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

Ashley Darcy Mahoney, Lauren Head Zauche, Sunny Hallowell, Arianne Weldon, Jennifer Stapel-Wax, Sheila Gephart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: 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. Purpose: 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. Findings/Results: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Language Nutrition
  • development
  • high-risk infants
  • language acquisition
  • nurses
  • parent-infant interactions
  • prematurity
  • preterm infants
  • school performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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