Soothing Your Preemie

It’s a fact of babyhood: All infants cry as a means of communication. And while your baby’s crying can be a little scary for a new mom, try to remember that for the most part, tears and screeches are expected and completely normal. However, a preemie may fuss a bit longer and more often than a full-term baby, so calming her down can be a delicate process. Try the following baby soothers with your preterm baby.

Hold her close: Your preemie will benefit greatly from “kangaroo care,” or being held skin-to-skin. Lying closely with mom (or dad!) helps your little one stay warm, cry less, stabilize her heartbeat, increase her weight, and improve her ability to breast- or bottle-feed. Find a private spot with a comfy chair and position your preemie so that she can lie underneath your clothing, directly on your chest. Your baby doesn’t need to wear anything expect a diaper because your body heat will keep her warm.

The right light: Your preterm baby has likely spent some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before coming home. Some new babies become accustomed to this bright, busy place and may be easily soothed in a home environment that includes background noise or music. On the other hand, other preemies are more sensitive to the light and loud sounds they experienced in the NICU, so watch your little one’s cues to determine if you should dim the lights in her bedroom and keep her surroundings on the quiet side.

Relaxation is key: Most babies love to be swaddled because it reminds them of the calm, cozy feeling they enjoyed in the womb. A preemie will also benefit from the warmth and closeness of swaddling, so wrap yours snugly in a soft blanket when she starts to fuss. You can also ask your doctor about giving your preemie a pacifier, as many babies find non-nutritive sucking relaxing.

It takes time to get to know your baby, so don’t panic if the soothing technique you’re trying doesn’t seem to work right away. You’ll soon learn how much crying is normal for your preemie, and remember: You can always make a quick call to the pediatrician for advice and reassurance if you’re concerned about your baby’s crying.