Bonding With a Premature Infant
Pregnancy is supposed to be a fun and exciting time. When the realization hits that you are entering preterm labor, however, you may find yourself overcome by fear and worry about the health of the baby who isn’t quite ready to enter the world.
Because of medical advancements, many premature babies born after 28 weeks will go on to survive. However, there can be complications and, as a result, bonding can feel inhibited when your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Just because your newborn may be facing a hospital stay does not mean you can’t share physical touch. The website Parenting recommends touching your baby as often as possible, stroking his skin if he is still too little for you to hold.
Once he is stable, ask the staff in the neonatal unit about kangaroo care; skin-to-skin contact has been shown to have beneficial effects on premature babies.
Use Your Voice
Allow your baby to hear your voice. Read stories and sing favorite children’s songs during your visits so that he may begin to recognize the soothing sounds of mom and dad. Talking to your baby about your day and even your hopes for his future can also help you to feel more connected to him.
Remember that your baby will be coming home eventually and will soon be noticeably reacting to the sound of your voice. Helping him to become accustomed to it now can be good for you both.
Resolve Your Grief
Research out of the University of Michigan Health System and University of Wisconsin indicates that the sooner new mothers can let go of their grief over the premature delivery of their infant, the more likely their babies are to form a secure attachment.
Mothers who were able to quickly resolve their sadness over the premature birth were three times more likely to form a secure attachment with their babies than those who continued to struggle with the grief.
While it can seem difficult to let go, focusing on healing now will be beneficial to your bond in the future.
Having your baby in neonatal intensive care can be a scary and frustrating time, often leaving you as the parent to question what your role is. Offer assistance wherever possible, asking for opportunities to feed and bathe your little one yourself.
The AAP recommends pumping milk if your baby can’t yet breastfeed, as breast milk will provide “the best possible nutrition.” This will also help you to keep your supply up for when your baby is stronger and able to latch himself.
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