Sunday, January 27, 2008

Holding Your Baby

Holding your baby, especially for the first time, is an extremely exciting and special moment. It can also be very intense and nerve wracking when your baby is in the NICU and still very small and/or fragile. I had to wait nine days to hold my son and a month to hold my daughter. With both experiences, I learned a few things that I would like to pass on to hopefully help you in your own experience.

Don’t be afraid to ask – When your baby is born small or has medical issues, making sure they are stable is the first priority. During those first days or weeks, you may think that it isn’t possible to hold your baby. Or that someone will let you know when it is okay. While the nurses all know how important it is for you to hold your baby and will try and facilitate that, it doesn’t always work out. Nurses may assume that you have already held your baby or that someone else has already talked to you about it. If you aren’t sure, ask. Even if you have to wait, you will know what sort of milestones your baby needs to reach before you can hold him/her. As things progress and seem to be getting closer to the holding point, ask again.

Timing – Find out the best times to hold your baby. If your baby is on a ventilator, the amount of effort that it takes to get your baby out and into your arms may require that you devote at least an hour to holding your baby. You may want to time holdings with feedings. The nurses usually prefer to have you hold your baby after they have done their assessment. Ask the nurses about what scheduling times work best for them and your baby. In the beginning you may only get to hold your baby a couple of times a week however as he/she gets older and stronger you should be able to hold him/her every day.

Relax and Focus – When you are holding your baby try and relax. It can be hard as you worry about wires and tubes, how your baby will handle the experience and the general activity around you. Focus on your baby. Talk to your baby about your day, what you are thinking or pretty much anything that comes to mind. Try not to watch the monitors and the numbers. When you are at home you won’t have the monitors so learn to notice your baby’s physical cues for getting tired, uncomfortable or tense.

One thing at a time – When I was holding my son I used to instantly start rocking in the chair (who can resist in a rocking chair) and talking to him. A nurse pointed out that preemies get overwhelmed easily so start with one thing at a time. Once you are holding your baby, let him/her get used to that and then add one thing at a time. If you’re talking, don’t rock. If you’re rocking, don’t talk. After awhile your baby will start to be able to handle more.

No comments: