Proper snuggling techniques for your preemie

by Laura Sussely-Pope

Snuggling preemiesGirls dream of the first time they see their baby. They envision the wailing, squirmy, little being lying on thier bellies right away.

For some moms, a premature birth takes that dream away. These mothers watch as their precious babes are taken immediately to an incubator. Many don't even get to touch their child or their first touch will simply be of his tiny toes or fingers.

Many milestones lie ahead. One of the most exciting and rewarding is the day you're allowed to hold your baby. You've waited so long to scoop and nestle that wee bundle against your heart.

The nurses and doctors know how important it is for you and your baby to bond. These gentle snuggling techniques can help you both get the most out of those long-awaited cuddles.

Snuggling with your preemie

Snug as a joey in a pouch

Kangaroo care allows skin-to-skin contact so your baby can take in your smell and hear that oh-so-familiar heartbeat.

It's nothing more than holding your naked baby, clad only in a diaper against your naked, warm chest. With a blanket draped over your baby's back, you can sit that way for hours, quiet or talking, still or rocking, enjoying one another's company.

Kangaroo care helps infants with:

• Colic and crying
• Weight Gain
• Stability of heart rate and body temperature
• Helps maintain successful lactation
• Longer periods of awake time

Gentle touch

If your baby is still on the ventilator or just too unstable to be removed from the incubator, gentle touch can be used to calm your 26-week or older preemie. One hand on your baby's head and one cradling the bum helps your infant become adjusted to being touched without being upset.

Some studies show that consistent, gentle touching leads to fewer episodes of apnea, faster weight gain and earlier discharge from the hospital.

Preemie massage

Many use massage to help stimulate and comfort the premature infant. In some instances, it has helped with weight gain. Gently massaging your baby can help with bonding because she will learn your touch, your smell and the cooing gentleness of your voice, maintain healthy weight gain and actually help relax her nervous system if done carefully and calmly.

How to massage your tiny baby

With babies born early, be careful to not over stimulate their immature nervous systems. Make sure the room is peaceful and quiet. Don't sing or talk, and avoid eye contact if it seems disruptive.

✓ The baby should only be wearing a diaper.
✓ Using your whole hand, stroke the length of the leg from thigh to ankle. Use very gentle pressure.
✓ When ready, continue with other leg and both feet. Be careful with their little feet, heel sticks may have made them very sensitive.
✓ Massage with long strokes from the foot to the hip and back.
✓ Lightly stroke the entire leg with fingertips.
✓ Move on to the second leg and then on to the arms, hands and torso.

If your baby starts to fuss or seems over stimulated, simply stop. You can pick up where you left off in a few hours or the next day.

Your preemie may seem fragile, but your touch can be comforting to you both.

Do you have a preemie? How soon were you able to hold and snuggle your baby?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.