Parenting in the NICU - a quick look

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Learning about the NICU and ways of helping and bonding with your preemie can help you manage some of the stress and uncertainty associated with a preterm birth.


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Finding special ways to connect & understand preterm birth

The joy of childbirth is often short-lived for parents of preterm babies. Isolation from your newborn, extended hospital stays, and the uncertainty associated with medical procedures, takes a massive emotional and physical toll. This section has been created to help you navigate your way through some tough times. It covers everything from family-centred care, tips on how to bond with your preemie, helping out in the NICU, what to bring, to learning to read your prem's body language

 


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Preemie Baby Massage

Many parents of preemies have to wait to hold and generally take care of their baby; they are in an unfamiliar position to most parents in that they have to watch other people take responsibility for the primary care of their baby.

Understandably this can be a very upsetting and a frustrating time for parents. However it is important, if you are a parent of a preemie, to find ways of bonding and taking charge of the aspects of care you can. Being proactive in this regard will help you bond with your baby and help you gain confidence to care of and make decisions for your baby.


One way of getting involved is through baby massage. If your preemie baby’s medical condition is stable enough you can start massage at any time but you should discuss it first with your baby’s nurse and doctor. There are other ways of getting involved such as helping with tube feeds, bed baths, and kangaroo care.


It is very important that you check with your nursing staff or paediatrician before deciding to start baby massage to ensure that she is stable enough.




How does Baby Massage help me bond with my preemie?

Oxytocin

Research has shown that a hormone called oxytocin can help strengthen the connection between you and your baby. Oxytocin is the hormone released in our bodies in response to intense emotional states as well as to physical cues, such as massage. Research suggests that the hormone facilitates the emotional bond between mother and child. Giving and receiving a massage can make you both feel good and oxytocin can reinforce the connection by making the message to the brain stronger. For mothers it can also increase breast milk production. It may also help you feel more calm and capable of interpreting your baby’s body language.Kangaroo care can help increase the levels of oxytocin as well..

(Acolet et al., 1993; Boutet, Vercueil, Schelstraete, Buffin, & Legros, 2006; Russell, Douglas, & Ingram, 2001)

Cortisol

Cortisol is another hormone but this one is released in response to stress. Preemie baby massage on medically stable infants has been shown to decrease the level of cortisol. So as well as strengthening the bond between you and your baby, massage may also help distress your baby.

(Acolet, et al., 1993).


What are some of the Benefits of Baby Massage?

If baby massage manages to increase your preemies “good” feelings and reduce stress this may help them feel more calm, help normalise their breathing and heart rates, use less energy, improve their sleep, and be comforted with greater ease. All things benefits are likely to help your preterm baby’s brain develop as normally as possible.


The healthiest way for the bones to grow and develop is by gently helping your baby’s joints and muscles to move. Preemie babies that are in special care and neonatal intensive care units spend a lot of time lying on their tummies or back as they do not have the capability to move themselves. Preemies must rely on parents and medical staff to move and change their position. A lack of movement can cause a lack of vital bone minerals needed to strengthen bones, this condition is called osteopenia of prematurity.


The healthiest way for the bones to grow and develop is by gently helping your baby’s joints and muscles to move. Preemie babies that are in special care and neonatal intensive care units spend a lot of time lying on their tummies or back as they do not have the capability to move themselves. Preemies must rely on parents and medical staff to move and change their position. A lack of movement can cause a lack of vital bone minerals needed to strengthen bones, this condition is called osteopenia of prematurity.

(Aly et al., 2004; Dieter, Field, Hernandez-Reif, Emory, & Redzepi, 2003)


When should I try baby massage?

Again, it is very important that you discuss baby massage with your nurse or paediatrician before you start, to ensure your baby is medically stable enough to cope with touching and so on. The best and safest times is understanding your baby’s needs and body language. More information on understanding the signs. For example, yawning, sneezing, or hiccupping may be signs that your baby may need a break.


 


Technical Reference List

Acolet, D., Modi, N., Giannakoulopoulos, X., Bond, C., Weg, W., Clow, A., et al. (1993).
Changes in plasma-cortisol and catecholamine concentrations in response to massage in preterm infants. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 68(1), 29-31.
Aly, H., Moustafa, M. F., Hassanein, S. M., Massaro, A. N., Amer, H. A., & Patel, K. (2004).
Physical activity combined with massage improves bone mineralization in premature infants: a randomized trial. J Perinatol, 24(5), 305-309.
Boutet, C., Vercueil, L., Schelstraete, C., Buffin, A., & Legros, J. J. (2006).
Oxytocin and maternal stress during the post-partum period. Ann Endocrinol (Paris), 67(3), 214-223.
Dieter, J. N. I., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Emory, E. K., & Redzepi, M. (2003).
Stable preterm infants gain more weight and sleep less after five days of massage therapy. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 28(6), 403-411.,
Russell, J. A., Douglas, A. J., & Ingram, C. D. (2001). Brain preparations for maternity--adaptive changes in behavioral and neuroendocrine systems during pregnancy and lactation. An overview. Prog Brain Res, 133, 1-38.

 

 



AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 


Read More: Defining Preterm birth


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