Webcams help parents bond with premature babies

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 12:27:00 BST

A study into whether webcams can assist the early bonding process for parents of premature babies found that the majority benefit from the ability to see their baby 24/7 in neonatal units.

Researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) conducted the first in-depth analysis of the views of parents and professionals using webcams to assist the early bonding process.

Published in the BMC Pediatrics, the team of researchers interviewed 30 mothers and fathers and 18 professionals, including nurses, midwives, nursery nurses and doctors, in a Scottish hospital over a six-month period.

For the majority of parents benefits included an increased feeling of closeness; enhanced emotional wellbeing; improved post-birth recovery as well as facilitating the involvement of family and friends by sharing images on the tablet computer kept by the mother in the post-natal area.

One of the issues discussed by a number of the parents interviewed was that the technology allowed them to “feel that they were with their baby” even during periods of separation. It also meant they were able to be more responsive to their babies’ needs – for example, seeing their baby, helped mothers to produce breast milk.

One mother of an eight-week premature baby said: “When I had my little boy [also admitted to a neonatal unit] I couldn’t see him straightaway, whereas, this time, having the camera means I can see her constantly, she’s right beside my bed, really. Also, with things like expressing milk, I’ve found that a lot easier.”

However, a small minority in the study reported that the ability to see their baby round the clock heightened their anxiety rather than decreasing it, as the majority reported.

One father of a six-week premature baby said: “It’s a double-edged sword using the webcam, I would say. You can see what’s happening but you don’t always know what’s happening.”

With the global increase in premature births and an increasing number of parents (8-12%) requiring expert neonatal care, webcam technology can offer an important solution to periods of separation.

Dr Susan Kerr, GCU’s School of Health & Life Sciences, said: “Our study appears to encourage the early bonding process between parents and their babies. The study is one of a few world-wide to have evaluated the use of webcam technology in neonatal units. Further work is required to assess the cost-effectiveness of webcam technology and also to evaluate its use in the family home following the mother’s discharge from hospital; currently it is only available in the hospital.

“While mothers are commonly discharged after a few days, their premature baby may remain in neonatal care for weeks or even months. Webcam access at home could mean the difference between stressful anxiety and peace of mind for new parents.”

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU; Neonatal web technology