iPads Help New Moms Connect With Their Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

For newborns in Cedars-Sinai’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), nurses Yvonne Kidder and Julius Caceres’ innovative plan for using a familiar technology has brought the babies the most comforting sound they can hear: their mothers’ voices.

And it’s helped lessen the anxieties of the mothers who can’t be with their infants at such a critical time.

“After delivery, mothers can become quite anxious not being able to see or hold their newborns and there is added stress when their babies are admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” said Kidder, RN, a clinical nurse IV, who works closely with the caregivers in the NICU, Postpartum, and Labor and Delivery to coordinate using Apple’s FaceTime application so recovering mothers can view their infants in the intensive-care environment and also meet the caregivers.

BabyTime, as the project’s been dubbed, went live in February in the NICU at Cedars-Sinai’s Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center, connecting three mothers and their babies the first day.

For Rachel Little, one of the first mothers to use BabyTime after her cesarean section in February, the program meant feeling just a little closer to her baby girl and the comfort of being able to hear the physician explain her infant’s condition.

“While it’s not the same as being able to hold your baby, it was almost as good,” Little said.

BabyTime’s inception was an organic one, growing from Kidder’s desire in August to help a patient who had just given birth and wasn’t able to be with her newborn. The new mom, who had no family in town, was being treated in the Intensive Care Unit while her baby received care in NICU.

The mother was understandably anxious to see her baby, and Kidder had an idea – what if she used her iPhone’s FaceTime application to connect the two?

And that’s how BabyTime was born.

Kidder, in conjunction with nursing leadership, moved forward with using iPads® to allow new mothers who are not ambulatory to see their infants.  Julius Caceres, RN, provided the technical expertise needed to launch the project.

“We needed to connect mothers to their babies’ care when they couldn’t physically be there. This technology proved the best solution,” Caceres said. “When doctors and nurses are treating a newborn in the NICU, mom now can be right there asking questions and getting updates, even if she’s on a different floor.”

Charles F. Simmons Jr., MD, chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Pediatrics and Ruth and Harry Roman Chair in Neonatology, estimates that 20 to 30 percent of mothers who undergo a cesarean section do not feel well enough to travel from their bed in the Labor and Delivery Unit to the NICU for the first 24 to 48 hours.

Now, as soon as a baby is admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, an iPad can be set up next to the infant’s incubator. A second iPad is delivered to the mother, allowing her to visit with her newborn and speak with the medical team over a secure Internet connection.

For new mom Tana Navarro, there was an added bonus to using BabyTime to see her newborn, Stephanie. Her 8-year-old daughter, who is too young to visit the NICU, was able to see her baby sister in real time.

“We saw her respond when we were talking to her,” Navarro said. “It was so great.”

Kidder said she is thrilled with the feedback she and the other nurses are getting.

“They absolutely love it. It’s been so rewarding seeing mothers’ faces light up when they see their babies for the first time,” Kidder said.

Cedars-Sinai is looking to expand the program and the hospital is already adding another set of iPads to bridge communication for more mothers who are not able to move around or cannot visit their babies.

And for mothers like Little, that contact allows them to make a difference for their babies, in spite of their separation.

“Even though I couldn’t hold her,” Little said, “she stopped crying when she heard my voice.”

From Cedars-Sinai Medical Center