How I Bonded with My Preemie

I don’t think it’s possible to be fully prepared for becoming a mom. When I delivered my son, Jacob, 10 weeks early, I felt 10 times as unprepared for the transition into motherhood. I quickly realized I could not hold him after he was born, for he was too underdeveloped and sick. I could not look down and stare into his beautiful eyes, since they were covered. But I also realized I wouldn’t let that stop me from being his mom and loving him as much as I could. Since I couldn’t bring my premature baby boy home and rock him in my arms all day, here’s how I bonded with the new love of my life.

Embrace your new full-time job. Much of my maternity leave was spent at the hospital, which was obviously less than ideal. But I made caring for my son as best I could in the NICU my new full-time job. It quickly became the hardest, but most rewarding job I ever had -- even without the pay. I just wanted Jacob to know I was there, and was certain that he did. Just because we weren’t together in our home didn’t mean I should act differently as his mom than I planned to.

Participate in newborn duties (and doodies!) While Jacob was in the NICU, I did whatever I could to care for him, just as I would if we were home. When I could nurse, I nursed. If he had a dirty diaper, I helped changed it. I wanted to care for my son as much as I could, and not feeling completely helpless helped me. It’s important for moms of preemies to get comfortable with their baby immediately, and try not to depend on the nurses for the things you will need to do once the baby comes home.

Hold your baby when possible. Any chance I could hold and touch Jacob, I did. The first time I held him was difficult, because he was hooked up to so many wires. After a while, I barely noticed. I remembered learning during my pregnancy that skin to skin contact is one of the first and best things to do with your newborn to not only bond, but to boost their health and growth. It was those moments that nobody could take away.

Project your beautiful voice. While pregnant, my husband and I did what most parents-to-be do, and talked and sang to our growing baby. At the hospital, we continued to talk and sing to our tiny love, and knew he recognized the voices he had heard for months. We brought books to read to Jacob, awaiting the day we could snuggle at home with books in hand together.

My emotions were very raw after the birth of my son. I was very scared and upset -- often with myself. I felt inferior, as if my role as a mom wasn’t up to par with other moms. I felt responsible, but also determined to do everything I could to help my premature baby strive. I felt as though we can work together as a team to go home. Letting myself feel and talk to others about those feelings -- including other moms of preemies in the NICU -- allowed me to be the best mother I could be for my son. Now, years later, my son is thriving and I look back on those early days as a challenge well worthwhile. 

Pre-birth Bonding With Your New Baby

The bond between a new mom and her baby is, without a doubt, something that’s incredibly special and unbreakable. When you envision developing that bond with your own baby, you probably imagine reading stories, going for walks, or cuddling in a rocking chair together. While these are all sweet ways to grow closer to your new baby, the bond building doesn’t have to wait until your baby is born. Here are some great ways to start the bonding process while your baby’s still in utero.

Turn Up the Tunes
Studies have shown that growing babies respond positively to music. But before you turn up the rock music, know that by the second trimester babies seem to prefer classical music, or music that mimics your own heart rate of 60 beats per minute. It’s soothing for them, and it’s something you’ll probably enjoy, as well. Remember, if you’re relaxed, your baby probably will be, too.

Write It Down
Take some time at the end of each day to write down your thoughts and daily activities in a journal you purchase specifically for your new baby. You could describe how you reacted the first time you felt your baby kick, for example, or how excited you are for her to be born. Then, when your new baby is older, you can read the entries to her (or she can read them herself!). The journal will make a nice keepsake for your child to cherish in later years.

Have a Conversation
Talking to your baby is a nice way to start the bonding process early. Say “goodnight” and “good morning,” sing songs, talk to her while you rub your belly, and explain to your little one what your movements are throughout the day. She may not understand what the words mean, but the sounds will be soothing.

Get an Ultrasound
The most exciting bonding experience with your new baby may be when you get to actually see how she’s growing. Your ultrasound will give you a very realistic look at your little one. Having a real-life, tangible photo to hold on to will definitely help make the experience feel more real (if the morning sickness and growing stomach haven’t already!).

Sure, you may feel silly talking to your new baby while she’s still in your belly, but keep in mind that starting these bonding rituals now will make them seem like second nature by the time your little one is born.

New Baby Bonding: Faraway Family

If you’re like me, you’re eager for your new baby to spend as much time as possible with her relatives. Seeing your baby bond with aunts, cousins, and grandparents is immensely special, and I couldn’t wait for my girls to meet their extended family. Unfortunately, there was one thing that made this a challenge: Many of them lived far away. We live in New York, but my girls have grandparents in Vermont and various aunts and uncles all over the United States—but I didn’t let that stop us! Here’s how I was able to keep my daughters close to our faraway family:

Picture this: Got extra pictures lying around? Make a photo album with some of the outtakes, and then read it to your baby a couple of times a week. I named the people in the photos and told stories about them. This helped my daughters remember the faces, so that cousins and uncles weren’t complete strangers when they met them in person.

Go digital: Put technology to good use and set up an account on a video chat site with faraway family. Your new baby will look forward to video chats, especially if you make them a regular event, and she’ll begin to recognize faces and voices during these sessions. To truly keep your relatives in the loop, share even more: post pictures through Pampers Baby Book app, put videos on YouTube, or by start a blog to document your new baby’s days.

Family trips: Every summer, my entire family spends a week or two on the same tiny island in Maine. We rent houses near each other and enjoy lounging on the beach, eating lobster, and playing games. My girls love this annual vacation, and it’s definitely brought them closer to their cousins who live in Colorado and Virginia.

Little Picasso: All grandparents will love to receive homemade art in the mail. As my daughters got older, we made sure to ask them to put aside a few of their finger paintings, hand prints, drawings, and scribbles to send to grandma and grandpa. (If you’re tech-savvy, you could also scan them to relatives.) Your child will have fun making a special piece of artwork for her family, and your relatives will love the gift!

It took some time before my girls bonded with all of their faraway family members, but now, they are as close to them as if they lived next door! Don’t worry if your new baby seems nervous around her relatives at first. She will get to know them better over time -- no matter the distance.

A Fun Variation of Peekaboo

Location: Indoors or outdoors

Promotes: Cognitive development, fine motor skills, object permanence

If you’re looking for a new baby activity to engage your little one, this peekaboo game is sure to be a hit. Watch in wonder as this simple baby game strengthens all kinds of developmental concepts and supports your child toward reachingan important baby milestone.

How to play
Your 7- to 9-month-old baby will rediscover her favorite toy in this twist on peekaboo called peek-a-bear. Take a treasured toy, like a teddy bear, and partially hide it under a blanket. Then urge your baby to find the bear. If she’s able to, let her grab for the bear; if not, pick it up yourself and exclaim, “I found the bear!” Repeat the game as long as you can hold your baby’s attention. The trick is to build excitement over finding the toy, since your baby will feed off your glee during this baby activity.

Tricks and advice
As your little one progresses with this baby game, raise the bar by hiding the toy completely under the blanket. Make sure that as the difficulty increases, your praise does, too! Change things up by hiding different toys -- this may boost your little one's interest in the game and can also help develop early language recognition.

Learning and growing
Object permanence is crucial to your baby’s understanding of the world. Baby activities that establish that Mommy is still around even if she can’t be seen are an early step toward developing your baby’s memory. This activity also encourages motor development, as your child uses hand-eye coordination to reach and grasp for the hidden toy.

What you’ll need
It’s easy: All you’ll need is a blanket or towel and a toy your baby will delight in finding.

The game is simple, but it’ll work wonders in terms of your baby learning more about the world. And she’s sure to have a blast while doing it!