Better design leads to better bonding
23 Sep 2013
The design of spaces within neonatal intensive care units can have an impact on how newborn babies feed. It can also affect the quality of the bonding experiences that parents have with their children whilst feeding. The results in a new article in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth have implications for the future design of neonatal intensive care units and the facilities available to parents.
There has been a growing interest in the ways in which the design of spaces within hospitals influences health and relationships. A new article published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth explores, in-depth, the impact that different spatial designs in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have on how well newborn babies feed and the parents’ experience of their hospital stay.
Over an eleven month period, parents and NICU staff were observed and interviewed in two Swedish and two British units. The main focus was on interactions related to feeding, and researchers identified four main categories that were important to parents for a quality feeding experience; the level of ownership of the space, the feeling of being ‘at-home’, the experience of ‘the door or a shield’ against people entering, and for regulating socialising and the ‘window of opportunity’. These categories were used to analyse the experience within four typical NICU spaces where parents could spend time with their babies.
The findings show that when the spaces available to parents in NICUs are designed so that the parents’ emotional and physical needs are met they facilitate better feeding experiences and time spent together. Parents prefer to feel less like a visitor, having a sense of ownership over a space that has some degree of privacy, allowing them to relax and engage with their child.
Renée Flacking and Fiona Dykes conclude that the spatial configuration of the NICUs have a strong influence on developing a parent-baby relationship. Dr Renée Flacking, co-author and Senior Lecturer at School of Health and Social Studies, Dalarna University said, “If our proposed model is valid, it is vital that these findings are considered when developing or reconfiguring NICUs so that account is taken of the influences of spatiality upon parent’s experiences. Even without redesign there are measures that may be taken to make a positive difference for parents and their preterm babies.“
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- Notes to editors
1. ‘Being in a womb’ or ‘playing musical chairs’: the impact of place and space on infant feeding in NICUs
Renée Flacking AND Fiona Dykes
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:179 doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-179
The paper is available on request
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