Preparing to Hold Your Baby in Intensive Care

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Every parent is eager to hold their baby. It can be scary to imagine holding a baby who is very small or on a breathing machine with lots of tubes and wires (even for experienced parents). When it is time for you to hold your baby, the intensive care unit (ICU) team will help you feel supported physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are some common questions parents have when they think about holding their baby in intensive care.

“I know I will want to hold my baby, but isn’t it better to just let my baby rest in bed?”

Babies are born needing your touch. Your touch is very different than touch from the hospital staff.

When you hold your baby, you help your baby:

  • Get to know you and develop an attachment
  • Maintain body temperature
  • Develop and grow brain connections
  • Learn language
  • Develop muscles and strength
  • Gain weight
  • Feel less pain
  • Cry less
  • Stabilize breathing and heart rate
  • Sleep better
  • Reduce stress
  • Feel safe and protected

Holding your baby also helps you:

  • Feel more confident as a parent
  • Produce milk for your baby
  • Feel connected to your baby
  • Reduce stress

“What if my baby’s team says my baby is not yet ready to be held? What else can I do?”

If your baby is not ready to be held, your touch is still important!

  • “Hand hugs” are a great option when your baby is not yet ready to get out of bed. This will also support your baby’s growth and your relationship.
  • You can have your baby grasp your hand or finger.
  • Gentle, constant touch to your baby’s head, chest or feet can have a calming effect.
  • If your baby is in a warmer bed or isolette, ask for a taller chair so you can sit comfortably next to your baby and be together.