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This time last year I had a daughter in the NICU and every day was a struggle. I thought wouldn’t it be nice if this time last year I had some tips that would have helped me during my 162 stay in the NICU with my preemie daughter? The answer is YES!
So that is why for the next 5 days, I’m going to share with you tips and resources for surviving the NICU. They are full of helpful and easy ways to care for yourself and your premature baby in the NICU that worked for me.
Bonding with your baby
One of my biggest fears I had as a new mom to a baby in the NICU was how was I supposed to bond with her. Since my daughters were born at 25 weeks I was only given a quick glance of them after they were born before they were rushed to the NICU.
Later I was able to visit them and touch their hand through their isolate but there was little to no contact. It was a hard feeling as I wanted to hold them and let them know I was their mom.
Having a baby in the NICU can make you feel disconnected to them. It can also make you feel as though you aren’t a true mom. Which we know isn’t the case.
But it’s the thoughts that go through her head when you are put in that position. When your only able to look at your baby through the glass and you so want to hold them.
It’s true that you are able to still form that bond with your baby in the NICU.
1. Kangaroo Care
Kangaroo care is often called skin to skin care which is a technique for babies especially premature babies where they are kept skin-to-skin with their parents typically the mother. The baby is placed on the bare chest of the father or between the breasts of the mother.
What are the benefits of kangaroo care and how may it help your baby?It’s helping your baby have a deeper sleep allowing them to conserve their energy which can help them gain weight and help regulate their body temperature. Kangaroo care is also good for your babies heart and breathing.
How often should you do it? Many premature babies are able to do kangaroo care soon after birth. But many times like my baby I had to wait a few weeks for her to become stable. You are still able to do kangaroo care even if your baby is hooked up to equipment. Be sure to ask your nurse when you would be able to participate in this care.
Other benefits of kangaroo care for the mother can help with your breast milk supply, reducing your stress, build confidence, helps you bond with your baby overall making you feel closer to them.
I’m a huge advocate for kangaroo care and it really did help me feel closer to my baby while she was in the NICU.
2. Read to them
A fun way to form that bond is reading to your baby. I don’t think it’s ever too early to start reading to your baby. Even if said baby is in the NICU in an isolate. Your baby recognizes your voice and will find comfort in hearing it.
The benefits of reading to newborns?
Exposes baby to your voice
Boosts brain power
Builds listening skills
Can reduce stress for the parents
I kept a collection of some of my favorite books next to my daughter’s bedside and I read to her every day I visited. It was also nice to have books there as family members that would visit her could read to her as well.
3. Feed them
If you are able to breastfeed your baby this is an incredible way for you to bond with your baby.
If you’re like me who wasn’t able to breastfeed Your still able to bond with your baby during feeds. When I was able to start introducing my daughter to the bottle I was so excited as it meant one step closer to bringing her home. It also meant one more way I can bond with her.
It wasn’t an easy experience. She didn’t transaction over to the bottle for several weeks. It defiantly was a learning curve for her. Still, to this day, I have difficulties with feeding her but we are continuously working on this.
Ideas on how to bond with baby during feds. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding your still able to bond with your baby. Either way, you are feeding your baby.
Talk to them
Sing to them
Avoid distractions such as having the TV on
Hold babies hand
Keep them close to your body
Cuddle with the baby after feeding is done
Stroke babies skin
4. Assist with daily cares
I know being a NICU mom can make you feel disconnected from your baby. One of the ways to help feel more connected is with daily cares.
Ask the nurse what you can help with or how to do things with your baby that you can assist with.
Some daily cares can include diaper changes, temperature checks, bedding change, changing outfits and baths.
Learning how to do the daily cares will make you more connected with your little. It will also make you feel more comfortable with handling your baby and the NICU.
5. Decorate your babies bedside
When my daughter first went into the NICU she was in an overcrowded section. There wasn’t a lot of space to bring any items from home. Once she moved into her own room I was able to bring things from home to make it feel more comfortable.
Be sure to talk to the nurse prior to bringing stuff in, and they may also have some good suggestions on what your baby may like. I got a lot of my ideas from the nurses.
Things I brought in once she moved into an open crib was a family photo, a mobile, crib toys, and a mirror. Once my daughter was old enough and spent more time awake she would get fussy in her crib a lot of the time if I wasn’t there. I found these items really helped soother her which made the goodbyes much easier when she wasn’t crying.
6. Take photos
I know at times it’s hard to look at your baby and not feel sadness when they are hooked up to monitors and wires. But looking back you may want photos to document the journey.
I made sure to document special milestones such as opening her eyes, going on the CPAP, getting an open crib, first bath, first kangaroo care and so many more.
I ended up taking a few photos every day I visited and now that my daughter is home I made scrapbooks for myself and loved ones.
By taking photos of your baby in the NICU will help you feel connected to them and you can share them with loved ones.
7. Listen to their cues
After a while your able to start picking up on your babies needs and cues. If you notice when there are loud noises does your baby arch their back and cry? Try calming her down by cupping her head and feet.
Premature babies body language is different than a full term baby. They can be more sensitive to noises and touch and not as strong. Their cues will change over time as they grow bigger and stronger making the cues more obvious to you.
If your unsure of your babies cues at this point talk with the nurse she will give you ideas and suggestions on what your baby is doing and why.
It brings you a level of comfort if you know if your baby is uncomfortable and why. Because then you are able to adjust what you are doing to make it less stressful on you and your baby.
By knowing your babies cues will also help notice if something is wrong with your baby. You are the voice of your baby and if you feel something off brings it up to the nurses and doctors.
8. Visit as often as you can
I know it’s impossible to visit every day or stay all day. But try to spend as much time at your babies bedside as you can.
On days you can’t visit see if a friend or family member will sit with your baby while you rest and take care of yourself.
I wasn’t able to visit every day but I managed to visit at least 5-6 times a week. On the days I couldn’t make it I called the hospital often to get updates.
Provide your baby with as much positive touch as you are able to. As long as your baby is stable and will tolerate touch this is an excellent way to bond with your baby in the NICU.
If you are unable to do kangaroo care with your baby you may still be able to touch their hand or foot. Just a gentle touch no rubbing, stroking or massaging at this point but it allows your baby to feel comfort in knowing that you are there.
You may need to adapt your touch based on your babies preference. Pay close attention to your babies cues and preference and adjust accordingly. If unsure talk to your nurse and see what works best.
My daughter had an awesome physical therapist that would always show me massage techniques which overall helped me bond with her. As my daughter got stronger I was able to do more interaction. Be sure to ask if your baby has a physical therapist if so they can provide you with some ideas on how to bond and feel close to your baby.
10. Pay attention
What I mean by pay attention is learn what the machines are, the sounds they make, and why. Learn what the equipment is that your baby is needing. Learn what all the wires mean and do.
Once you have an understanding of what everything is your level of comfort will increase drastically.
At first, everything is so overwhelming and it’s hard to even focus on your baby with wires everywhere. But once you know what they are and why your baby has it, it’s easier to focus now on your baby then the wires and equipment.
By knowing what everything is will also allow you to pay attention if you notice something is off or looks wrong.
I know having your baby in the NICU is one of the hardest things as a mom. I hope my ideas will help you connect and bond with your baby as it is possible to form that bond with your baby in the NICU.
Bonding with your baby
Now that you have 10 ways you can start doing to form that bond with your baby even when they are in the NICU.