Holding your preemie
Holding your baby for the first time is a magical experience! As the parent of a preterm baby, though, you might not have had a chance to hold your baby yet, and you might still be wondering when you can hold her for the first time. The answer is a little complicated and it depends on a couple of factors, but one thing’s for sure: when it happens, it will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
There are a few things that the NICU staff have to take into account before they can let parents hold their preemie. On the one hand, if a baby isn’t ready, her health could be at risk. On the other hand, preemies benefit from spending some time in a parent’s arms. So, what’s an eager parent to do?
The different ways to hold a preemie
At first, your preemie might be too young to be held safely in your arms. Preemies born at a certain age have sensitive skin and are more prone to infection, so they can’t be held right away. If this is the case for your baby, you might want to look into other options. Holding your baby in your arms is one way to make meaningful contact with her, but it isn’t the only way - there are actually a few different ways to do this.
- Comfort holding: This is where a parent reaches into the incubator with clean hands and arms and cradles parts of their baby’s body with their hand. Sometimes babies like to wrap their hands around the parent’s finger, too. Comfort holding has been shown to calm preemies down, soothe them during certain procedures, and improve their responsiveness.
- Kangaroo care: Also called ‘skin-to-skin contact,’ kangaroo care involves nurses placing a preemie (wearing just a diaper) directly on her parent’s bare chest for a certain amount of time. Sometimes parents are allowed to begin kangaroo care right after their baby is born, but other times babies aren’t quite ready; it really depends on the individual situation. Kangaroo care improves breastfeeding abilities, regulates babies’ heart rate and temperature, decreases rates of infection, and improve sleep patterns, among other things.
- Touching and holding your baby in the ‘classic’ way: Such as holding her in your arms, rocking her, changing her diaper, and breastfeeding her, among others. It might take some time for a baby to be healthy enough to be held in this way.
Signs of readiness
You might still not know when you’ll be able to hold your preemie, but the NICU staff will be able to help you decide when you and your preemie are ready. Here are some signs that they look for to determine this.
A baby might be ready when she is in stable condition, has recovered from any recent surgery, and doesn’t need the humidity of an incubator to regulate her temperature.
A parent might be ready when they are healthy, up to date on vaccines, and emotionally ready to hold their baby. It’s important to remember that many parents in the NICU have mixed feelings about holding their baby at first - and that’s okay. What’s important is that you’re there for her.
Staying in touch with your preemie
The NICU staff knows just how much you want to hold your preemie. Ultimately, they’re the ones who will let you know when it’s safe to for all of this to happen. Don’t be afraid to ask your baby’s nurses and doctors when they think you can hold her, though - it’s totally normal to be eager and anxious to get your preemie in your arms.More information about premature babies
Ovia won't deliver more articles about premature babies to your timeline, but if you're interested in reading more articles about your premature baby, you can find them by tapping the three stacked lines in the upper left corner of your app, selecting "Articles," and typing "preemie" into the search bar.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Premature baby? Understand your preemie's special needs." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 30 2014. Web.
- "Kangaroo care." Cleveland Clinic Children's. Cleveland Clinic, 1995-2015. Web.
- "Holding Your Baby Close: Kangaroo Care." March of Dimes. March of Dimes, 2016. Web.
More articles at this age
Getting your newborn to latch on
No matter how many parenting books, websites, and apps you read, there are just some things that are best learned through experience. Getting a baby to latch for feedings falls into that category, but there are a few things it can be helpful to keep in mind.
Social distancing: Why it's so important in helping prevent the spread of coronavirus
Social distancing is an incredibly powerful tool that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here's what you need to know.
Taking care of your newborn's umbilical stump
The umbilical cord kept mom and your baby connected since the 7th week of pregnancy, but after she is born, there is little use for the cord, and pretty soon the stump will fall right off. But how do you take care of it until then?
Using the restroom after a vaginal delivery
Do you want the good news or bad news? Let's start with the bad: peeing and pooping after birth is not fun. Even in the best-case scenario, it's likely to cause a bit of discomfort. The good news? Like all else, this too shall pass.
How often should I feed a newborn?
When your baby was in your womb, the only feeding schedule you had to worry about was your own, but things are different now. So how often does a newborn really need to feed?
The first week: bringing baby home
Congratulations on the new arrival! Big changes come in small packages - here's what to expect that first week.