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Walking into the NICU world for the very first time can feel scary and overwhelming. But with the right support, a little bit of hope, and some expert advice it can turn into a space where you and your family feel heard, supported, and safe.

If you or anyone you know is navigating life in the NICU, I hope you’ll share this special episode with them.

We brought together a group of wonderful professionals to form our NICU Professional Panel. They address common NICU concerns submitted by our online communities and share encouraging and heartwarming advice that can truly make a difference in your journey.

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to today’s NICU Professional Panel:

  • Dr. Yaya Ren is my co-host and a medical anthropologist and a social entrepreneur who helps create technologies that promote meaningful in-person interactions for parents in the NICU (PreeMe +You).
  • Kirsten Utley has been a registered nurse for 11 years, 7 of which in the NICU. She loves encouraging parents and watching NICU babies grow and thrive.
  • Kari DeWolf is a certified speech language pathologist. She is passionate about helping NICU parents learn all the necessary skills in order to help their babies develop (both in the hospital and, eventually, in their own home).
  • Meredith Mansch is a licensed physical therapist and certified neonatal touch & massage therapist. She uses her unique & compassionate clinical expertise to support infants and families in NICU.

Our conversation today gives parents insightful background, expertise, lessons learned, and ideas to take back to their own medical team. (This should not replace their own team’s advice, similar to what PreeMe +You was designed to do).

Key Takeaways with NICU Professional Panel

  • The joy these professionals experience working in the NICU which parents can look forward to; like learning to care for your baby, bonding, and experiencing the baby’s firsts.
  • What an overnight stay for a baby in the NICU looks like from an NICU night-shift nurse’s perspective.
  • Learn more about the best physical care for preemies including “voice touch”, skin-to-skin and “hand hugs”.
  • How to prepare for a premature baby: securing your support, preparing meals/groceries ahead of time, getting enough sleep, kangaroo care, and more.
  • Resetting expectations with a premature baby and creating your own timeline with appropriate milestones.
  • The difference between “Real Age” and “Expected Age” with preemies.
  • What sleep training, breastfeeding, and introducing solids may look like.
  • The types of questions to open up a conversation with your baby’s medical team such as: “What can I do today to developmentally support my baby?”

NICU Professional Panel Tweetables

  • “Developmentally, we can approach the bedside of the baby in a way that is going to nurture their future.”  – Kirsten Utley (Registered Nurse)
  • “I explain to parents how beneficial skin-to-skin is: for temperature regulation, for brain growth, for bonding, it’s so important. For parents who don’t feel comfortable with it, “hand hugs” are very beneficial as well.” – Meredith Mansch (Licensed Physical Therapist)
  • “The parent is the first important development environment for the baby. Touch is very important and can be defined very broadly: through voice, through song, through words, and as the baby’s body gets stronger through skin-to-skin.”  – Dr. Yaya Ren
  • “If mom or dad has to cry, tell them it’s okay, they need to get it out. Let them know we’re doing everything we can for them, and we will guide them in any way we can.”  – Kari DeWolf (Certified Speech Language Pathologist)


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