Every parent dreams of the moment they get to hold their precious little one for the first time. Unfortunately, for some parents this moment never comes into fruition. When giving birth to a premature medically fragile baby your perfect moment may become filled with a host of nurses, doctors, respiratory therapist, and other medical professionals whisking away your precious little one to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Although it may feel like your opportunity to bond with your baby has been stripped away from you, all is not lost. There are many ways to bond in the NICU, here is my, The Impactful Nurse, top 10 tips for creating a lifelong bond with your baby.
Tip #1- don’t be afraid to touch your baby when it is safe. Touching your baby may be one of the easiest ways to bond with them. Holding their hand, stroking their forehead, rubbing their feet, participating in bath time are all ways you can positively touch your baby. Infant massage has been proven to have many positive benefits for NICU babies including increasing infant-parent interaction, increasing weight gain, and improving sleep. Touching your baby can also calm your baby when in mild distress. One of the best experiences a parent can have is holding their baby for the first time. When it is safe, your nurses can help you hold your baby as often as you would like. Skin-to-skin contact has too many positive benefits for a NICU to name some include regulating body temperature, improving heart rates, improving immunity, and even decreasing the chance of death.
Tip #2- learn about all the wires, alarms, equipment. There will be a lot of wires hanging, loud alarms beeping, and the room will be filled with large scary looking equipment, the NICU can be an intimidating place to try to bond with your baby. You don’t have to become a nurse in your spare time, but if you generally know what is going on being in the NICU is not as frightening. However, although you know about the equipment make sure you never silence an alarm or mess with the equipment let your nurse handle it.
Tip #3- breast milk! Mother’s milk is not called liquid gold for no reason. Breastmilk is the perfect nutrition for all babies but may be even more important for a premature medically fragile baby. Breastmilk provides protection from many illness, diseases, allergies, and infections. Breastmilk provides infants with the fats that are essential for brain and cognitive development through the infant stages of life. It even protects infants from necrotizing entrocolitis, or NEC, a gastro illness many babies in the NICU suffer form. The best part is even if your baby is unable to suck from the breast or bottle, they can receive all these benefits through whichever is the best method of feeding them. However, when you can put your baby to the breast give it a try there are several benefits for mom and baby’s healing.
Tip #4- be present in the moment. There will be a lot going on in the NICU, from all the noises and professionals coming in and out, try to take the time to just find peace in the moment with your baby. Reducing the distractions, you can control, such as putting down your phone while you spend time with your baby, can really increase the quality of bonding time with your baby.
Tip #5- bring home to baby and baby to home. It is perfectly fine to decorate your room, put family pictures up, have older siblings or cousins draw pictures for the baby, bring in baby blankets or clothes. Basically, make your room YOUR room. On the other hand, if you are unable to stay in the hospital with your baby take pictures of them and put them up at home.
Tip #6- play soft music. When possible play soft music to calm your baby. You can even hum along to the music so they can hear you. The music may even calm your baby so much you can hold them.
Tip #7- talk to your baby. Take every moment you can to let your baby know you are there. Hearing your voice can calm your baby, give them a sense of safety knowing their parents are close by, and even builds brain development. Don’t know what to say? Reading a book or singing your favorite song is perfectly fine.
Tip #8- leave your scent. Wrapping the baby in a blanket after you have slept with it can help your baby learn your scent. Learning your scent increases your baby’s ability to recognize you increasing their attachment.
Tip #9- make eye contact. Baby’s love starring deep into your eyes. Making eye contact with your baby increases your emotional connection. Research has shown through eye contact babies make a connection with their parent’s brain waves increasing their neurodevelopment and ability to pick up on facial cues.
Tip #10- become comfortable. You may be spending an extended time in the NICU, so you need to become comfortable in the space. Learn your nurse’s names, find the showers, learn how to order food, participate during doctors rounds. One of the most important things you can do during your stay in the NICU is take care of yourself! If you are not taking time for selfcare, you will not be able to be present in the moment (tip #4) or care for your baby.
If you find your new baby having to spend time in the NICU remember bonding at home or in the NICU is an individual process. Even if these tips are not for your family, something is, ask your nurses methods they have used in the past to help parental bonding. Happy Bonding!
XOXO Mommi Callie,
The Impactful Nurse