Bringing your preemie home
Little compares to the shock and trauma associated with having a premature baby. Nicole Katzenellenbogen shares tips and strategies on how to take care of your preemie at home
WHILE SOME FAMILIES expected their baby to be premature and were able to plan in some ways, for many, this is not the case. Once discharged from the hospital, parents are often anxious to have their previously “fragile” baby home in only their care.
In the hospital they had the constant guidance of medical staff and now may feel like they have been thrown in the deep end. Help is at hand for when the time comes to take your preemie home.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE FOR KANGAROO CARE Once baby is home and you have settled back into your own familiar space, this is a lovely time to do kangaroo care. No baby is too old to benefit from skin-toskin contact with their mom and dad. This much-needed loving touch will help baby form positive touch associations, benefit from deep pressure input and it can help with digestive upsets.
YOUR BABY IS USED TO NOISE Your baby heard noises throughout your pregnancy. They heard you talk and laugh, your heartbeat and those around you. In the hospital they heard nurses, other babies and the beeping of medical equipment.
Now is not the time to banish them to silence. While baby needs a safe and quiet place to sleep, background noise will help baby feel secure as they have always had this around them.
CREATE PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES Premature babies have often been in hospital for extended periods of time. Some hospitals are aware of creating a “nest” for baby which gives them boundaries in their cribs to push against. Other babies, for medical or other
reasons, have been on their backs or tummies with no physical containment.
All babies are comforted when they know where their bodies begin and end. This should help them calm and settle easier and helps them understand their bodies in space.
This can be done by swaddling your baby and creating a nest in their cot. A nest is created using blankets or towels which are rolled up and placed like a cocoon around your baby’s body, feet and head. They need to be secure to avoid breathing difficulties.
EXPOSE BABY TO SENSORY INPUT Think about our five senses: hearing, taste, touch, smell and sight. Once your baby is more alert during awake time, gently and calmly expose your baby to sensory input.
This may mean sitting outside in the garden to feel the grass, seeing the leaves blowing in the wind or hearing the birds chirping.
Have your baby near you around in the house while you are cooking to smell the various flavours.
Make a “sensory tub” out of everyday items at home such as fabric, clothes, scourers, empty Berocca containers with beans inside (secure well!) and allow your baby time to play with these daily.
Exposing them to different sensory experiences that feel safe and nonthreatening will help them integrate these senses.
Don’t forget about movement and deep pressure – our hidden senses. Dance and rock with the baby or go for walks in the park with a pram.
While the baby is small and fragile, she still needs movement input to integrate her senses and feel secure.
The deep pressure system can be
integrated through massage, swaddling, nests and tummy time.
GO EASY ON THE BABY Your baby is little. He or she is still learning skills they would have developed in utero and trying to be a typical growing baby. Take the pressure off yourself and your baby. This can be done by understanding and referring to their corrected age when expecting them to reach milestones related to gross motor, fine motor or even feeding.
Correct your baby’s age for the first two years of life and don’t expect them to do what is typical for their corrected age. Please remember milestone ages are fluid and are usually within a two-to-threemonth age range.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF You have just been through a traumatic experience which required you to learn new skills, be in the uncomfortable hospital setting and often distanced from family and friends. Once your baby is settled at home, have someone step in to look after him or her while you take some time for yourself. It’s not just the baby who needs to recover. Giving yourself time, even just 20 minutes, will make you more willing and engaged with your baby as you will be healthier and happier.
ASK QUESTIONS You and your baby have gone through a unique experience and one that you most likely did not read about in the baby books. Seek out advice from one or two trusted sources. Don’t be shy to ask questions. You may want to use your doctor or nursing sister, or find assistance through occupational therapy, chiropractics or body talk.