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Parenting Your Baby in the NICU

(757) 668-7456

At CHKD, we understand how hard it is for parents and babies to be separated. So we make sure that parents feel welcome at all times.

How Can I Help My Baby?

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. You are probably feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Delivering a premature or medically fragile baby is unexpected and scary. You and your baby are going to learn a lot about each other over the next few months. One of the first things you will learn is how to read your baby’s behavior. Babies “talk” to us through their behavior. By watching their behavior, we can tell when they are feeling good and want to interact, or when they are feeling bad and want to be left alone.

A baby’s brain does a lot of growing and developing between the 24th and 40th weeks of gestation. To encourage normal brain growth and development, it is important that your baby is comfortable, relaxed and stable. When your baby is stressed and uncomfortable, the brain can’t grow and develop normally.

It is important to recognize behaviors that tell us the baby is stressed so we can help them return to a non-stressed or stable state.

The Calming Approach

Rocking, touching, holding, singing and playing with your baby are so important for normal development. Please talk with your baby’s nurse to determine how best to interact with your baby based on his gestational age and medical status. Here are some ideas:

Touching: Your baby knows you, and your touch is very comforting to him. Based on his gestation and medical status, your nurse may have suggestions about what type of touch would be most comforting. Please ask your nurse to help you learn to read your baby’s cues and signals.

Talking softly: Your baby knows your voice from before he was born, when you talked to him while still in utero. Your voice is very soothing to your baby and will help establish the infant-parent bond. Many babies enjoy being talked to or sung to while being touched. Thus, even before they understand the words, they will learn the association with your voice.

Pictures: Preemies begin to focus at about 33 weeks gestation and see objects best at a distance of less than 10 inches from their eyes. Therefore, when touching or talking to your baby, put your face just a few inches from hers. You may also wish to bring in pictures of your family to be placed in the crib or isolette.

Tape recordings: Once your infant is at least 30 weeks gestation, music can be soothing and will break the monotony of the mechanical sounds heard in the NICU. Recordings can help your baby learn familiar voices and is an excellent way to involve siblings, grandparents and other important individuals.

Kangaroo Care: This is skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby that lets you provide soothing warmth, security and comfort. Ask your nurse when your baby will be ready for this.

Holding your baby: We encourage you to hold your baby whenever possible, as soon as possible. Please speak with your baby’s care team to determine when your baby can tolerate being held. Understand that this may change on a day to day basis.

Clothes: Babies can almost always wear caps and booties. Gowns, dresses, shirts and pajamas may be worn by babies in cribs and sometimes by infants in isolettes. Remember that at times your baby may not be able to wear clothing. You can bring in colorful sheets and blankets to help personalize atmosphere for your baby.

Feeding your baby: Nutrition is essential for your baby's growth and development. In the beginning, we may need to feed by IV or by using a tube into the stomach (called gavage feeding). As your baby gets bigger, he or she will be able to nurse from your breast or bottle-feed. During times when tube feedings are needed, you can still learn to help. Participating in your baby's care will strengthen that very important parent-infant bond. Human milk contains many factors that help protect babies from certain illnesses and is almost always the best type of nutrition for preemies and sick babies. Mothers can pump breast milk for their babies during the hospital stay, or donor milk can be provided to supplement mother's own supply.

Practice Locations
(757) 668-7456