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Bonding with Your Baby in the NICU

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Updated June 20, 2013

Bonding with Your Baby in the NICU

Jonathan bonding with Daddy.

Image courtesy of Tamir Nitzan
Bonding with your baby is one of the greatest joys of parenting. For parents of premature babies, though, bonding is often interrupted as baby is taken to the NICU for extended care. Although parents of premature babies may not be able to hold and snuggle their babies right away, there are plenty of oppurtunities for parents to bond with their babies in the NICU.

Visit often: Getting to know your baby is an important step to bonding in the NICU, so spend as much time at your baby's bedside as you can. Become the expert on your baby by learning what makes him or her cry and feel comforted, what kinds of touch your baby likes, and everything you can about your baby's temperment and condition.

Touch your baby: Premature babies have immature nervous systems, and don't tolerate being stroked or patted. But that doesn't mean that parents can't touch their babies! Instead of stroking, use your hands to provide containment by holding baby's legs and arms in a flexed position, or lay your hand on baby's back for warmth and comfort.

Practice kangaroo care: Once your baby is stable, ask about kangaroo care. This method of holding baby skin-to-skin with a parent can help baby's condition improve while helping parents to feel closer to their baby. Even very small babies who cannot usually be held can often be held during kangaroo care.

Become involved in baby's care: As premature babies grow, parents can take on more roles in their baby's care. Diaper changes and temperature checks are great ways that parents can get involved even right after birth. As premature babies grow, their parents can hold them during gavage feeds and help with bathing, weighing, and changing them.

Provide breast milk: Even if your baby is too small to breastfeed right away, you can pump breast milk and bring it in for your baby. You may be able to dip a pacifier in a small amount of breast milk and offer it to your baby while you're there. As baby gets stronger, you can hold him or her to the breast during gavage feeds to prepare for full-time breastfeeding.

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