Webcams in newborn ICUs | Fit Pregnancy

Parents Stay Connected With NICU "Babycams"

Webcams help family members bond long distance with preemies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Technology has made its way into almost every aspect of our lives, and now it's also changing newborn intensive care units (NICU) in the United States, The Associated Press via USA Today reports.

"Babycams" — webcams set up in preemies' incubators — are popping up in hospitals around the U.S., according to The AP article. Doctors say these cameras are helping in the crucial bonding process, allowing long-distance parents, grandparents and friends who can't be in the NICU 24/7 to log in using a secure password to see the preemies day or night, The AP reports.

"A lot of it's about bonding and keeping families together, largely. If you live three hours away, four hours away, and your baby's going to be here four months, it's hard to do that economically. [A webcam] is not the same being there, but it's more like being there than talking to the nurse [on the phone] who's seeing and watching the baby," says Dr. Curtis Lowery, chairman of the OB-GYN department at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital, as quoted in The AP article.

Eight U.S. hospitals have installed babycams (some with speakers so parents can also talk to their babies), and dozens of other hospital systems are testing the programs, The AP reports.

The article talks about nurses putting notes on the preemie's status for the day in the camera shots as an update for those logging on to check: "I'm now 4 pounds 1 oz. Woohoo!" or "Be back soon. Pooping on my own. Gonna try to breathe on my own, too. Taking the breathing tube out."  David St. Martin, a Louisiana parent with a preemie quoted by The AP, drives daily to see his daughter in person and is grateful for the system: "It can offer a huge sense of relief. If you wake up at 1 in the morning, you're able to pull her up on the camera and see she's all right."

Delivering early is every mom-to-be's fear and, unfortunately, a common reality. Check out our How Preemies Are Different page for more information how they differ from full-term newborns. Plus, here are some tips for parents on how to care for a premature baby.