Nurture Information Hub
Participating in your baby’s care is a great way to get to know your baby and learn about their temperament and personality. Your day-to-day involvement will depend on your baby’s medical condition and your confidence, though any contact will assist with bonding and will help you to take on more of an active role as your baby’s parent.
These are some ways you may be able to actively participate in your baby’s care; remember that your baby’s doctor, nurse or therapist will be able to offer guidance and assistance to help you in any of these areas:
Every new parent will gaze at their baby; the parents of premature or sick newborns can spend hours a day watching their baby through the perspex walls of a humidicrib. Right from the start, one of the most important things you can do is watch your baby and begin to learn how they communicate, how they are coping with what is happening around them, what they like and dislike, and when they are feeling well or tired.
Even when your baby is very sick, you can offer them comfort. Every baby is unique so it is best to ask your doctor, nurse or allied health therapist for ways in which you can help. These may include cupping a warm hand around their head, cupping your hands around their feet or giving your baby a finger to grasp. Pre-term and sick babies usually like it best when you keep your hands still; stroking, especially with light movements, can sometimes be irritating for them. A consistent, gentle touch will be the most reassuring for your baby.
Your baby spent many months in-utero listening to your voice, and just as you talked to them before they were born, you can continue to do so after their birth. You may like to tell them about your day, sing to them or spend time reading stories. It can be a truly special time for both of you and listening to your voice can also bring your baby comfort.
While in the NICU, your baby will require routine care. Participating in these activities will enable you to become more involved and take an active role in their care. Your baby’s routine will depend on the hospital and his or her medical condition, but tasks may include:
As your baby grows and becomes more alert, you will be able to spend time being sociable together. Perhaps you will notice your baby turning their head to find your voice, or opening their eyes when they hear you. As your baby gets stronger, you may notice them trying to look and follow you or even a small toy. Spending time getting to know each other is very important and will help you to learn how they communicate.
Depending on your baby’s medical condition, you may be able to have your first cuddle the day they are born. Other times, you may need to wait days or weeks before their condition is stable enough for you to do so.
It is a good idea to ask your baby’s nurse when would be a good time, as some days may be better than others depending on how your baby is feeling, how you are feeling or what is going on in the nursery.
Kangaroo care or skin-to-skin care is a special way both mums and dads can spend time holding their baby and it is an experience parents remember fondly during their hospital stay.
Babies wear only a nappy and are placed in an upright position directly on their dad’s bare chest or between mum’s bare breasts. The baby’s head will be turned to the side and then a blanket is placed on top.
Kangaroo care can be done with both premature and full-term babies and is known to have many benefits, such as:
Parents should not apply strong perfumes and deodorant or smoke before participating in kangaroo care time with their baby.
If the doctors feel that cuddling would be too much for your baby, you can still provide them comfort by offering your finger to grasp, talking or singing to them.
For many mothers, expressing and breastfeeding is one of the most beneficial and rewarding things they can do for their baby. This is a time when relationships are formed and bonds are forged.
Generally, a premature baby’s digestive system is ready for milk feeds before they are actually able to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing.
If your baby requires tube feeding, your nurse will check that the feeding tube is in the correct position. Tube feeds are easier to digest if they are given very slowly, so it is a good idea to get comfortable before the feed begins; it can be tiring holding a syringe in the air for long periods.
When your baby can coordinate their sucking, swallowing and breathing effectively, you can begin breastfeeding or your expressed breast milk can be given in a bottle.