Touching Lives, Big and Small

Neonatal TouchTen tiny fingers. Ten tiny toes. Families in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) ache to touch and hold their sons and daughters.

At Altru, our goal is for parents to go home with knowledge and confidence to handle their babies with tender loving care.

Jodie Storhaug, an occupational therapist specialized in neonatal touch and massage, works closely with babies, parents and Altru staff to ensure positive touch is incorporated into daily care. “The basic massage principles are actually quite simple,” she said. “Move slowly, watch for cues and respect the baby.”

Family Experience
Inspired by a college professor passionate about pediatrics, Jodie cared for her first newborn in 1983. Nearly 25 years ago, in 1989, she became certified in infant massage instruction. Since, she has even applied it to her own daughters.

“I would massage my daughter’s hand during church sermons to keep her quiet,” she explained. “It was our special bond. Even today at age 23, she offers me her hand during the service.”

Jodie continues to teach infant massage classes to expecting parents through Altru’s preparing for childbirth classes.

Unique Certification
In September of 2013, Jodie became the first occupational therapist in the tri-state area certified in neonatal touch and massage therapy.

The certification process started with a minimum of 1,000 hours in a NICU, followed by 15 hours of online education from experts across the country with passing scores for each module. Once completed, Jodie attended two days of hands-on training and passed a final exam.

Jodie is excited to share her enhanced skills to further the expertise of Altru therapists and nurses. Together, they can have a greater impact on the long term outcomes and facilitate bonding and nurturing opportunities for parents.

Premature babies are incredibly vulnerable. The brain is growing faster than ever. Beyond enhanced emotional bonding, early touch can positively impact anatomy and muscles, breathing patterns and brain activity in babies. “From blood draws to nose tubes, task-oriented touch in the NICU is necessary,” explains Jodie. “We try to balance it with nurturing touch.” Positive touch can reduce stress, keep babies calm, help them engage with their parents and promote good sleep.

“In the midst of medical experts, it’s important for parents to know they are the most important person in the baby’s life,” concluded Jodie. “We help them gain that confidence.”

Have you had or known a baby in Altru’s NICU? Please share your experience.

JodieJodie Storhaug has 26 years of experience as an occupational therapist. She has worked in various therapy settings with both children and adults, but has always been drawn to the neonatal intensive care unit. Jodie and her husband, Bruce, live in Grand Forks. They have two daughters and a new son-in-law. 

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