Postpartum Expert?
Check out our new directory!
Join now »

Five Helpful Tips for Bonding with Your Baby in the NICU

If you’re worried about bonding with your baby while they are in the NICU, you are not alone. Many NICU moms share this worry. A maternal mental health therapist and NICU mom discuss this topic below.

Having a baby in the NICU can be a scary, stressful experience. It’s not the picture most of us have in our heads of the first few days, weeks, or even months of motherhood (I know, I’ve been there, too!).

Therefore, it makes sense that you’re concerned about building a bond with your baby in the NICU.

However, bonding isn’t put on hold in the NICU. It’s a lifelong process; there are ways to bond with your baby in the NICU and build your attachment from day one.

The challenges of bonding with your baby in the NICU

Seeing your baby attached to monitors, wires, and tubes and being separated from them by an isolette and visiting hours is probably NOT what you had in mind for this first chapter of your baby’s life. Because of this, you might feel disconnected from them and wonder how you can best connect and bond with your baby in the NICU. 

Attachment and bonding is not a one-time or limited-time event; you do not have to wait until you get home to build your bond and attachment with your baby. In reality, attachment and bonding are built every single day. This is true with all babies in and out of the NICU. 

Bonding is a process that begins now and continues throughout your child’s life. While the reality of a NICU stay might not match your expectations or hopes for your baby’s first chapter, it doesn’t put a hold on the powerful process of bonding with your baby. 

Five tips to bond with your baby in the NICU

  1. Sing, talk, and read to your baby
  2. Touch and skin-to-skin
  3. Acts of caregiving
  4. Take pictures
  5. Talk about your baby

1. Singing, Talking, and Reading to Your Baby

You can sing, talk, or read to your baby together. Babies’ hearing develops at weeks gestation. They can pick out their mom’s voice and prefer it over all others. Speaking softly and slowly is best to calm them and connect them.

Get close and hold eye contact while your baby is awake or feeding, just smiling and talking to them, letting your voice soothe them.

2. Touch

Skin-to-skin holding is decisive for your bond and your baby’s development. If your baby’s ready, you use a “containing touch.” Containing touch is gentle but firm, like a hug with your hands, that creates a secure and calming feeling with the warmth and containment that babies crave.

3. Caregiving 

Love and bonding come through action; it’s about caring. Talk with your baby’s care team about getting involved in caregiving tasks like taking temperature, changing diapers, swaddling, giving baths, and feeding.

This might not be very safe initially, but you’ll eventually feel more comfortable actively participating in your baby’s care. Caring for your baby builds your relationship, despite these tasks and interactions looking different in the NICU than at home.

4. Taking Pictures

Capturing photos of your baby’s time in the NICU can help you stay in the moment and connect with your baby. Additionally, it can be a way to look forward to a future where you’re home with your growing baby.

A NICU stay feels never-ending while you’re in it, but someday this will be a memory, and you may want to have photos to share with your child about their first chapter of life. 

Babies are constantly growing and changing. Pictures can help capture growth and change and aid in preserving memories. Take photos of all the different faces your baby makes and detailed close-ups of their tiny toes, fingers, nose, and lips to help you capture the moment and get to know them more.

See Also
mom in eye mask sleeping on the bed

Being separated from them is one of the hardest things about having a baby in the NICU. Photos of your little one that you can look at when you’re apart can build your bond and encourage attachment even from afar.

5. Talking about Your Baby

Show off your baby to friends and family with photos and talk about what you’ve learned about them: their likes and dislikes, who they remind you of, and what you’re looking forward to doing with them – in the NICU and beyond.

Share your pride in your baby. Talk about their progress: how hard they work to grow, rest, get healthy, and come home to be with you. 

Celebrate their milestones. NICU babies have their own exciting and sweet set of milestones: their first cuddles with each parent, wearing their first outfit, celebrating their due date, moving to an open bed, breastfeeding or taking a bottle from a parent for the first time, and most exciting of all, graduating from the NICU and going home.

Final thoughts on bonding with your baby in the NICU

Bonding happens through your attention, affection, presence, and care for your baby. It’s not a one-time thing – your relationship is built with every interaction.

This might look different in the NICU, but getting to know your baby and taking care of them is what bonds you. You don’t have to wait; your baby is here now. Everything you do to bond with your baby in the NICU counts and starts the beautiful lifelong process of building your attachment and relationship.

Other NICU articles you might find helpful

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2023 Hello Postpartum™. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top