An early delivery can be a stressful introduction to your baby. To help new parents navigate the neonatal intensive-care unit and nurture their little one’s development, Pediatrician William Sears, M.D., his wife, Martha, R.N., and sons Robert and James (both pediatricians as well) have written The Premature Baby Book. Here’s their advice for comforting your preemie at the hospital and at home.
Hop to it. Skin-to-skin contact, also known as “kangaroo care,” is a great way for parents to bond with their baby. Hold your child to your chest so that her bare skin is against yours (making sure that the room is warm enough or that you’re holding her with a blanket). Research suggests that this type of interaction may improve a preemie’s development. If her medical condition prevents you from holding her in the hospital, you can put your hands around her in the isolette to let her know you’re close by.
It’s a wrap. Swaddling your baby in a snugly wrapped blanket for an hour or two while she’s awake can give her an extra feeling of security. While this is comforting, you don’t want to do it continuously, since it may prevent proper hip development or even cause hip dislocation.
Pacify her. During painful procedures, such as a heel stick, let your child suck on your clean finger or a pacifier–studies have shown that this can ease a baby’s pain. Afterward, soothe her by rocking, nursing, or singing to her. You can also give her a very light massage by gently moving your hands over her body. (Just don’t use any deep or pressured rubbing.)
Respond to her cries. Your baby uses crying to communicate with you, so there’s no need to let her “cry it out.” You can’t always make your baby stop crying (and it’s not your fault that she’s upset), but letting her know you’re there helps build her sense of trust.