Reading Could Save The Life of Your Premature Baby

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Despite being one of the most advanced and industrialized countries in the world, new data shows that babies in the U.S. have a premature birth rate closer some underdeveloped countries.

The average preterm rate for the poorest countries in the world is around 12 percent, while the U.S. actually had a rate of 9.6 percent in 2014, an improvement from 12.3 percent in 2013, Newsweek reported. 

And while there are many factors that need to be explored at why that rate is so high and how we can prevent premature births, one incredibly simple step parents can take to help their premature babies may surprise you--

Reading a book to their babies.

Studies have shown that premature babies get a boost from hearing their parents' voices. One study found that three hours a day helped literally develop the babies' brains, especially in the auditory cortex. By studying babies who had mothers read directly to them or listen to a recording of their voices and their heartbeats in contrast to babies who didn't, researchers found that the babies larger auditory cortices than those who simply heard hospital noises.

​I think it's fascinating that a mother's heartbeat helps develop her baby's brain and as a life-long book lover, the fact that a love of reading starts from even before day one only makes sense to me. 

Many parents have also reported that reading or otherwise talking, singing, or recording their voices to their babies helps them as well--it gives them something meaningful to do that helps them connect to the littlest patients in the hospital.

"I always talked to him more to talk my thoughts out and [tell him] we're in this together," one mother told Today Parents

One of the leading hospitals for mothers and babies in the country, Brigham & Women's Hospital, has actually implemented a special NICU reading program to help parents with premature or sick babies in the NICU read every day to their parents.

The program, called "Brigham Baby Academy," is  designed to provide NICU babies with "meaningful auditory stimulation," reported WCVB in Boston. Each baby receives 15-20 minutes of reading by a parent or a staff member. 

One the doctors at the NICU with Brigham & Women's explained to WCVB that babies born at low birth weights have significant language delays, even when they grow to "normal" weights. Surprisingly, however, the babies exposed to meaningful language were able to overcome the delays and showed "increased reading proficiency" by third grade. 

Reading to premature babies in the NICU is especially important because even though NICUs are notoriously noisy, all that noise isn't necessarily helping the babies. But by giving them meaningful noise to focus on, especially from a voice they recognize, will help them "practice" listening and develop those language skills they need. 

The studies done on NICU babies show that parents and caregivers have an important role in the literal, physical, and emotional development of their babies, right from the womb.

No matter what age or stage your baby is in, you can start reading to him or her to help boost that brain development. 

And if you ever find yourself with a baby in a special intensive care nursery, keep in mind that one of the simplest--and best--things you can do for your baby starts in the pages of a good book. 

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