Leveraging the Skills of Nurses and the Power of Language Nutrition to Ensure a Better Future for Children : Advances in Neonatal Care

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Evidence-Based Practice Brief

Leveraging the Skills of Nurses and the Power of Language Nutrition to Ensure a Better Future for Children

Darcy Mahoney, Ashley PhD, NNP-BC; Zauche, Lauren Head BSN, PhD(c); Hallowell, Sunny PhD, MSN, CPNP, IBCLC; Weldon, Arianne MPH; Stapel-Wax, Jennifer PsyD

Editor(s): Gephart, Sheila PhD, RN, Section Editor

Author Information
Advances in Neonatal Care 17(1):p 45-52, February 2017. | DOI: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000373



Early language exposure is critical for language acquisition and significantly influences a child's literacy skills. However, preterm infants may experience language deprivation in the neonatal intensive care unit. Nurses are vital to helping parents understand their critical role in early language development.


To discuss the impact of language-rich interactions and interventions that promote early language exposure, or Language Nutrition, by parents and caregivers on the long-term developmental, language, and educational outcomes of high-risk infants.

Methods/Search Strategy: 

A literature search was conducted using PubMed and Web of Science to identify articles that examined the influence of language interactions with high-risk infants on developmental outcomes. Recent campaigns touting the importance of early language exposure were identified through the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network.


Increasing preterm infants' exposure to Language Nutrition improves their language development, promotes parent–infant attachment, and decreases parent stress. In addition, it may result in greater neuroplasticity and volume of the auditory cortex. Several campaigns have been developed to increase children's access to Language Nutrition and can be implemented into everyday pediatric and neonatal care.

Implications for Practice: 

Pediatric, neonatal nurses and advanced practice nurses are uniquely positioned to play a transformational role in high-risk infants' developmental trajectory by educating parents about the importance of Language Nutrition and supporting parents as they engage with their infant.

Implications for Research: 

Studies investigating the population-level impact of interventions aimed at increasing infants' access to Language Nutrition as well as studies identifying effective ways to communicate messages about Language Nutrition are warranted.

© 2017 by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.

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