Sanford Health’s NICU read-a-thon


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sanford Health is participating in a NICU read-a-thon for the first time. The event isn’t only beneficial for newborns, but their families too.

Kelsey Lesnar went from a mother of two to a mother of four on July 16th. Her twin boys ended up joining the world three months early– resulting in a long stay in the NICU.

“Just being up here in general, you know, it’s pretty stressful because one minute you could be having a good day and then the next minute you could have a few setbacks,” Lesnar said.

During their stay in the NICU, Lesnar is keeping busy by participating in Sanford Health’s first NICU read-a-thon.

The week long read-a-thon is dedicated to reading to infants in the NICU to promote skills including early language development.

“Reading to babies is important because babies need to hear their parents’ voices. And those voices need to be in an interaction with the baby. It can’t just be voices in the background. Like nurses talking to each other, physicians talking to nurses. It actually has to be an interaction with that voice presentation,” Elizabeth Jeanson said.

Sanford Health Dr. Elizabeth Jeanson says it also provides parents who aren’t quite sure what to say to their new little ones, an easy script.

“When they were first hooked up to all the monitors and kind of in the isolates it’s kind of hard because you can’t really see their faces and you really don’t know exactly what to say at that point. So when you can read to them, then you know, it gives you an opportunity to sit there and talk and let them hear your voice,” Lesnar said.

And even though her daughters aren’t able to visit their new siblings due to COVID-19 restrictions, they’re joining in on the read-a-thon virtually.

“It’s just one, one way to decompress where you can actually just sit and read to them and not worry about everything else that’s going on for that moment,” Lesnar said.

“What we’re hoping is that by selecting these stories and the baby’s hearing them from this early, early age, that they’ll become stories that are really family favorites, that they go back two years, years after they’ve left the NICU, stories that they can share with their siblings, stories that they can share as a family,” Jeanson said.

For more information about how reading benefits infants, click here.

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