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Bonding with your Preemie

Bonding with your baby (preterm or term baby) is developed over time (read years), certainly not instantly. More than a term baby, your preemie needs extra warmth, extra nourishment and extra protection from infections. Caring for your preemie is undoubtedly a difficult task (because of the constraints) and the existing lack of privacy while in the hospital but one of the best ways to create closeness is through touch. Circumstances may have robbed you of the chance to bond at birth, but you can certainly make up for that by initiating the process before taking baby home.

A Daunting Task but Important

• As parents of premature babies the scary job of forging closeness is understandably more challenging because of baby's frailty, and added to that the possibility of a premature baby having to spend time in the NICU. This deprives the chance for immediate access and contact between parents and baby versus what happens in a 'normal setting'.

• Even if your baby is in a special care unit it is good to be there for your baby as much as possible. Active participation (as soon as your baby is out of immediate danger) involving nappy changing, feeding and providing comfort all engender touch, an essential form of communication at this level. Learn the essentials from the nurse and give yourself the chance to slip comfortably into the role of caretaking while still in the hospital.

• Talking while she's in the NICU even when she appears not to be listening is essential. By not stopping this one-way communication you are allowing your baby to recognize your voice (which was heard while in the utero) and this will provide your baby with the comfort of a familiar sound. Speak softly since your baby's ears at this point are sound-sensitive.

• In the more 'serious' situation, NICU conditions make it difficult for relationship building. In these instances medical concerns prevent parents from touching, holding, feeding and even interacting with their infant. It is circumstantial and certainly doesn't make you a bad parent. Focus instead on spending time in whatever way you can (just by being there and watching your baby) to achieve some understanding of your child, some closeness; the rest will build over time when you bring baby home.

• Finally most parents hold off contact totally because of the fear that their baby may not survive. This is a mistake because the odds are very high that your baby will survive to become healthy and normal. Don't regret later.

Lift your baby out of the incubator and snuggle him against your chest; this kind of skin contact allows not only your baby to feel and smell you but also to calm his breathing and boost his growth.

Things You can do later at home

Kangaroo Care: The most important fundamental communication is touch. Once baby comes home, find opportunities to hold your undressed baby against your bare chest. Both parents should do this to develop physical and emotional closeness. According to experts this form of contact promotes parent-child bonding which is very good for baby's growth and early development, all the more necessary for a preemie. Continue kangaroo care for at least 3 months though some parents feel comfortable doing it till the baby is a year old or more.


• This is a private moment so pick a time when you will have least interruptions to enable alone time with your baby.

• Choose a comfortable reclining chair or you can even kangaroo in bed.

• Wear comfortable clothing.

• Keep a diaper on your baby to prevent unwanted wetness.

• Some mothers may choose to breastfeed during these sessions or kangaroo after baby's feed. Either way skin-to-skin is good for baby's digestive system.

Infant Massage:

Massage is reassuring, comforting and communicates love and affection. Research shows that by daily massaging your baby her growth is enhanced, weight gain is improved and also a good way to lull baby to sleep. (Sleep is important for baby's growth.) According to some experts massage is said to improve an older baby's speech development. It is important to learn correct infant massage techniques and incorporate it in your daily agenda with your baby. Talking to your baby using a soothing voice is beneficial.


With an older baby, (2-3 months corrected age), play sessions are a good way to deepen your bond with baby. It is a fun way to explore each other's world - you get a chance to learn about his ability and he your personality. It is also a good way to de-stress, especially for parents who are too worried about their baby's development. As your baby grows these play sessions become all the more important for bonding and development.

Fathers should become involved with their preemies at the earliest. They are not as fragile that you have to stay detached. Get into the thick of things by attending development appointments and see what you can do to help.

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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