The Allison Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

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The Allison Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

It has been over two years since the renovation of the Allison Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital at Bridgeport. We are now sharing the significant updates and impact of this renovation.

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The NICU admitted more than a thousand babies (1,081) since 2018.  231 of these have been admitted since March 15 2020, when COVID cases began escalating on the East Coast.  Although we have cared for the babies of COVID+ mothers, happily, none of our babies have been sick with COVID.

Since the summer, we have been able to establish some consistency with a dedicated lactation consultant spending 12 or more hours a week in our NICU, working with our mother-baby dyads. (Dyad care includes care to the mother and infant while they are in close physical proximity, optimally skin-to-skin) with the understanding that appropriate care of one must address the needs and interests of the other. Providing more mothers milk in the unit is a critical goal; babies fed their mother’s milk are healthier, have lower rates of infection and death, and have better neurodevelopmental outcomes than babies fed with formula.  We are also lucky to have access to the Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast and we continue to offer donor breast milk to more and more patients.

To help support our mothers in promoting breastfeeding, we have loaned 200 hospital grade breast pumps to mothers when they are separated from their infants.  This spring we updated our fleet of loaner pumps with new technology developed by Medela to enhance milk production in mothers of preemie babies. We also bought freezers for a number of mothers who produced gallons of extra milk for their tiny, growing preemies.  These freezers keep the milk safely frozen for up to a year.

As we adapt COVID-19 safety protocols, we innovate. We have installed a large screen in our workroom so that we can continue our daily teaching rounds while sitting far apart.  We continue to look for ways to connect with parents.  We are excited to bring iPads into the unit, so that nurses can share daily care sessions (feeding, bathing) with families.   Thanks to support from the Bridgeport Hospital Foundation, the NICU bought a camera and printer to take pictures of caregivers so that our babies can see unmasked faces. We don’t know yet if the prevalence of masked faces will have any effect on infant development. We hope that it helps to give our babies a chance to see their loved ones faces nearby. Here is one of our little patients on the day of discharge, being held by her mother, with her mother’s smiling face posted in her crib!

We are working towards adding a dedicated mental health professional who can support our families through the emotional roller coaster of having a hospitalized child, during this difficult time of social distancing.  Parents are permitted to visit their newborns, one at a time, while following strict masking protocols. Mental health support creates a positive environment, helping reduce the stressors felt by our families.

Our NICU renovation continues to bring us joy: our patients have privacy and our staff have a comfortable and high-tech work environment. The private rooms have been real benefit in helping us manage COVID protocols while allowing parents to be present and care for their infants.

We recently hired a new neonatologist, Noa Fleiss, MD, who completed her fellowship training in 2020 at NY Columbia Presbyterian.

Our Newborn Follow-Up Program has a nearly 100% retention rate,  following our smallest and sickest patients, coordinating with their pediatricians and ensuring all available services (speech therapy, feeding therapy, nutrition, etc.) are in place. The positive outcomes for the infants enrolled in the program continue to improve.

We continue to look for ways to connect with parents.  We are excited to bring iPads into the unit, so that nurses can share daily care sessions (feeding, bathing) with families.  We are also hoping to increase support of our Newborn Follow-Up Program and expand mental health support to our NICU parents.

Thank you for your support of the Allison Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Yale Children’s Hospital at Bridgeport (NNICU). We will keep you posted on further successes as our NICU continues to provide world class care of our tiniest patients!!

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