Safeguard Family Rights: End Rules that Ban Parents from the NICU in COVID-19 Crisis

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Without a national set of guidelines for how best to minimize hospital acquisition of COVID-19 while also supporting the very essential role of Parents in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), NICUs across the country—including right here in Virginia—are taking extreme action with dangerous consequences.

As of April 7 2020, Carilion Children's Hospital in Roanoke Virginia has locked down their NICU to all visitors including healthy parents without suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection, and has forcibly separated all parents from their hospitalized newborns, indefinitely.

Parents are not visitors in the NICU! They are essential to the parent-infant relationship, and the latest evidence recognizes a parent’s role in the NICU as essential to optimal infant health and wellbeing. Advocacy in a setting like this is crucial, and Parents are their babies’ only voice.

Parenting in the NICU protects parental mental health in a community of new parents already at higher risk and disproportionately impacted by Perinatal Mood Disorders (PMADs) like postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Parenting in the NICU supports a baby’s social, emotional, and cognitive development; benefits their brain growth and weight gain; lowers their stress, and increases their comfort.

Parents are essential to their babies, and NICU staff are not surrogates—they are not equipped to provide the unique kind of love and care that only a parent can bring, nor can they replicate the long list of documented benefits that parents offer their babies in the form of improved short- and longterm health outcomes. For medically fragile babies this is about life and death.

It is through the act of parenting in the NICU that parents cultivate the kind of relationships that babies and families truly need to thrive in the NICU and after discharge. This is a critical time for families in crisis that cannot be made up later.

Withholding Parents—an evidence-based intervention with well documented benefits for the entire family unit—is unethical. Further, separating medically vulnerable newborns and parents for days, weeks, or months is a human rights violation.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that parents are any more likely to bring COVID-19 into the NICU than a healthcare provider. Every NICU already has screening protocol in place for parents and staff.

Forcefully banning parents from their babies is an abuse of power and it is unnecessary. NICUs across the state have adapted and continue to deliver family-centered care during this time of heightened concern with evidence-based policies, practices, and culture that integrates parents as shared-decision makers, not Visitors who can be banned from their babies without consequence.

Today: Empowered NICU Parenting is counting on you

Empowered NICU Parenting needs your help with “Governor Ralph Northam: Safeguard Family Rights: End Rules that Ban Parents from the NICU in COVID-19 Crisis”. Join Empowered NICU Parenting and 2,518 supporters today.