental talk was a strong predictor of vocalizations at 32 weeks and conversational turns at 32 and 36 weeks than language from other adults. This highlights the importance of parent talk for preterm babies while in the NICU.

Published in Industry News

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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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