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Suggestions for active parenting while in the NICU.

The newborn intensive care unit will be your home away from home for a while. Keeping track of your baby's progress during his NICU stay will help you learn about your baby's unique personality, learn to care for his needs and identify and support his strengths.

You can participate in active parenting by learning how to read and understand your baby's behaviors. You will come to know when your baby is stressed and needs some rest time, or when he is relaxed, can be handled and is ready to respond to you. You will also learn how to interact with your baby. Make a note of the things that he or she likes and doesn't like. Note the best times during the day and how long at a time he or she has the strength to respond to you. Make the environment as comfortable for your baby as you can by:

  • Keeping light and noise levels low.
  • Keeping your baby's position flexed.
  • Allowing undisturbed periods of sleep.
  • Providing opportunities to interact when he is awake.

Give yourself permission to feel disappointed or helpless when you can't figure out what your baby wants or needs. Your baby may not know either. Feel happy and proud when you can read your baby. The important thing is that you are trying to understand what your baby is telling you. And lastly, trust your instincts. You have known your baby longer than anyone.

You can also do the following to help yourself feel more informed and involved:

  • Call the NICU to see how your baby is doing.
  • Visit the Family Resource Library. Watch videos or read materials from the book cart available in the NICU.
  • Participate in rounds and report.
  • Participate in skin-to-skin holding.
  • Start a booklet or folder with important information about your baby.
  • Take videos or pictures of your baby beside a small toy or stuffed animal so you can remember how small your baby was.
  • Place a small clothing item with mother's scent in the crib or incubator so your baby can "smell" you when you are not here.
  • Meet with a lactation consultant if you are pumping and/or planning to breast feed.
  • Ask to meet with a developmental specialist to learn more about baby development.