A healthy full-term pregnancy usually lasts for about 40 weeks. Mothers who deliver after 38 and 42 weeks are usually have normal babies. Babies born before 36 weeks are considered as premature and could have some physical problems that necessitate hospital care:
• The failure to breathe properly.
• Difficulty staying warm and retaining heat.
• An inability to properly breastfeed.
• Immature lungs.
Despite these possible complications, babies that born after 32 weeks usually can survive with very few long-term effects. Visually, premature babies look different than full term babies. Their skin can be really red, and blood vessels may be visible through their skin due to underdeveloped fat layers.
Occasionally babies just come early, and even the best doctor can’t prevent it. However, there are some risk factors that may increase the likelihood of having a premature delivery. These are risk factors that you should watch for; you need to talk with the doctor about how to deal with these risks so you can effectively reduce the possibility of a premature labor.
• Having multiple babies in your womb (such as twins).
• The presence of tobacco smoke near the mother.
• Malnourished mother.
• Health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
• Experiencing too much stress during pregnancy.
• Alcohol or drugs abuse.
• Complications on pregnancy, such as preeclampsia or placenta previa.
• Having a premature baby previously.
• Abnormal weight.
• Experiencing infection and fever during later months of pregnancy.
When your baby is born prematurely, it can result in traumatic experience for both of you.
These are the reasons:
• Your baby has not emotionally or physically ready to leave the womb yet.
• Your baby may develop health concerns due to early delivery.
• Your labor was beyond any doubt nerve-wracking and may have been intervened medicine application that slows the uterine contraction down.
• You may not feel completely ready to become a parent, due to emotional or financial considerations.
Additionally, when a baby is born too early, you don’t experience the slower process of preparing your newborn into a life outside the womb. Premature babies demand special care, which starts minutes after the delivery. For example:
• Instead of being breastfed, your baby is taken for tests.
• Both of you may need to be transferred to a distant hospital that has a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
• Bonding between both of you may be interrupted. Preemies are often placed immediately inside an incubator, where they are given the opportunity to continue their developments and kept warm.
• After a few days, you may go home without your baby, because she still needs to be treated by the hospital.
A good hospital should have a trained and qualified specialist that can teach parents to bond with their premature babies. After the baby is transferred to the NICU, the specialist will explain why and how you need to bond with your baby, one of them by using proper touches.
These are the benefits of mother’s touch on premature babies:
• Improved breathing patterns.
• Improved sleep patterns.
• Increases in weight gain.
• More stable body temperature.
• More stable heart rate.
• Improved sensory awareness.
• Less stress levels.
• Less risk of touch aversion, which some preemies develop due to distressing experiences in the hospital.
Preemies are often isolated after labor, unlike other full-term babies, which is why touching them immediately is important! Research showed that, on average, preemies that get massages gain almost fifty percent more weight and can be released one week sooner than babies that get no massages.
Touch is not only good for the baby; parents can get some benefits as well:
• You have a chance to bond more closely with your baby.
• You feel more at ease and confident when taking care your baby.
• You feel less anxious because your baby can get better sooner.
As a parent of premature baby, you can use a few types of touch. Your doctor may recommend the one that is appropriate for your baby, which is determined by your baby’s age, size, and health condition.
These are three touches that can benefit your premature babies:
• Hand containment: Simply lay both hands on your baby while she is inside the incubator. This touch may depend on her position and her sensitivity to touch, put one hand on her head and the other on the belly or buttock. If she is agitated by the touch, you can initially put two fingers on her and try to add one more finger on the next session. Don’t hesitate to apply a firmer touch, because it is easier to tolerate than a light touch that can be ticklish. This is usually your baby’s first experience to touch. With hand containment technique, your baby can begins to feel your touch, smell your scent and feel safer each time you touch her. Containment can also help to control your baby’s energy. Preemies and newborns should be able to contain their energy due to their inability to control movement. Newborns also don’t know how to handle depression and stress. Your baby needs to get into an environment which is relatively similar to a womb, which allows her to contain energy. Babies with contained energy can become more organized, more balanced and regulate their systems more effectively. Organized babies can learn faster, are more focused and cry less frequently. This is because her effort and energy is more focused toward something more useful.
• Kangaroo care: When the baby is removed from the incubator (usually, 10 minutes at a time), place her on your bare chest, which is similar to the way kangaroos feed their young. Such a close contact can help your baby to synchronize her heart rate and breathing with yours. In this position, the baby can also get warmth and care, which increases your bond. Kangaroo care helps parents feel more attached and confident and improve your success with breastfeeding.
• Nurturing touch: A growing baby can tolerate more complicated touches as you begin to take care of your baby after she completely leaves the incubator. Nurturing touch is essential to form a basis of safe and nurturing relationship.
Don’t be disheartened if your baby reacts adversely to your touches. Just remember to do it patiently and slowly. Your patience will eventually pay off as your baby becomes more alert, active, and responsive to your touches.