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Premature Babies Benefit From Adult Talk

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Posted February 12, 2014

Premature infants face a number of challenges, including a known risk of language delay. But a new study suggests that exposing “preemies” to more adult language in the neonatal intensive care unit can increase their language abilities at 18 months.

“Parents have the power to make a difference in their child’s development and academic success. Just by enjoying your child — singing, playing, telling stories — while riding in the car or having dinner, sharing your day with them,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Betty Vohr, a professor of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

That type of quality time should be a part of a baby’s time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to Vohr. “The brain is a marvelous computer. It’s enhanced the more it’s stimulated,” she explained.

But oftentimes in the NICU, people are quieter. Nurses and physicians may not interact much with the infants, and parents’ visiting hours may be limited. Vohr said some working parents choose to work during the time their babies are in the NICU to save their family leave for when the baby comes home, which could limit the time they’re available to talk to their baby.

“We need to provide more information to families about the importance of talking to babies,” said Vohr.

One of every eight babies born in the United States is preterm — meaning born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more at: MedlinePlus

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