Language Nutrition in the time of COVID-19

The Sound of Silence: Language Nutrition in the time of COVID-19

By: Sarah Bakke, Synapse Care Clinical Consultant

NICUs around the world are implementing visitation restriction policies to curb the spread of COVID-19, this means we have access to limited ancillary staff, volunteer services, and in many places even parents have been restricted from entering the unit freely 24/7. 

My own NICU has morphed into this eerie ghost town, with a silence that seems broken only by the chatter at the nursing station and the droning beeps of monitor alarms, IV pumps, and other electronic equipment.  While I understand the intent of these policies is to spread the curb of this deadly disease, I can’t help but wonder what the long term impact will be for our patient population as they go through the most rapid period of brain development of their lifetime under this “new normal” of sensory deprivation. Even in the best of times, the meaningful sound exposure a NICU baby receives pales in comparison to the language nutrition a baby receives during an uncomplicated delivery and postnatal course. 

What is language nutrition?

In a previous post, we talked about how Language Nutrition is the concept that just as food nourishes the body, words nourish the brain.  In fact, meaningful language exposure from a caring adult early in life has a profound impact on a baby’s brain development. But, how profound is this impact?

Even in the midst of a pandemic, we cannot hit the pause button on this brain development.  The brain reaches an astonishing 80% of its adult size in the first 18 months of life.

“The single strongest predictor of a child’s academic success is not socioeconomic status, level of parental education, race or ethnicity, but rather the quality and quantity of words spoken to the baby in the first three years of… Click To Tweet

What can we do?

So what can we do as NICU nurses to improve Language Nutrition during these unprecedented times?  

In my own unit, we are looking at ways to modify our existing program to provide even better support of the developing brains in your unit today and in the future..

Do you have a great sensory support program you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at info@synapsecare.com.

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