Developmental care is a broad category of interventions designed to minimise the stress of the NICU environment and to support the behavioural organisation of each individual infant. Interventions are designed to enhance physiological stability, protect sleep rhythms and promote growth and maturation. These may include handling and positioning measures, reduction of harmful stimuli (such as noise and light), clustering of nursery care activities, and cue-based care.
'An incubator cuddle' - premature babies look small and fragile and touching them can be a scary prospect. Don't worry the nursing staff will be happy to support you in having contact with your baby. Premature babies are sensitive and prefer a firm touch to light stroking.
Click here to view Bliss information on comfort holding.
Education and involvement of parents
Acknowledging that they are the most important people in the infant’s life and critical to the infant’s emotional, social and physical wellbeing – is a crucial part of family-centred developmental care.
Massage can be associated with increased weight gain and decreased length of stay in hospital.
Click here to view the Bliss fact sheet on infant massage
'Kangaroo care’ or 'kangaroo cuddles’ is the term used for the skin-to-skin contact that is encouraged throughout your baby’s stay on NICU. The infant is placed in a vertical position upon the maternal or paternal chest and has been shown to have significant positive effects on both the infant and parent. No matter how small or premature your baby is, whether ventilated or breathing for him/herself, kangaroo care can usually be accomplished providing the infant is stable. Kangaroo care can be associated with better temperature control, steady heart and respiratory rate, improved sleep patterns and increased weight gain. Some studies have also suggested improved cognitive development, decreased stress levels, reduced pain responses, normalised growth and positive effects on motor development. The skin-to skin contact can also help bonding between parents and baby.
Click here to view Bliss information on 'Kangaroo care'
Hospitals have little “nests” which are like a pocket/nest made of toweling with cotton straps which vary in size dependant of the gestation of your baby. The idea is that the nest represents the boundaries of the womb and as the baby grows and pushes against these boundaries this supports good posture and muscle development. The baby lies in the nest and the cotton straps are pulled across the baby so that they feel safe and secure.
Understanding your Premature Baby
Premature babies aren't quite ready to behave in all the ways you might expect a term baby to behave but they can still communicate.
Click here to order a free copy of the Bliss 'look at me - I'm talking to you' booklet about understanding your premature baby's signals
Non-nutritive sucking is the term used for when a baby sucks on something like a soother (a dummy) or a finger for comfort. Images of babies sucking on their fingers in the womb have been seen from as early as 18 weeks, and evidence shows that this type of sucking has a stabilising effect on physiological responses resulting in decreased tension, more restful behaviour and improved oxygenation. The sucks are smaller and quicker than your baby would use for oral feeding but have been shown to improve readiness and coordination for oral feeding. Small soothers that have been specially designed for premature babies are available on all of our units across the region.
Premature infants are at risk of developing postural problems following a prolonged stay on NICU due to their decreased muscle tone. Correct positioning of your baby helps to minimise any long term problems and helps your baby remain supported and comfortable during their stay. In order to get the best possible outcome for your baby you will see your baby nursed in a number of different positions. This could be within a nest on their back or side lying and with a cushioned mattress and head support. Staff on the unit with provide you with guidance on how to ensure that your baby is positioned in a supportive way whilst in an incubator.