Research to Back-up What We Moms Already Know
What if you couldn’t pick him up? What if you couldn’t be there every time he cried? How could you still comfort him with what you know is so soothing and healing to him?
These were the questions I asked myself when I was developing Finn the Panda and I asked the “why” behind what we instinctively know as mothers. The research shows the importance of a tool like Finn the Panda when on a NICU journey or anytime a parent has to be away from their baby.
A mother’s voice is one of the very first sounds a baby will hear when they are born as well as the most familiar sound since they heard it in their mother’s womb. When my son Finn would get upset in the hospital due to a procedure being done to him, or if he just got fussy, I would lean in close and softly sing the same lullaby over and over again. At one point my voice actually went hoarse and I would play a recording on my phone for him through the night whenever he woke up.
BMC Pediatrics Publication noted in their 2016 study on the effect of a mother’s voice on her infant:
NICU infants receiving added exposure to recordings of their mothers’ voice show lower heart rate, better feeding outcomes, greater auditory cortex growth, better visual attention and neurofunction, higher Griffiths Development Quotient scores and earlier use of two word sentences . Infants of mothers who spoke and sang to them daily had higher oxygen saturation levels and fewer negative critical events. Furthermore, exposure to greater parent talk during hospitalization is associated with greater infant vocalizations at discharge, and better language and cognitive development in toddlerhood.
Finn the Panda is equipped with a recording device that can record up to one minute and then be played back once or on repeat. This can be used to give mom’s own voice a break, or by doctors or nurses to soothe a baby when mom is away. If a nurse needs to do a blood draw, or even just a diaper change, Finn can be brought closer and mom’s voice can be heard nearby. Also, volunteers who aren’t allowed to hold babies can still come in and press play while they wait for a nurse to attend.
(Volume and use should be determined by gestational age. We have a blog on decibel apps and how to use them, and please consult your doctor).
I was kind of a nut about my “smell” when Finn was in the hospital. No perfumes, no scented lotions or soaps, and guys… no deodorant. Granted I sat in a chair holding him for like 8 hours a day and the hospital was a chilly 67 degrees… I was committed to helping our bond by having him know my scent as opposed to any doctor or nurse. While I was there I would wear breast pads which I would leave in his incubator when I went home to sleep or shower (rinse, splash, pat myself semi-clean, whatever). We were encouraged to do this by doctors and nurses, but most mornings I would come in and my breast pad had accidentally been dropped on the floor and thrown away, or scooped up in a diaper change. The heart scent patch on Finn the Panda can be re-attached after its worn and is a cloth heart with more weight and distinguishing features than a breast pad.
So why the smell thing? Let’s see what science says:
It seems an inescapable conclusion that naturally occurring odors play an important role in mediating infant behavior. Olfactory recognition may be implicated in the early stages of the mother-infant attachment process, when the newborns learn to recognize their own mother’s unique odor signature: this process is possibly made easier by the high norepinephrine release and the arousal of the locus coeruleus at birth.Cited from Chemical Communication and Mother-Infant by Dr. Stefano Vaglio
Breast milk odor has an analgesic effect in preterm newborns and can be used as a safe method for pain relief.
From Science Direct, The Calming Effect of Maternal Breast Milk Odor on Premature Infants
Bonding and PAIN RELIEF? Yes please. One of my go-to phrases when explaining Finn the Panda is that even though parents may not have medical degrees they still have healing powers for their baby. Our smell is like a pain medicine for our babies.
Deciding to make the stuffed animal a panda wasn’t just because they are a cute and cuddly creature, but because they are black and white and black and white are the most appealing colors to baby's early vision.
Dr. Sears notes on his website, "Research has proven that black and white contrasts register powerfully on baby’s retina and send the strongest visual signals to baby’s brain. Stronger signals mean more brain growth and faster visual development."
Side note: did you know that pandas are the smallest mammal born? They are usually three to five OUNCES and are “incubated” with their mother in a den for at least a month before they are strong enough to go outside. They are like the preemie of the animal kingdom!
And lastly Finn has had antimicrobial treatment to kill any germs he came in contact with and then is placed in an enclosed package that is unopened until arriving to the baby or child he will be comforting. We know all babies and children are susceptible to sickness, but for the medically fragile this is a very important part of Finn the Panda.
Sometimes when I tell people about Finn the Panda they say, “Awe, that’s cute,” and he is cute, but he is also so much more than just cute. He was designed with medically fragile babies and children in mind, with research to back him up, consultations from medical specialists weighing in, and with a whole lot of love and care for the families in these difficult situations.
Click here to get your own special Finn the Panda or to sponsor one for a child in the hospital now.