ICU! Webcams help parents bond with their premature babies while they”re in intensive care

Parents of premature babies are being offered the chance to watch over their newborns from their mobiles via a webcam.

It means mothers like Carole Kang, from Fullerton, California, can bond with their children in the crucial days after birth.

Mrs Kang and her husband Stephen live a couple of miles from the neonatal intensive care unit at St Jude Medical Center where their son Spencer is being cared for.

Doctors say the cameras help parents to become attached to their preterm babies early on

Doctors say the cameras help parents to become attached to their preterm babies early on (file picture)

The hospital has a password-protected system called Nicview with 14 webcams placed over the 14 incubators.

Parents can watch a live video stream on their phones or laptops after they have logged online and signed in. They can also choose to share their password with close friends or family who live far away.

It means Mr and Mrs Kang can see their son, who weighed just 2lbs 2oz at birth, when they can”t be at the hospital. The cameras are only switched off during medical treatments.

“There were times in the middle of the night that I would have to see him,” Mrs Kang told CNN.

“It would give me such a sense of relief.”

She added that it meant her husband felt connected even when he had to return to full-time work.

An incubator using the NICVIEW system

An incubator using the NICVIEW system: It allows parents to see their premature babies at almost any time

Cameras costs around 640 each to run but Dr David Hicks, from St Jude told the news channel: “The family feels that they are really connected to their infant, which is important for bonding. In the past, the bonding process had to be instituted every few days.”

Premature babies can spend anything from a few days to months in care units.

The same system is being used at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Deaconess Women”s Hospital in Newburgh, Indiana.

In the UK, the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust trialled a similar webcam system for preterm babies last year. The project earned it a place among the finalists at the E-Health Awards in 2010.

A spokesman said they had used the webcam a handful of times since to allow mothers being treated elsewhere in the hospital to see their babies.

“It helps them in the attachment process,” they said.

Tracey Van Dell, from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, said there was a possibility that parents could witness an emergency situation before the camera could be turned off. However, she said she felt the benefits outweighed the risks.

Blake Rutherford, one of the four founders of the Nicview service, which is based in Kentucky, said it was compatible with any web-enabled device and designed to not interfere with a hospital”s network.

Noelani Dauphinee, who delivered her son Jonathan at St. Jude, said the system was a blessing for her and her family. It meant relatives far and wide could see him during his unfortunately short life.

“You just never know how precious those moments will end up being,” Noelani said