BOCA RATON, Fla. — Becoming a parent during the pandemic is challenging, to say the least, but that’s especially true for moms and dads whose babies go to the NICU. New rules because of COVID-19 make it a little bit harder to spend as much time in-person there.
“She was born February 27th,” said Stephanie Palestine, a mom. “She was born at 28 weeks though. It was a surprise. Emergency c-section, but she is here.”
Stephanie and Darren’s daughter is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at West Boca Medical Center in Florida.
“It has certainly been challenging, because of the COVID rules, which we completely understand,” said Darren Palestine, her father. “Right now, we are allowed one parent per day, so we alternate days.”
The day-by-day approach comes with highs and lows for parents of NICU babies.
“Last week was extremely challenging,” said Darren Palestine. “The first week in the NICU, but we are starting to see little milestones.”
Seeing some of those milestones is made possible via brand new cameras installed in the NICU beds there.
“We just keep it aimed at the baby’s little face, and they can see the baby looks comfortable, the baby is resting,” said Meredith Haney, the clinical nurse manager of pediatrics at West Boca Medical Center.
Haney said the cameras provide a sense of comfort during limited visitation now.
“It has to be extremely difficult for them,” she said. “It is difficult without these extenuating circumstances. The pandemic has made it even more so, and the cameras, I feel, brought in a whole new level of comfort for them.”
The hospital says 15 cameras were activated last month. They do not have audio for privacy reasons.
The hospital said they’ve had about 5,000 logins from family members around the world. Each set of parents gets a unique user name and password that they can share with their family.
“People are seeing them that wouldn’t have been able to visit even before the pandemic,” said Haney. “The nurses can type little messages to them like, i just finished my first bottle, and I had a good night. So, they don’t feel as helpless when they are at home and not knowing what is going on.”
Haney said the cameras also serve as a breastfeeding tool.
“The moms even use it when they are pumping their milk, because watching their baby is helpful to them in pumping,” she said.
Nothing compares to touch, but parents say this window into their new baby’s world does help a whole lot.
“You sort of get that thought to go and check, or thought of ‘oh I miss the baby’, you have the ability to bring her with you to a certain degree,” said Darren Palestine.
“If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can just log on, see the baby,” said Stephanie Palestine.