It’s no secret that water promotes healing and relaxation. Professional literature shows that water has positive effects on the cognitive and motor development of preterm infants. Studies have shown that hydrotherapy improves measures of preterm infants, improves sleep cycles, improves breathing, reduces stress, alleviates pain, improves self-regulation abilities and strengthens muscles.
The physical therapists in HYMC’s NICU began including hydrotherapy when bathing preterm infants as part of therapy provided for the variety of developmental issues, including eating disorders, emotional self-regulation and neurological deficits. “Bathing a newborn is an everyday activity that is performed as part of the daily schedule in the NICU. We use hydrotherapy principles to add developmental content to bathing and to encourage parental involvement in the care of their child during their hospital stay. Preterm infants, babies with neurological disorders or various medical conditions are not always comfortable and calm and are frequently diagnosed with abnormal movements. The water simulates life in the womb and, in fact, takes the preterm infants and babies back to the feelings they are familiar with. While bathing them, we teach parents how to hold and move their preemies to create good movement. Parents are taught to continue the exercises with their preemie at home as well, in order to achieve optimal results, both in terms of the baby’s movement and to create a sense of calm and relaxation over time,” explained physical therapists Noa Kaplinski and Anat Klik, of Hillel Yaffe’s Neonatology Department and NICU.
Physical therapist Noa Kaplinski treating a preterm infant in HYMC’s NICU
Dr. Amit Hochberg, Director of the Neonatal and Preterm Infant Department, added, “The NICU and Neonatal Department is the starting line of these little ones’ lives. Concern for their future quality of life, for 120 years of physical and mental health, starts on the day they are admitted to the department. Hydrotherapy is another therapeutic tool, along with numerous other tools and methods in the “developmental support” toolkit, which we provide in the department. It is an important component in the inclusion of parents in the care of their child. By doing so, we offer comprehensive, holistic care that views the newborn and parents as a single and special family unit.”