Bonding for some moms come very easy especially if the baby is a healthy full term baby who breastfeeds well and spends time with the mother immediately after delivery. For premature babies, the parents have to make a more deliberate approach to bond. This is because the babies spend more time in their incubators. Most hospitals discharge moms and they have to commute daily to spend time with their babies.
Nevertheless, it is still possible for preemie moms to bond with their babies. Bonding is an ongoing process that actually began during pregnancy. Your preemie already knows you, your voice and smell. Bonding enables them feel loved, safe and secure. It also helps your baby to develop. There are still various ways to enhance this process especially as your preemie gets better medically every day. Make sure not to overwhelm the baby though, they need all the energy they can to get better faster.
1. Observe and take cues from your baby. Get to know various ways of stimulating her and her response towards them. For example, if she seems more relaxed when you stroke her head or shoulder. She can smile when singing a certain song to her or perhaps she flinches back when you touch a certain body part.
2. Participate in the care given to your baby. This is especially recommended for mothers in the private hospitals where the nurses tend to fully take care of the baby. Request to be given opportunities such as cup feeding your baby, massage your baby, change the diaper or clothing, wash the baby’s feeding gadgets.
3. Kangaroo your baby as frequent as possible. Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a term commonly used in the NICU that involves skin to skin contact of the parent and her diapered premature baby. The baby is placed in an upright position against a parent’s bare chest (father) and between the breasts if it’s the mother with a blanket draped over the baby’s back.
4. Breastfeed your baby once the go ahead has been given by the doctor. Breastfeeding is a sure way to bond with your baby. Always request for help if not sure to avoid pulling and tagging on the different tubes and monitors placed on your baby. Ensure you have all you need before sitting down. Express milk for your preemie too.
5. Have baby books, bible verses to read to your baby if you are a christian. In my case I read a lot of Psalm 23 and 91 to my baby. Personalize the scriptures. Identify soothing songs to sing to your baby too. Pray for your baby.
6. Take photos and videos of your baby for memories. Keep a journal, note down the milestones with dates and time for example first smile, first time to open the eyes, to breastfeed, to take a bath, to see the siblings etc. Note down your emotions and reactions too. You will appreciate it much on later on.
7. Decorate your baby’s space too if permitted. Bring a little home to the NICU, for example family photos, soft small toys in or near the incubator. Your shirt for baby to smell you.
8. Be present during doctors’ visits. Ask questions and get answers to understand all that is happening to your baby. Get to know the medication given to your baby. Most especially offer comfort to your baby for example when being injected, stroke her head or feet, talk to her, calm her down.
9. Know something unique about your baby. Get to know your baby’s personality. You can identify your baby’s cry from the rest of the other babies. It was funny how each mom would know which child was crying form their voices when I was in NICU. We use to sit to express milk in an adjacent room and could alert one another. Our babies already had distinguished personalities.
10. Take care of yourself. Take time to relax and rest. Your body has not fully recovered too. It is okay to take a break. I would sometimes skip days to go to the hospital since I trusted the care that was given to my baby by the NICU staff. You can also arrange for the dad or grandparents to step in for Kangaroo Care. When at your best, your baby feels it too.
What other ways do you do to bond with your baby? Please share in the comments section.