“Developmental Care” is a term used by many people and can mean many different things. In the book Hold your Prem, I use the term Developmental Care to mean a gentle method of caring for all babies, especially for the premature baby, which will support the healthy development of body, brain and emotions by minimizing stress, and so reducing problems for the baby in the future. The DVD Hold Your Prem shows practically how to do this.
Premature babies are very small and very sensitive; they sense everything! They are also individual and will respond differently to different sensations. There are differences between prems born at different gestational ages.
Modern technology can keep smaller and younger babies alive, but we want these babies to have the best quality of life as well, so we have to treat them extra gently. The baby’s brain is the organ that is developing most in the last 10-12 weeks of pregnancy. For premature babies this development has to be outside the womb, not inside mother where it is quiet and dark and still. So a prem’s brain needs to be protected from stress as it is very fragile as it is born prematurely. Prem may carry problems of concentration, or movement throughout life.
Up to now, developmental care has been something that nurses in a NICU do to a baby in an incubator. But as the major stress for tiny babies is to be separated from mother, a prem separated from her mother often struggles to stabilize herself or “self-regulate”.
Without mum, the baby cannot keep her stress levels down.
The prem baby was expecting another few weeks of being held curled up in fetal position, warm, quiet, safe and protected, and being fed continuously in the womb. Now she has been born early, and lies in a noisy, busy, bright NICU. What a shock these changes must be for her!! No wonder she is frightened, cries and is unstable!
For mums and dads holding their baby in Skin-to-Skin Contact makes her feel as if she is back in the womb and restores her to her safe place! The parents, are her SAFE place! And they need to BE THERE! And be allowed to GET INVOLVED!
Parents, watch your individual baby and learn what upsets her.
Fix or change what you can.
Respond as soon as she shows signs of discomfort and before her body has becomes severely stressed or sick.
Little things done early your prem can make a huge difference later!
You need to Protect your baby’s senses of touch, smell, taste. This is best done by holding her in skin-to-skin contact. This will help her physically; to keep her heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and temperature stable. She also needs Skin-to-Skin Contact to calm her down emotionally.
If your baby is in an incubator, you can
- gently place your hand over her body
- hold your hand still.
- You can also cup one hand around her head and one around her feet to contain her. Flex her legs, and bring her legs and arms to midline.
- bring her hand or fist next to her mouth. This will give her security. Help your baby to find ways to keep herself calm. This is called “self-soothing” or “self-regulating”.
- Nest and position her in the incubator to support her developing muscles.
The above are from Hold Your Prem book