Objectives. The purpose of this study was to describe current trends in parent education on infant feeding in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and to clarify the role of the occupational therapist in educating parents.
Method. Questionnaires were mailed to 190 neonatologists across the United States who were asked to forward it to a NICU occupational therapist. The questionnaire gathered descriptive information about the structure of parent education in the NICU, the role of the occupational therapist in providing parent education, and demographics about respondents and their NICUs. The response rate was 53% (n = 100).
Results. All 100 hospitals responding provided parent education in some form, and most included a variety of topics and teaching methods. Occupational therapists were on the NICU team at 74 of the hospitals and were identified third most frequently as a provider of parent education. The occupational therapists were most frequently identified as responsible for teaching about positioning, infant development, and infant states and cues and were highly involved in educating parents about feeding.
Conclusion. Current parent education programs in NICUs are comprehensive in scope. Occupational therapists’ role in educating parents about infant care and feeding consists of a focus on certain topics where occupational therapists have specialized skills and education. Occupational therapists are recognized by their NICU colleagues as providers of parent education, but this study suggests that the occupational therapists’ role may not be clearly understood by other NICU professionals.