10 Tips & Tricks for NICU Parent Bonding
Updated: Mar 9
HOW DO MOM & DAD BOND WITH BABY IN THE NICU?!
When you initially became pregnant, birthing your baby and having him or her whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) by hospital staff was most likely not in your plan!
Many parents know that bonding after childbirth is important for both parents and baby, and you may have had some ideas about what this meant to you. You might have visualized yourself holding your baby right after the birth, looking into his or her eyes lovingly, or just lying skin-to-skin for a time. No matter what your vision, the reality of birthing a medically fragile infant is typically very different from these images. You may not have been able to hold, let alone touch, your baby right away and you may now be worried that you have lost a major opportunity to bond with your baby. Please know that this is not true. There are many other ways to bond with your baby – even during his or her NICU stay.
Bonding is a Process
Bonding will look different for each individual family due to each baby’s unique circumstances. Certain factors – such as mom’s health, the baby’s medical issues, diagnoses and gestation at birth – will affect the ways in which families can bond.
For example, a baby born at 25 weeks cannot be held right away due to its size and medical instability, but a baby born at 34 weeks may be held, depending on his or her medical issues. Even so, some babies are able to tolerate touch very well, while others cannot tolerate touch at all during the initial phase of life. If you were unable to hold your baby within the first 24 hours or the first several weeks of life, please rest assured that your opportunity to bond with your baby was not completely lost. Bonding truly is a process.
1. TALKING TO THE BABY:
Quiet soft voice will offers a sense of comfort. Babies are familiar your voice from inside the womb so hearing it now might be able help stabilize him or her.
2. BEING PRESENT AT BEDSIDE:
Parents or parent figures are the constant even at come home; it is important to begin the same routine even before planning for discharge. Ask questions, review the plan of care, empower your self with understanding the NICU day to day routine! The more we see you and get to know you the better. It is helpful when you know as much about your baby as we do!
3. GETTING INVOLVED:
This is a time when parents can start to change babies diaper, help in taking vitals, and participate in feeding (if appropriate) the baby. Whether it be Bottle or Breast Feeding. Parents are the baby’s best health advocates! GET TO KNOW YOUR NURSES! We are the best form of support at the bedside and day to day care. We can help lead you throughout this journey.
Offering the baby a finger to hold may be one of the first times a parent can physically touch their baby. As the time goes on, they are able to “hand hug” & provide positive soft touch.
5. SKIN TO SKIN:
The sound of moms heartbeat is a familiar sound to them & it has been medically proven that skin to skin helps a baby thrive in the NICU. Also, a great aid for mothers breastmilk production & daddy’s bonding. Daddy this is your time too! Babies know your heartbeat, scent, voices, tones etc. Skin to skin is the best way to bond with your new little one. (When baby is stable enough to do so!).
6. DECORATE BABIES BEDSIDE:
Decorating your baby’s Isolette with each milestone is a another great way to create that special bond. Bring "Home" to the Hospital. Bring pieces of your family’s life to place in your infant’s isolette or crib in the form of family photos, a special blanket, artwork from siblings, and more. (Some NICUs are more strict on policies so just ask what they allow). Etsy has come fun "MileStone Cards," and NICU decor to offer.
7. LETTERS TO BABY:
This is something you & your baby can look back on & it can also give you an outlet to express how you’re feeling at that moment. This is not only a great outlet for you in the moment, but also something to look back on.
Thank goodness for technology! Some NICUs have a “NIC-VIEW” camera (a little camera that can be placed above your baby’s bed) that mother can view live online. This is a great opportunity for parents that can’t always be at their baby's bed side.
9. INFANT MASSAGE:
Take a class through a certified infant massage instructor and utilize techniques with your MEDICALLY STABLE baby. Benefits include reduced levels of cortisol (stress hormone), increased muscle tone, and supported parent-infant interactions, among others. Speak with your baby’s doctor and bedside nurse before using this technique with your medically fragile infant.
10. LEAVE YOUR SCENT:
Check with NICU staff to learn what cloth items are appropriate to place in baby’s space. Sleep with that item or wear it all day tucked under your clothing, then place in your baby’s space. Swapping scents back and forth from mother and father to baby are well documented evidence based practiced outcomes! Not only will this help your baby, but it is also a source of comfort for you! You can find "Lovies" on Amazon or Etsy if your NICU does not offer them.
Tori Meskin, BSN RNC-NIC is a registered nurse in Los Angeles & Orange County metropolitan area. Working in Level IV-II NICUs.
In addition to being a wife, daughter, & nurse, Tori is currently studying to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). She has obtained her National Certification (NICU) and worked as a local traveler pursuing bedside experiences in several NICU settings.
Tori enjoys time with her new hubby, creating content, learning about new patient populations, riding horses, weekend beach or ski time, time with family & friends & sharing all of her life Tips along the way!
Follow her NICU & Lifestyle blog journey as she juggles married life, nurse life, & enjoying life’s adventures!