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Family Nurture Intervention (FNI) in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT01439269
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : September 23, 2011
Last Update Posted : July 18, 2018
Williams College
New York State Psychiatric Institute
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Martha G. Welch, MD, Columbia University

Brief Summary:
The purpose of this study is to test the efficacy of a family nurture intervention in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Infants receiving enhanced mother-infant and family nurture are compared to infants receiving standard NICU care. The intervention enhances mother/infant interactions that are vital to early development in the infant. The main goal is to get the mother and infant into biological synchrony, emotional attunement and mutual calm through an activity referred to as a "calming cycle". Mother's are encouraged to engage in the calming cycle activities as much as possible. Her increased effectiveness in calming her infant is hypothesized to improve the mother's view of her baby, reduce negative emotions about having delivered a baby prematurely, and help her gain confidence in her care-taking abilities, which in other studies predicted shorter length of stay and fewer re-hospitalizations. Another goal is to assist mothers in repeating the calming cycle activities providing appropriate types of stimulation for their babies that are important for social, emotional, and neurobehavioral development. Since preterm babies are often easily upset, mothers will be taught how to comfort and calm their babies. Assessments in the NICU and in follow-up visits for two years will test the immediate and long-term effects of this new approach to the nurture of prematurely born infants.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Premature Birth Behavioral: Family Nurture Intervention Not Applicable

Detailed Description:
The stress that results from preterm birth, requisite acute care and prolonged physical separation in the NICU can have adverse physiological/psychological effects on both the infant and the mother. In particular, the experience compromises the establishment and maintenance of an optimal mother-infant relationship. Within the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), parental involvement in care is necessarily superseded by the healthcare staff. Thus, a necessary but detrimental separation between mother and infant is created at a critical period when mother-infant bonding and synchrony should be developing. The physiological challenges associated with being born too soon, along with disturbances in normal mother-infant interactions are key factors underlying the risks of premature infants for a broad range of early and midlife disorders. This study aims to highlight the importance of investigating early interventions that are designed to overcome or reduce the effects of these environmental insults and challenges by implementing a randomized controlled trial of Family Nurture Intervention in the NICU. The most important source of regulatory input is through contact with the mother and her nurturing behavior. Mother-infant interactions are the foundation for the organization of the infant's neurobiological, sensory, perceptual, emotional, physical, and relational systems. The infant's responses to the mother provide critical feedback which shapes her behavior as well. There are many co-regulatory processes embedded in these synchronous and reciprocal interactions which cross neurophysiological and neurobehavioral domains. The intervention is designed to increase biologically important activities and behaviors that enhance maternally-mediated sensory experiences of preterm infants, as well as the infant-mediated sensory experiences in the mother. The investigators hypothesize that repeated engagement of the mother and her infant in the intervention's calming activities will increase the effectiveness of co-regulation and have immediate and long-term beneficial effects for both. The study is assessing the physiological and behavioral outcomes of the infants and mothers receiving Family Nurture Intervention versus Standard Care over the course of the NICU stay.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 394 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Enhancement of Co-regulation Between Mother and Infant Via Family Nurture Intervention (FNI) in the NICU: Short and Long Term Effects on Development
Actual Study Start Date : June 2008
Actual Primary Completion Date : July 3, 2012
Actual Study Completion Date : January 9, 2018

Arm Intervention/treatment
No Intervention: Phase 1: Standard Care
Mothers are given infant care instruction as part of standard care
Experimental: Phase 1: Facilitated infant care
Family Nurture Intervention (FNI)
Behavioral: Family Nurture Intervention
Family Nurture Intervention is facilitated by specially trained Nurture Specialists. The intervention involves calming interactions between mother and infant in the isolette via odor exchange, firm sustained touch and vocal soothing, through calming interactions during holding and feeding via the Calming Cycle and through family sessions designed to engage the help and support of family members for the mother.

Experimental: Phase 2: Effectiveness
All participants who agree to participate will receive Family Nurture Intervention.
Behavioral: Family Nurture Intervention
Family Nurture Intervention is facilitated by specially trained Nurture Specialists. The intervention involves calming interactions between mother and infant in the isolette via odor exchange, firm sustained touch and vocal soothing, through calming interactions during holding and feeding via the Calming Cycle and through family sessions designed to engage the help and support of family members for the mother.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Length of Stay [ Time Frame: From Infant's birth to discharge from NICU ]
    Length of stay will be determined based on the infant's number of days as an inpatient at the Children's Hospital of New York (CHONY) NICU.

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Safety and Practicability of Intervention [ Time Frame: up to 5 years ]
    To confirm implementation of the intervention is safe and practicable within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)throughout the study duration.

  2. Psychological Assessments: Mothers in both groups are given a wide-range of psychological questionnaires. These include indices of anxiety, depression, temperament, personality, attachment, stress, and social support. [ Time Frame: Up to 24 months of Age ]
    Mothers are administered questionnaires at several time periods to assess levels of anxiety (Speilberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), and depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale). After group assignment, symptoms of post-partum depression (Postpartum Depression Screening Scale), depressive experiences (Depressive Experiences Questionnaire), qualities of attachments (Adult Attachment Interview) are assessed. Status of inhibitory vs. approach systems (Behavioral Inhibition System-Behavioral Approach System), and Mom's Support Circle are assessed.

  3. Neurobehavioral Assessments of Infants: The use of the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS) to assess infant's neurodevelopmental status [ Time Frame: Up to 40 weeks Gestational Age ]
    The test measures neurological reflexes, body tone and motor maturity at 36 weeks (+/- 1 week) and 40 weeks (+/- 1 week) post-conceptional age. It also measures the infant's orientation to and engagement with social and non-social stimuli, the lability of the infant's activity and states, and the infant's consolability. The stress/abstinence scale, originally formulated for prenatally drug-exposed infants, includes physiological, autonomic, skin, central nervous system (CNS), visual and gastrointestinal markers.

  4. Neurobehavioral Assessments of Infants: Mothers provide a wide range of information about infant's development through questionnaires [ Time Frame: Up to 24 months corrected age ]
    Infant temperament is obtained using the Early Infancy Temperament Questionnaire and the Infant Behavior Questionnaire. Social-emotional problems of the infants are assessed by the Brief Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment at 4, 12, 18 and 24 months corrected age, and at 12, 18, 24 months CA by the Child Behavior Checklist. The mother also provides information about possible developmental delays by filling out the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, at 4, 12, 18 and 24 months corrected age.

  5. Neurobehavioral Assessments of Infants- Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Bayley III [ Time Frame: Up to 24 months corrected age ]
    At 18 and 24 months corrected age, infants are administered the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Bayley III consisting of four subscales: Cognitive, Language (receptive/expressive), Motor (fine/gross) and Social-Emotional. These filmed assessments, made by research staff 'blind' to infant group assignment, provide information about the neurobehavioral status of the child and whether there are significant delays in key domains of motor, language, and cognitive development.

  6. Physiological Assessments: A one hour recording of high density electroencephalogram (EEG) (128 leads), electrocardiogram (ECG), and respiration during sleep. [ Time Frame: Up to 42 weeks post-conceptional age ]
    EEG and ECG are collected at 1000 samples/sec and respiration at 50 samples/sec at 34, 36, and 39-42 weeks post-conceptional age. Throughout recording, research assistants assign sleep state codes (quiet sleep, active sleep, indeterminate, awake, cry) once each minute, based on behavioral criteria as well as provide estimates of heart rate and heart rate for each sleep state. EEG data is processed to obtain spatially-dependent measures of wave amplitude (power) at specific frequencies for each spatial location and measures of functional connectivity (coherence) between electrode locations.

  7. Physiological Assessments- Cortisol Levels, breast milk, saliva, infant blood samples, and infant stool collection [ Time Frame: Up to 24 months corrected age ]
    As a component of the mother-infant interaction assessments conducted at 4 and 12 months corrected age, salivary cortisol levels are measured at four times during each session. These measures provide physiological indices of how the infants respond to a social interaction stressor. In addition, breast milk, saliva (mother and infant), infant stool, and infant blood for peptides are collected.

  8. Mother-Infant Interactions Assessments: Evaluating the qualities of the mother's interaction with her infant during diaper change [ Time Frame: Up to 4 months corrected age ]
    Videos of infant's diaper change are obtained and coded by research team members unfamiliar with the dyads' group assignment at 36 weeks post-conceptional age and 4 months corrected age. The mother is instructed to undress her infant, remove the diaper, wipe clean, and re-dress her infant. These familiar caregiving procedures represent a mild, ecologically valid stressor. Maternal behavior is coded, using a 9-point Likert scale for: (a) Acceptance vs. Rejection; (b) Soothing capability; (c) Consideration vs. Intrusiveness; (d) Quality of Physical Contact; and (e) Quality of Vocal Contact.

  9. Mother-Infant Interaction Assessments: Mother-infant face-to-face communicative competence, sensitivity of maternal caregiving and mother and infant physiological capacity to cope with a stressor [ Time Frame: Up to 24 months corrected age ]
    A split-screen filming session is conducted following protocols and analyzed by team members 'blind' to the dyads' group assignments at 4, 12, and 24 months corrected age. The videotapes consist of: (1) mother-infant play; (2) stranger-infant play (3) diaper change; (4) the Still Face protocol in which mothers assume an expressionless face for two minutes. Primary measures are: infant gaze aversion, mother-infant gaze coordination, infant distress, maternal interaction style (affectionate vs. intrusive), and responses of mothers and infants to gaze aversion.

  10. Mother-Infant Interaction Assessments- Yale Inventory of Parental Thoughts and Actions (YIPTA) [ Time Frame: up to 24 months corrected age ]
    Twice during each infant's stay in the NICU, and again at term, 4, 12, 18 and 24 months corrected age following discharge, the Yale Inventory of Parental Thoughts and Actions, YIPTA is administered. This inventory quantifies maternal ratings of her thoughts about her infant. To evaluate the mother-to-child attachment processes subscales include: frequency of thoughts/worries about the infant, the distress caused by these thoughts, how she manages her distress, frequency of checking the infant, affiliative interactions, measures of attachment, frequency of care taking behavior.

  11. Assessments of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Activities: Ascertainment of attendance and the frequency and/or time spent engaged in key aspects of the Family Nurture Intervention using maternal self-report forms. [ Time Frame: Participants will be followed for the duration of NICU stay, an expected average of 7 weeks ]
    These forms are filled out after each visit to NICU. The mother is asked to enter information about the start and stop times of each of her visits to the NICU and to estimate the amount of time or number of times she engaged in various types of interactions with her infant. A similar schedule of questionnaires is given to the Standard Care group mothers, but without questions that pertain only to the Family Nurture Intervention group (i.e., odor cloth exchange, Calming Cycle).

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   26 Weeks to 34 Weeks   (Child)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Infant is born a singleton or twin in the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in New York City
  • Infant is born 26 and 34 weeks post-conceptional age (PCA)

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Mothers cannot understand or speak English
  • Mother has history of drug addiction, psychosis or other severe mental illness
  • There is not at least one adult other than the mother in the home
  • Infant birth weight is below the third percentile for gestational age
  • Infant has significant congenital defects

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT01439269

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United States, New York
Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
New York, New York, United States, 10032
Sponsors and Collaborators
Columbia University
Williams College
New York State Psychiatric Institute
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Principal Investigator: Martha G Welch, MD Columbia University

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):

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Responsible Party: Martha G. Welch, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University Identifier: NCT01439269    
Other Study ID Numbers: AAAD0389
First Posted: September 23, 2011    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: July 18, 2018
Last Verified: July 2018
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: Undecided

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No
Keywords provided by Martha G. Welch, MD, Columbia University:
Separation stress
Family Nurture
Maternal Confidence
Maternal Competence
Calming Cycle
Kangaroo Care
Infant Neurodevelopment
Infant Psychological Development
Post-partum depression
Mother-infant Co-regulation
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Premature Birth
Obstetric Labor, Premature
Obstetric Labor Complications
Pregnancy Complications