Saturday, July 25, 2009

The importance of singing and talking to hospitalized babies

This summer, Rivers students are embarking on a variety of interesting and challenging adventures, from doing community service abroad to attending prestigious music camps. Throughout the coming months, we will be periodically checking in with a handful of students to learn more about their experiences. Today, we hear from Emily Hoberman, who is working at the Children’s Hospital this summer.

Over the past six weeks, I have observed and learned much about the communication and interaction between babies and the people who are taking care of them. One of the most interesting things that I have observed is how the babies respond to how you are feeling and your mood. For example, on Wednesday I was holding a two-month old baby. I was a little nervous when I was first holding her because she was quite ill and fragile. As a result of my nervousness, the baby's breathing was faster than normal and her body seemed tense. After ten minutes, however, as I became less nervous, she became less nervous and actually started to hiccup, which usually means that the baby is completely relaxed. Also, when I took a deep breath in and yawned, her breathing slowed down even more, and she yawned too! It was very interesting to see this physiological reaction.

The child life specialist and the nurses have taught me various other techniques to interact with the babies. These techniques include telling them stories and simply talking to them as if you were talking to an adult. When I first heard of these approaches, I was surprised and did not understand how they could possibly work, or how the baby could understand what I was saying. However, after actually trying out this technique it seemed to work perfectly. The babies enjoy the chatter and usually fall asleep peacefully or easily calm down from crying. Another technique is singing to them. Although I do not have the greatest of voices and was fearful that the babies would start hysterically crying when they heard my singing, I tried this approach. I always tend to sing holiday songs, and the babies love them!

In addition to these techniques for keeping the babies entertained and calm, they also help the babies stay developmentally on track. Since a sick baby can often be confined to his hospital room in isolation or under severe precautions for months at a time, he does not experience the same level of social interaction that a baby living at home and experiencing the outside world does. All of the above techniques are thus extremely effective in keeping the baby in as normal an environment as possible and keeping them developmentally on track.

At the end of my day, I am often amazed by the strength of the children, their families and the care providers at Children's Hospital. Improving the quality of life for hospitalized kids is a top priority at Children's. In fact, the job of the Child Life Service Department is mostly to normalize a child's experience while they are hospitalized. Whether it is mimicking the constant hum of noise from the outside world, recognizing an important milestone such as Mother's Day, or providing the important human touch, this department helps to support the children and their families during this difficult time in their lives.

--Emily Hoberman

No comments: