In the NICU - Caring for baby
You are especially encouraged to be involved in the following care-giving activities for your baby, for example,
- Nappy changing
- Weight checks
Start by watching your baby’s nurse do them. You can get involved when you feel comfortable to do so. Even if only observing, you can take part by comforting your baby, e.g. your Soothing Voice, Gentle Touch or Comfort Hold, see ‘Ways you can comfort your baby’ LINK.
With practice, you will become more comfortable doing these activities yourself. Your baby’s nurse will help you. Before starting any activity, check with your baby’s nurse as your baby’s individual needs may differ.
Remember, some very preterm or unwell babies may find some care giving activities tiring or upsetting, so take your time and remember to watch your baby throughout and respond to their signals. See “Watch your baby and respond to their signals.” Ask your baby’s nurse to guide you.
Top Tips to help you to interact with your baby
- Ensure your baby is awake and ready for each activity.
- Watch your baby throughout to ensure that they stay comfortable and that you respond to their signals, see ‘Understanding how your baby communicates with you’.
- If your baby shows signs that an activity is becoming too much for them (see ‘Time-Out’ signals’, pause what you are doing and offer them reassurance and comfort, see ‘Ways to comfort your baby’.
- Only continue the activity when your baby signals that they are ready, i.e. ‘Positive Approach’ behaviours.
- Do not continue if your baby does not signal that they are ready.
- See ‘Interacting with your baby’.
This is a nice care-giving activity for you start with. Choose a time when your baby is alert and appears comfortable, perhaps during a tube-feed. If expressed breast milk is available, it is used to moisten and clean your baby’s mouth. If breast milk is not available, use sterile water.
Cleaning your baby’s mouth
- You need a cotton bud swab and tube, which will be available in the neonatal unit.
- In the early days, if you only have a very small volume of breast milk (colostrum), do not use a cotton bud as this may soak up too much of your precious milk. Use a gloved finger instead or use sterile water with a cotton bud.
- Pour a little expressed breast milk or sterile water into the tube and dip the swab or your finger in it.
- Use the swab or your finger to clean your baby’s mouth with a gentle ‘press and scoop’ action. This is more pleasant for your baby than a ‘wipe and stroke’ action. Ask your baby’s nurse to show you.
- Be very gentle, the mouth is a sensitive area.