How to Bond When in the NICU

They say there is no stronger bond than a mother and her child. It starts when baby is in the womb and continues as baby enters the world and is  placed on mothers chest for the first time. The warm skin to skin releases  oxytocin and the love begins to flourish and bloom. This picture perfect  scenario is every mothers dream. The dream of Instant bonding and being  able to mother your new born child.  Read on to learn how to bond when in the NICU..

However, this dream is not a reality for every mother. Instead, baby enters  the world and without many words, baby is whisked away to the NICU and  mother continues to lay there with arms empty and heart aching. So what  

happens to the bonding? How is a mom supposed to bond when baby is  separated from her?  

I was 33 weeks pregnant when I had to deliver my son via cesarean due to  preeclampsia. With blood pressures dangerously high for baby and myself,  my son was forced to enter the world early and was not able to receive  immediate skin to skin with me. Instead, his first touch was that of a nurse  while I was floors away recovering from surgery. I struggled with the  thought of how bonding was going to look for us.  

While recovering from surgery, I remember feeling a sense of loss and  emptiness. Although my baby was just a few floors away, I had missed that  first connection you make when holding your baby for the first time. I  weeped in the thought I may never have a close bond with my child due to  him being in the NICU.  

I continued to lay in bed for 24 hours before my blood pressures became  stable and I was finally able to visit the NICU to see my son. At just 3lbs,  my son laid in an isolate shielded from the outside world. Too little and  fragile to touch, I starred at him through the plastic in disbelief this was how  I was starting motherhood. My fears of not being able to bond began to  intensify and I wanted nothing more than to return to my room and wait until  what I thought was a nightmare was over.

At 48 hours old, I finally received the green light from the nurses that I  could finally touch my son. Not only was it a touch, but I finally received the  skin to skin interaction I had been longing for. I remember the butterflies  entering my stomach and throat as the nurse was placing him on my chest.  I held him, still, not moving. This was not the feeling I thought it would be! I honestly felt nothing more than numbness. What happened to the oxytocin? Where was that instant bonding connection people talk about?  

31 days was our time spent in the NICU. 31 days of me ,being a mother,  striving for a bond I thought was broken. Little did I know, the steps I took  in the NICU not only helped me bond with my son while there, but also  made me realize, there is no picture perfect bonding experience.  

As a mother of two, I can say I have two very different bonds with my  children. My son, premie in the NICU and daughter, full term never to leave  my side. Although I cherish both bonds tremendously and love them both  so much, I can’t help but thank the NICU for the strong bond I have with my  son! Although days were long and some days tougher than others, being by  his side and watching him be a fighter makes a mothers heart full.  

Here are the few steps I took while in the NICU that helped me bond with my son. 

1. Be hands on. Babies can be overstimulated easily. Because of this,  sometimes babies in the NICU have touch limits. You will see nurses  clustering their care and try to keep stimulation to a minimum. This  can sometimes be intimidating for parents. Yes, it is the nurses job to  take care of your baby in the NICU. However, this is also your baby!  Don’t be afraid to ask the nurses if you can help! Nurses love when  parents are hands on. Evan a small diaper change or swabbing the  mouth can make a mother feel needed and allow mom to connect  with baby.  

2. Be present in the NICU. Sitting in the NICU can be very  overwhelming sometimes. Beeping of feeding pumps, monitor alarms  and babies crying. Sometimes the NICU and be quite and lonely. It’s  easy during these times to block out the world and be on your phone  or computer. Try to take these moments in. Embrace your  surrounding and watch your sweet little one rest. 

3. Journal. During the down times in the NICU, it is always nice to sit  and write down the events of the day. Some events may be good.  Some may leave you in tears. However, keeping a journal allows a  you to express your feelings in the moment and captures pictures of  the day you may forget as time goes on. 

4. Take a picture everyday. Time in the NICU can sometimes feel as if  it is still. You can look at the clock one minute and think hours have  gone by just to realize it’s only been a few minutes. Taking a picture  will allow you to see the transformation your baby has made. Pictures  can last a lifetime. These pictures are the ones that you will hold  close to your heart.  

5. Reach out to the nurses. Being a NICU mama can be long and  tiring. It is important during this time you catch up on your rest as well  so when baby gets home you can be on your A game. When you are  not able to be by babies side, reach out to the nurses and get  updates. Nurses are there around the clock watching over your little  one. Give them a call! Call multiple times if your heart needs it. The  nurses will love giving updates.  

Having a NICU bond is something special and it is a bond that should not  be taken for granted. During the NICU stay there will be tears of joy and  tears of sadness. There will be restless nights and there will be victories won. All these moments will enhance the bond between you and baby and  will make the bond unbreakable. The NICU is a journey both mother and  baby are on together. Take the moments to give yourself grace. You are doing a great job Mama! 

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