World Prematurity Day: 5 Ways To Parent Your Baby In The NICU 6 years ago

World Prematurity Day: 5 Ways To Parent Your Baby In The NICU

A new guide designed to help parents of premature babies to take a more active role in the neonatal setting during their baby’s stay in hospital has been launched in Ireland.

The patient information guide, ‘Better Together: A Family-Centred Care Guide for Your Premature Baby’ has been created by The Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA) to help the mums and dads of more than 4,500 premature babies are born in Ireland each year.

Launched by Minister for Health, Simon Harris ahead of World Prematurity Day, which takes place today, November 17, the guide shines a spotlight on the challenges these special ‘early deliveries’ face, outlining 10 family-centred care giving activities that families can participate in when they have an infant in the NICU.

“As a mum to a little girl who was born prematurely, I have firsthand experience of life in the NICU." says Mandy Daly, Director of Advocacy and Policy Making, INHA.

"We want to assure families who unexpectedly find themselves in the NICU with a premature or ill infant, that parenting their infant is possible and additionally has benefits for the infant, the family and the healthcare system."

Here are five ways mums and dads can parent their infant in a positive way despite the clinical surroundings of the NICU environment:


You are your baby’s primary caregiver, his voice and an equal partner in all decisions concerning your baby’s care. Request to be present for the daily rounds and use the opportunity to ask questions, seek clarification, learn about your baby’s progress and build a relationship with the medical team.


Get to know your baby and learn how he communicates by watching his facial expressions, breathing, skin tone, gestures and taking note of his hand and feet movements.



Many premature babies do not like being stroked or touched lightly as it can be too stressful for them and they can only tolerate one form of interaction at a time. ‘Comfort Holding’ is a form of positive touch and will help your baby to feel secure and relaxed. It is often used after a medical procedure.

  • Cup your warm still hand around your baby’s head and/or feet.
  • Gently rest the other hand around your baby’s shoulders or hold his arms across his chest.
  • Refrain from using light stroking.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply and keep your hands relaxed.
  • Comfort hold your baby until he feels settled.
  • To finish, slowly remove one hand and only remove the remaining hand if your baby continues to remain relaxed.


This is one of the special things that only a mother can do for her baby. Breast milk helps protect babies and do not be surprised if you are asked to express breast milk within a few hours of the birth. Talk to the Lactation Consultant attached to the unit who will help you establish expressing. Starting early, expressing frequently and doublepumping helps to ensure that you can provide breast milk for as long as your baby requires it.


Learn how to clean your baby’s mouth when he is awake and comfortable. Breast milk or sterile water placed on a cotton bud swab can be used to clean your baby’s lips and mouth with a gentle “press and scoop” action on the lips. If your baby has a feeding tube in situ, a cotton bud can be used to wipe around the inside of the syringe where there will be some fatty deposits that can be used to moisturise your baby’s lips.

The full guide complete with ten tips for parents is available to download on