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Storytime Benefits Babies, Parents in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Cedars-Sinai Nurse Educator Establishes Reading Program to Calm and Comfort Infants

It's not what you would expect to see in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit, but these days, the Cedars-Sinai NICU, part of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center, is filled with children's books and parents reading to their babies.

"Babies in the NICU are here because they are premature or sick," said Amanda Williams, RN, a NICU educator who created the reading program called Storytime Snuggles. "Reading to them, whether it's from a parent or caregiver, it's calming and it's comforting."

Parents are able to borrow books from a book cart and all the books are cleaned after each use. To encourage reading, Cedars-Sinai joined a readathon competition involving NICUs across the U.S.

Mustafa Speaks, whose baby daughter, Noir, has been in the NICU since her premature birth on June 29, said he reads to her every chance he gets.

"At first it was just reading to her through the incubator, so I would open the porthole, speak to her and read to her," said Speaks. "When it was time to take her out, when she was able to maintain her temperature, and big enough to hold, I was able to hold her and read to her and smell her and kiss her and all that good stuff."

Williams says it's important for babies to hear their mom’s and dad's voices when they are in the NICU, especially since they had been hearing those voices in utero. "It's very calming and soothing for the baby," said Williams, "especially in the NICU when babies are hearing a lot of more abnormal sounds like machinery beeping."

Speaks said whenever he reads to his baby, he can tell how relaxed she is feeling. "Every single time I read to her, there is a visceral response," said Speaks. "She relaxes, she calms down, she goes to sleep, her heart rate drops, her respiratory rate drops, her (oxygen) saturation increases and she's just at peace."

Read more from Discoveries magazine: Lifelong Connection