Four tips for bonding with your NICU baby

Four tips for bonding with your NICU baby

Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can feel sad, stressful, isolating, scary and exhausting, among a myriad of other emotions. Many parents of babies in the NICU worry that because they aren’t able to immediately take their newborn home, they won’t build a strong connection.

“A NICU stay is generally not something a parent plans for, which makes the experience all the more difficult,” says Dr. April Jones, a neonatologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “But there are definitely things parents can do to ensure they are able to connect with their baby while they are in the hospital.”

She offers the following four ideas for bonding with babies during a NICU stay:

1. Practice kangaroo care

Skin to skin, often referred to as kangaroo care, is the act of placing a baby directly on a parent’s bare chest. The practice offers medical benefits to all newborns but is extremely encouraged for premature babies in the NICU. Regular kangaroo care offers several benefits, including stabilizing a baby’s body temperature and improving vital signs, weight gain and sleep.

2. Touch your baby

Place your hand on their head or hold their hand. Some NICU babies will need to spend more time than others in their isolette, making it more difficult to hold your baby as often as you would like. There are still other opportunities for physical touch. Work with your baby’s care team to find what is best for your child.

3. Talk, read and sing

Spend time with your baby in the same ways you would if you were together at home. Listening to your familiar, soothing voice will help your baby feel comforted and close to you.

4. Help during care times

Get involved with diaper changes, feeding and bathing as you are able. This may feel overwhelming the first few times, but you will get more comfortable over time.

“From our tiniest infants to our term babies, we work hard to champion kangaroo care every day, recognizing its profound benefits not only for the babies but also for the connection it fosters among families,” says Dr. Jones.

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.