Between 27 to 30 weeks I will be very small. Let the staff guide you when to touch and care for me. Over time watch how I move and react, you will soon recognise when I am calm and times when I need rest and sleep.
Try not to be frightened by all the equipment keeping me company in and around the incubator. Staff will explain these to you. Be aware that not all alarms mean something bad is happening. You will notice that as I grow and get ‘older’ I will need less equipment.
At this age my skin is fragile and sensitive. Begin talking to me quietly, then add touch slowly, if I can tolerate it. Talk to me in a soft and soothing voice to prepare me for your touch. Touch me using continuous gentle pressure and avoid stroking or rubbing my skin. Cradle my head and the lower part of my body (depending on equipment) to help me feel contained and secure similar to when I was in the womb. It is nice for you to place your finger in the palm of my hand and watch me hold onto you.
When holding me, swaddle me in a blanket/sheet and keep my arms and legs close to my body. Provide boundaries around my body during nappy changes to prevent this from being a stressful event and move me slowly and gently.
I also enjoy long periods of kangaroo care/skin to skin. This allows me to become familiar with your smell and I know that we will enjoy these special moments.
Touching and holding me should be done slowly and gently. With help from the nursing staff I can be moved gently from the incubator to your arms. Remember the type of movement I should be experiencing in the womb. Hold me still, rather than rocking or jiggling. When finished touching or holding me, remove your hands gently and slowly from my body and avoid abrupt changes.
Sleep is so important for me at this stage. Rest promotes my growth and brain development. The staff will guide you as to when is the best time to handle me and help you get used to my cues.
At this stage it is difficult to tell if I am awake or asleep but my sleep patterns will become more apparent as I get older. I may show brief ‘alert’ or drowsy states at this age, and deep sleep usually increases at around 30 weeks gestation. When I am sleeping, try not to wake me as you touch and hold me. Avoid noise and light in my bed space and support times of rest so that I can save my energy. Before care giving procedures, for example my nappy change, gently place your hands around me and talk softly to me to let me know you are there.
My eyes can open for short periods of time but they cannot focus. Keep bright lights away from my eyes and keep the environment as dimmed as possible. This will also promote sleep. I will continue to be sensitive to many sounds but may calm to your voice. My surroundings should be quiet enough that I can listen to your voice easily. The nursing staff aim to keep the unit as quiet as possible to promote sleep and hearing development.
Prepare me for touch by talking quietly to me at first. Avoid loud noises around the incubator or cot. Step back or away from the cot side if you are having a conversation.
I can taste and smell but I am still developing my ability to coordinate sucking with swallowing and breathing. You may see me begin to ‘root,’ (if you touch the side of my mouth or cheek I will turn my head in that direction). This is a sign that I am beginning to show interest in feeding. Skin to skin care helps me to learn instinctive breast feeding behaviour so it is important we continue this. My nurses will support us with the transition to feeding when the time is right. You can help with this in the meantime by providing opportunities, particularly during a tube feed, for me to nuzzle at your breast, suck on my thumb or finger or a dummy. This will prepare me for a positive feeding experience. If it is possible the nursing staff will help you to hold me during a tube feed.
Most of my movements will be jerks and startles. I will try to stretch my limbs but do not yet have control of this. I will need help to maintain a secure, contained position that mimics my movements in the womb. Positioning me with my hands near my mouth and arms/legs curled up will help with normal development. My nurses will help you with this.
I will be positioned using various forms of equipment to provide boundaries around me to maintain a snuggled position. When I move my limbs the boundaries should be firm enough to allow me to push against and come back into the middle, just as I did when you would have felt me kicking in the womb. This is needed for normal development. Staff will advise you on how to contain me and which position is less stressful for me. You will soon notice this for yourself. Always try to move me slowly and gently when you carry out any care. Remember the type of movement I would have been used to in the womb.