Even when baby Owen was in an incubator, Matthew Arnold read to his son.Arnold knew Owen couldn’t understand what he was saying. But that didn’t matter. Dad knew that just hearing his voice was important for his little boy, who was born almost 12 weeks premature.“Maybe this is looking at it from a daddy point of view, but I feel that there is something to the power of love,” Arnold said.“If he senses he is loved, he will want to love life and grow.”And Owen certainly has grown. At birth on March 23 he weighed only 2.7 pounds. Now Owen is a plump 8.5 pounds.Reading to a premature baby can do more than help the child’s body grow. It also makes a big difference in how the premature brain develops language and thinking skills.Dad Matthew and Mom Chantelle found out just how important reading is after taking part in BabyTalk, a one-hour drop-in program once a month for parents that’s a partnership of BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre and the Vancouver Public Library.In July, BabyTalk celebrates its fourth year at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Teck Acute Care Centre.Both parents discovered they can do more to help their son than read to him. Singing a lullaby and talking directly to him also helps his premature brain to fully develop.
Matthew and Chantelle Arnold with their three-month-old son Owen at B.C. children’s and women’s hospitals on Wednesday. ‘Maybe this is looking at it from a daddy point of view, but I feel that there is something to the power of love,’ says Matthew Arnold, who regularly reads to his young son.
Jason Payne /
“They reinforced that reading to your kid is good,” Matthew Arnold said.“Rhyming and repetition is good for their development. If I’m holding him, and he’s not upset, I’ll grab a book and read to him whenever I can. They can sense when you’re talking to them.”Little Owen has another challenge. He was born with a rare genetic heart condition that causes oxygen-poor blood to pump through his tiny body. Owen hasn’t had an operation yet because cardiologists are satisfied with his blood flow. But with early treatment, a person with the condition can lead a relatively normal life, according to the Mayo Clinic.The Arnolds live in Mission but moved into Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver after Owen was born.Julie de Salaberry, director of the hospital’s maternal newborn program, said BabyTalk is part of the hospital’s paradigm shift to integrate parents into the care of their child.“We want to encourage families that they do have a very important role in the care of their babies and are part of the treatment,” she said.Dr. Sandesh Shivananda, NICU medical director, said a landmark 2013 study of premature babies found that the same adult voice speaking to them in repetitive patterns leads to improved language development and cognitive abilities.“Babies are more attentive and receptive just after they’ve wakened up from sleep,” he said.“Parents who notice those cues and keep taking to their child at that vital, crucial point will alleviate their distress and get them to focus on useful, meaningful words right from the beginning.“We sow the seeds in NICU. We hope they will continue at home.”firstname.lastname@example.orgRelated
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