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New face masks help NICU babies engage with parents

Posted at 6:36 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 11:30:49-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Doctors say the first few months, and even weeks, of a baby's life are critical in their development.

"There’s a lot of learning that happens with the human face, babies take cues from their parents in situations and there’s a lot of social interaction that happens. If you think about when you’re holding a baby and you make a face and they kind of make a face back at you. There’s turn-taking that takes place in those interactions so just really really important for them to see their face," Sheri Kimmey, a NICU Clinical Nurse Educator at Methodist Women's Hospital said.

Barriers due to COVID-19, such as having to wear face masks while giving birth, have hindered those interactions. Babies now have to meet and interact while their parents wear a face mask.

Methodist Women's Hospital was able to come up with a way to keep everyone safe from COVID while still allowing parents to engage with their baby.

Kimmey realized that many NICU babies had spent weeks without seeing what their mom or dad looked like and came up with a new way to interact.

"There’s a lot of learning with that social-emotional connection, so I started to look for a good product and I ordered a few things that weren’t great and another colleague found the clear masks that we used and they looked like they were something that we could make happen. So I reached out to our foundation and luckily they were able to help us out with that," Kimmey said.

NICU families whose babies are in the stage of having more awake periods are now able to use clear face masks.

"It helps us interact more when they’re awake but also feeding is what we’re working on right now. Building up the stamina with our boys and it helps us to be able to see that they are eating properly, so we’re not looking over masks that we can’t see through," Angela Roeber, a mom whose twin boys are in the NICU, said.

Roeber said she hadn't thought of how the facial interaction would be obstructed when she went in to give birth so she's grateful Methodist Women's Hospital offered the new clear masks.

"I was excited to try it I think that like I said, Methodist has really gone above and beyond to make our stay here as of great of an experience as possible and I thought that this was very exciting and it really opened up some doors in allowing us to engage more with Camden and Isaac, before we go home," Roeber said.