While in the NICU, your baby may be seen by one or more rehabilitation specialists— including an occupational therapist, physical therapist and speech-language pathologist. They work with the nursing staff and your family members to ensure that your baby has everything he/she needs to develop.
Occupational and Physical Therapy
Occupational and physical therapists work as developmental specialists in the NICU, promoting physical and cognitive development. For example, therapists will assist you with putting your baby in a more comfortable position to prevent positional deformities and encourage normal development of muscles and attention. They will also teach you different ways of holding and touching your baby based on the infant’s needs. Additionally, a therapist may make recommendations for your baby’s room to help increase his or her comfort level—such as the right amount of lighting or stimulation. An occupational or physical therapist is also an excellent resource to help you and your baby’s nurse understand your baby’s needs, including reading your baby’s behavior to know when he or she is stressed or paying attention and how to calm your baby.
Speech-language pathologists evaluate your baby’s oral development, which includes sucking fingers, pacifiers or toys for exploration and calming, and sucking a bottle or breast for nutrition. Our role is to work with you, your doctors, nurses and other developmental specialists to create a feeding plan that is safe and efficient. We build on your baby’s skills to develop feeding and swallowing necessary for adequate weight gain and nutrition. We also provide caregivers with information about oral and feeding development and assist with transitioning your baby home by providing you with community resources and discussing commercial feeding products appropriate for your baby.